Pre-University Students’ Attitudes and Beliefs about Childbirth: Implications for Reproductive Health and Maternity Care
Chiara Saroli Palumbo, MDCM (Cand.); Rose Hsu, BSc, MD (Cand.); Jocelyn Tomkinson, BSc; and Michael C. Klein, MD
Objectives: To determine pre-university students’ attitudes and beliefs about childbirth and identify key sources of information and knowledge.
Methods: A survey of 359 Quebec pre-university students (215 female, 144 male) was undertaken to identify sources of beliefs about birth and opinions about types of maternity care providers and place/method of delivery.
Results: Prime sources for birth beliefs were family (50.7% female, 39.9% male) and media (21.9% female, 33.6% male). The dominant preferred birth model was hospital vaginal delivery attended by an obstetrician. The students’ birth preferences reflected strong support for professional supervision/intervention and skepticism about the safety of home birth and out-of-hospital birth centres. Although 9.3% of female students and no males would choose elective cesarean section (CS) for themselves or partner, 71.2% of female students and 42.4% of male students agreed that CS is “just another way of having a baby.” Most female students believed “it is a woman’s right to choose CS for herself ” and had a higher preference/acceptance of CS, compared with male students. Students characterized birth as “painful” and “miraculous” and agreed on its relative safety. Female students were more fearful and more stressed about the prospect of birth, compared with male students. Over 75% of female students were aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and planned to breastfeed.
Conclusions: Most students supported in-hospital maternity care and perceived CS as normal but did not express a preference for CS for themselves or their partners. Students were unaware of the risks/benefits of CS, epidurals, and out-of-hospital birth. These findings highlight the need for health care professionals to engage young adults and to provide them with evidence-based information about maternity care options.
birth, adolescents, students, attitudes, knowledge, health education