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This study describes the measurement characteristics of a short (9-item) multi-dimensional measure of worry about labour and birth, the Oxford Worries about Labour Scale (OWLS-9), and its use in a large-scale study of women's experience of care. The data utilised were from 2960 women who participated in a national survey of a random sample of women who had recently given birth in England. Exploratory factor analysis revealed three sub-scales within the instrument assessing specific concerns about labour pain and distress, pre-labour uncertainty and interventions. The characteristics of each sub-scale revealed good divergent and discriminant validity. Further, the labour and distress subscale score was found to be significantly associated with both self-reported 'baby blues' and self-reported postnatal depression. The study findings suggest that the three sub-scales embedded can be utilised or the OWLS-9 employed as a full-scale instrument. Used antenatally, the OWLS-9 and OWLS sub-scales may offer a relevant and clinically useful measure of worry about labour and birth. Limitations of the study are discussed and the direction of future research indicated.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychol Health Med

Publication Date





354 - 366


Anxiety, England, Factor Analysis, Statistical, Female, Humans, Labor, Obstetric, Logistic Models, Parturition, Postpartum Period, Pregnancy, Reproducibility of Results, Surveys and Questionnaires