Published on November 15, 2022 – Last Updated on November 15, 2022
Are you pregnant and scared of the idea of having to give birth? Don’t worry, you are not alone. In fact, you should know that 20% of pregnant women in developed countries report a certain degree of fear of childbirth, and a study found rates of slight worries in up to 80% of pregnant women.
But while knowing that other pregnant women are going through the same thing could offer some consolation, it’s still important to acknowledge the fear so you can take actions accordingly. Particularly considering that excessive fear of childbirth could negatively impact your birthing experience.
Lots of women who are scared of a vaginal birth experience end up having a prolonged labor, tend to opt for a caesarean section, or end up having an emergency one because their body is so tense during birth that labor doesn’t progress as it should.
Common Fears of Giving Birth
There are many different reasons why a woman might be feeling scared at the idea of having to deliver a baby naturally. Some are more rational than others, and you may recognize yourself if one or more of these.
1. Fear of labor pain
Who hasn’t grown up hearing about all the horrible stories from our moms, family members or friends about their extremely painful birthing experiences? “You know nothing about pain until you’ve delivered a baby” they say.
Not to mention all the dramatic movie scenes where woman always need to rush to hospital when their water brakes and end up screaming from the top of their lungs, lying down on a hospital bad. That is not how most births happen, believe me!
So, it’s natural that we all become conditioned to fearing labor pain from a very young age, not even realizing that the information we are absorbing is often far from the truth.
2. Doubting your ability to give birth
This is somehow correlated to the previous one, as lots of women don’t think can give birth naturally because they don’t think they can handle the pain. However, there may be other reasons why a woman might feel that way.
I remember my yoga teacher telling me that she didn’t think I could deliver a baby vaginally when I was still pregnant because I have very small hips. Luckily, I was informed and I knew better, but you can imagine the effects that these types of comment can have on your self-confidence.
3. Fear of the needle
If you don’t feel like you will be able to handle the pain of a vaginal birth but, at the same time, are really scared of needle and the idea of having an epidural, that can create a lot of anxiety and fear of childbirth.
4. Fear of complications
I think the vast majority of pregnant women has this fear to some degree. We all want to protect our baby: that maternal instinct kicks in before you’ve even met your baby in person, and the idea of anything bad happening to them can be very overwhelming. Not to mention the fear of something scary happening to us while we are giving birth.
This fear can be particularly strong in women who experienced a previous loss or a traumatic birth, such a miscarriage, stillbirth or an emergency c-section.
Tips to Overcome your Fear of Giving Birth
So what can you do to overcome your fear(s) of giving birth? Here are some tips I learnt from my two pregnancies that I believe will help.
1. Identify the source of your fear
The first step is to understand why you are feeling scared. Is it because of any of the reasons listed above or something different?
Acknowledging and understanding the source of your fear will help you come up with a plan to overcome it and can help ease the feeling.
2. Talk about it
Another think I would suggest is talk about it: to a close friend or family member, and to your doctor and/or midwife. Expressing your feelings with them will allow them to provide you with advice, support and treatment if necessary.
If your feel like you are in an extreme state of anxiety, distress and worry about childbirth, you might be developing what’s called ‘Fear of Childbirth’ (FOC), also called tokophobia. If that is the case, consider talking to a therapist and get professional help.
3. Learn Relaxation Skills
Also learn some relaxation skills, such as self-hypnosis, meditation or doing breathing exercises. These can really help you to calm down during pregnancy, reducing stress and anxiety, as well as fostering a more positive feeling toward your future birth.
Prenatal yoga classes or meditation classes can be a good start. Otherwise, if you prefer some guided meditation readily available on your phone, there are lots of hypnosis apps or meditation apps that you can try. Some apps even have meditation tracks specific for pregnant women.
4. Take a Birthing Class
I always like to say that knowledge is power, and this saying applies particularly well to giving birth. What I have come to realize is hat the main reason why women fear birth is the fact that they don’t know enough about it.
Will it hurt? If so, why or is there something I can do to ease the pain? What are possible complications? And what choices do I have if any of the complications arise? Are there different ways to manage the pain? What does my body go through when I am in labor?
These are all questions that most women don’t have an answer to until they take a birthing class and talk to their healthcare providers about it. It’s not something that we learn at school and, unfortunately, it’s not all information that is given to you unless you look and ask for it.
Antenatal or birthing classes usually cover topics such as: what happens in labor and what the different options for labor and delivery are, how to cope with labor pain, your feelings about the birth so that you can get the support you need, caring and feeding your baby, etc.
5. Look into hypnobirthing
I would also strongly recommend you look into hypnobirthing, particularly if your main fear is the fact that you won’t be able to cope with labor pain. Hypnobirthing is a method that uses deep relaxation, visualization, affirmations and breathing techniques to achieve a confident, calm and peaceful birth (no matter if a vaginal birth or a c-section, with or without induction, etc.).
Its philosophy is based on the fact that the fear of giving birth is what actually stops women from having a peaceful and comfortable birth experience, as the body is too tense to work as it’s supposed to during labor and delivery. Releasing any fear of stress, as well as learning how to trust your body and the birthing process with hypnobirthing, will allow your body to relax and birth with ease.
If you can’t attend a class in person, there are also lots of hypnobirthing classes that are available online.
6. Create a Birth Plan
Finally, create your own birth plan, print it, share it with your doctor or midwife, and take it with you to hospital when it’s time to give birth!
A birth plan is a list of your ‘birth preferences’, meaning a list of all the things that you’d like to have or happen (or things you’d like to avoid) during labor and delivery, as well as shortly before and after. This document is very important, because it allows you to share your wishes with all the healthcare professionals that will be taking care of you during your birth experience.
Having this document ready will ease your mind when thinking about birth and possible complications, knowing that, now matter what, your wishes will be respected.