Aims to give birth to fearless pregnancy

Academics and local business owners have launched a new research project to ease fear and anxiety around childbirth for parents to be.

Innovative new research being conducted at the University of Nottingham is investigating the effects of a ‘Fearless Birthing programme’ on the emotions experienced by people during pregnancy.This online, self-paced course was created to give people the power to change negative ways of thinking, clear any fears they have about pregnancy and birth, and emotionally prepare themselves for birth.

Confidence to clear fear

With funding from the University of Nottingham’s ‘Enabling Innovation’ project, Dr Megan Barnard from the School of Psychology and Dr Sian Masson from the School of Chemistry are working in collaboration with Alexia Leachman, founder of the Fearless Birthing programme. They are testing the effectiveness of the programme by monitoring the emotional feelings of those in the second trimester of their pregnancy. The researchers believe that this programme has the potential to give people the confidence to clear their fear during pregnancy and childbirth.

Alexia Leachman, founder of the programme, says that the techniques of fear clearance are now being taught to healthcare professionals: “I’m thrilled to be training midwives and doulas in the fear clearance technique so there will be more Fearless Birthing Professionals available to support pregnant women soon.” Additionally, Leachman praised the programme for its ability to tackle tokophobia, the extreme fear of pregnancy and birth, which affects around 14% of women: “Last month, a pregnant woman, Milena, from London was able to overcome her tokophobia in three weeks using the technique”.

Milena, who is 30 weeks pregnant said: “I dived into very challenging yet satisfying work, desperate for at least some respite from being tokophobic. The pre-recorded clearance meditations shook me to the depth of my being, left me soaked in tears and absolutely exhausted as the toxic emotions were leaving my body, yet brought immediate relief and clarity. I now feel that I am the mother my baby needs me to be - strong, resilient, positive and, above all, caring and loving.”

Solving real-world issues

Dr Megan Barnard, the Principal Investigator for the project, emphasised the benefits of working with external collaborators: “I am really excited to be working in collaboration with Alexia and Sian on this project. By collaborating with local companies, we are able to use our academic expertise to solve real-world issues and make a difference to people’s wellbeing. In this case, it feels great to help parents-to-be overcome their fears and worries, and I’m thankful to the University of Nottingham for providing the funding through the ‘Enabling Innovation’ project.”

Enabling Innovation is a 20m programme jointly delivered by the Universities of Nottingham, Derby and Nottingham Trent, which has provided over 16,000 hours of support to small and medium-sized businesses in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire since April 2016. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and offers free or subsidised access to academic expertise,student placements, workshops and technical support.

This research is currently ongoing. To find out more information about it, or if you are interested in taking part, please contact Principal Investigator Dr. Megan Barnard ( Megan.Barnard1 [at] nottingham.ac (p) uk ).