How to Address Your Fears of Childbirth
Updated: Jul 12, 2019
I attended a childbirth class with a client where the instructor compared a woman to a deer. A doe in labor will not birth her baby next to a busy highway or in the middle of a crowded playground. She will retreat to a quiet, safe place where she can labor and bring her fawn into the world. If she is approached by a bear, her labor will stall. She will escape to a safe location, away from the bear, and labor on.
A woman, like the doe, is a mammal. Mammals birth best in spaces where they feel safe. And the biggest intruder in a safe space is fear. So for women who are inherently scared of childbirth, how do we address the fear? How can you and your partner put yourselves in the best position to have a positive, empowering birth experience?
Identify Your Fears
When you think of going into labor, how does it make you feel? If one of those feelings is fear or anxiety, you should know that this is normal. Childbirth is unpredictable and the unknown can be scary, especially for a first-time mother.
Most fears stem from the presumption that birth is painful. But there are other underlying fears that may prohibit your ability to labor and birth efficiently. You may have past trauma and fear a similar experience. You may be a survivor and fear being touched. You may be modest and fear being exposed. Or you may find the thought of actually being a parent overwhelming.
Regardless of the fears you are harboring, it's necessary to identify them so they can be addressed.
Create a Plan
Once you've identified the fear, you can create a plan for managing it.
For example, if the fear is of pain, educate yourself on the pain relief options available to you. Know that unlike most pain, which is caused by injury or illness, labor is a productive pain that ends with the birth of your baby.
Or, if the fear is of being touched or exposed, talk to your provider about limiting cervical checks and the number of people in your birth space. Stress the importance of informed consent, or informed non-consent. Even in a hospital, there are ways to create a more private environment.
Consider the circumstances that may trigger a fear, and how you will deal with it at the time.
Have a Support Team
If you give birth in a hospital, you'll likely encounter many doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. It's unlikely that everyone will be aware of your specific fears and your plans for coping with them. Having a partner, family member, doula or all of the above who knows you and can anticipate your feelings is extremely valuable.
A doula can work with you and your partner prenatally to help identify fears and create a plan for managing them. She may suggest a meditation or mindfulness practice, or teach breathing techniques to reduce stress and fear. Or she may provide local resources that can help with your specific needs.
If you have fears about childbirth, being proactive in preparing for them will make all the difference. With the support of your birth team you can have a positive, empowering birth experience without fear.