CHARLOTTETOWN -- A Prince Edward Island professor says she has been inundated with emails from women who fear childbirth as she works to better understand what's behind that fear as it relates to women who request a planned cesarean birth.

Janet Bryanton, a professor in the University of Prince Edward Island School of Nursing, said she is interviewing women who have requested a planned cesarean because of their fears of childbirth.

Bryanton said she wants to find out what's at the root of their fears and gain an understanding of what they're going through in the hopes of quelling some of those fears for other women.

"I'm trying to bring women's voices forward so that we can understand what they're going through and what's behind that fear," said Bryanton in a phone interview on Friday.

Bryanton said understanding of those fears will enhance women's physical and mental health by lowering negative birth outcomes, such as post traumatic stress disorder or the fear of a subsequent birth.

"We don't have a clear understanding of women's fear related to the choice for a planned cesarean birth and I think we need to fully understand this from women's perspective so we can work towards preventing experiences leading to childbirth fear," said Bryanton.

Bryanton said she wants to give women a voice so that others know they are not alone in their fears.

She said she also wants to raise awareness about the significance of the childbirth experience in general and the importance of having a positive experience.

"If women have a positive experience, they're more likely to have positive outcomes," said Bryanton. "They feel better about themselves, they feel empowered and there's actually research that shows there's better maternal attachment and better parenting self-efficacy."

Bryanton said her latest study was born out of the findings of a separate study she conducted a few years ago that looked at the factors that predict whether a woman will have a positive or negative birth experience.

She said she found that fear was the strongest factor related to the perception of birth experiences for women who had a planned cesarean birth.

According to Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canada's cesarean birth rate in 2013 was 27.3 per cent.

In a 2015 statement on caesarean birth rates, the World Health Organization said caesarean births should ideally only be undertaken when medically necessary.

Since 1985, the international healthcare community has considered the ideal rate for caesarean births to be between 10 per cent and 15 per cent, the statement said.

But in recent years, the international community has increasingly referenced the need to revisit the 1985 recommended rate, it said.

Bryanton said internationally, roughly 15 to 20 per cent of caesarean births are requested.