If you have a fear of childbirth, you’re not alone. I often talk with parents who are scared for one or more reasons and I always tell them it’s okay to be afraid and that there’s lots they can do to feel more confident and less worried. Here are some of my suggestions:
Talk to yourself. Journal, meditate, think out loud, be creative, exercise, drive…do whatever it is that helps you to tune out the rest of the world and listen to your own thoughts and feelings. Find out what you’re afraid of. Not having control? Not making it to the hospital? Hospitals? Pain? Tearing? Cesarean birth? Loss? Simply addressing your specific fear(s) can help you cope.
Learn about the signs of prenatal anxiety. 10 to 20 per cent of pregnant women experience mood disorders including prenatal anxiety. Anxiety is more than just worrying; it can interfere with your daily life and if left untreated, prenatal anxiety can increase risks for you and your baby during your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period. Fear of childbirth might not cause you to have symptoms of anxiety but if it does, please know that you don’t have to fight it alone.
Talk with loved ones. Trusted loved ones are the experts on you, and loving you. Friends or relatives who won’t judge you, invalidate your concerns, or inundate you with advice are usually the best supporters. It can help immensely just to share your feelings and I often hear that after a good conversation with a loved one, moms are more ready to accept help.
Talk with your prenatal care provider. Discussing your concerns with your midwife or obstetrician can help you to cope with and even sometimes to overcome your childbirth-related fears. This is someone who has attended hundreds or maybe even thousands of births! They can help to normalize your feelings, give you a better idea of what to expect, break down all of your options and consider back-up plans for if things don’t go according to plan. Your care provider might even be able to refer you to local resources for more support options.
Get professional support. There are several types of professionals with training and expertise around fear of childbirth and/or prenatal anxiety. You just have to know where to look. If you’re not sure, speak with your prenatal care provider or your family doctor about whether a psychotherapist, a psychiatrist, or another type of professional is the best fit for you. These care professionals can help you to work through your thoughts, avoid triggers, and cope with fear reactions. They can also if you’re experiencing severe anxiety and need a bit more clinical help.
Tune out what doesn’t serve you. There’s a tendency for expectant parents to be inundated with childbirth “horror stories”; everywhere they look there’s another friend, relative or stranger ready to share their difficult experience without prompting. I do believe in the importance of working through our birth experiences but pregnant women are not the right audience for these tough stories. It’s okay to make it known that you’re surrounding yourself with good vibes only.
Boost your confidence. Find a safe pregnancy support group (if you’re in or around Halton Region, join us here!), hire a doula, take a prenatal class, read positive birth stories, find a mantra or affirmation that speaks to you, exercise great self-care. One foot in front of the other, you will get through this.