Feeling nervous about childbirth? That's normal. Read on for tips that will help you feel confident and calm going into delivery.
Feeling a little nervous about pushing your little bundle out into the world? You’re not alone. It’s completely normal to have some anxiety about giving birth, and most moms-to-be experience occasional worries. Here's how to cope with your labor fears and have a more positive pregnancy and birth.
Common fears about childbirth
At some point or another, most moms-to-be’s have worried about at least a few of these scenarios.
Fear of not making it to the hospital on time
While you’ll always see viral videos of dramatic back-of-the-car or side-of-the-road emergency births, they are the exception, not the norm. The average labor for first-time moms lasts around 20 hours — and about eight hours for second timers.
So, unless you live far from your hospital, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll arrive in plenty of time. Instead of biting your fingernails about the impending commute, remember this: Call your midwife or OB/GYN as soon as you experience any signs of labor — usually when you experience contractions that don’t go away when you lie down or change positions (they’ll continue regularly every five minutes) for two hours, or if your water breaks. And if you're unsure whether or not you're experiencing true labor, call just to check.
Your practitioner will give you the lowdown on whether you should head to the hospital. If you follow that rule, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor of arriving at the hospital in time.
Fear of pooping while pushing
Here’s the thing: You, dear mama, are the only one in the delivery room with this worry. Most seasoned labor and delivery nurses can quickly get rid of any poop-by-way-of-pushing evidence before you know it even happened. It’s their job. They’re used to it.
And to be honest, poop happens often. The reason: When baby’s head is ready to exit, you have to rely on many muscles to get him out — including the muscles in your rectum. Since stool tends to be in the rectum at any given time of day, some will likely come out when you’re pushing.
Fear of the epidural needle
Although some women report feeling brief pain when the epidural is administered, many others don't feel a thing. The area is numbed with a local anesthetic, and any discomfort you might feel from the needle is typically pretty minimal compared to the pain of contractions. You'll likely feel a little pressure, and within 10 to 15 minutes, start feeling pain relief.
Remember, too, that there are a variety of other labor pain management options you can discuss with your practitioner if the thought of an epidural continues to give you anxiety.
Fear of an episiotomy
An episiotomy is a procedure where the tissue between the vagina and the anus (called the perineum) is cut in order to allow more room for baby. While it used to be common practice, these days most obstetricians allow the vaginal tissue to tear naturally.
If you're concerned, discuss your feelings with your practitioner ahead of time and note your desire to avoid this procedure if possible in your birth plan.
Fear of vaginal tearing
Wait. Did you just read “tear on its own” and add another fear to your list? Try not to worry. While as many as half of all women will have at least one small vaginal tear after childbirth, the most common type is a first-degree laceration — which generally only involves the lining of the vagina and may not even require stitches.
If you’re still worried, talk to your practitioner about perineal massage in the weeks leading up to your due date to gently stretch your perineum (the area between your vagina and rectum) and minimize your chances of vaginal tears or an episiotomy during childbirth.
Fear of labor pain
We’re not going to lie to you: Childbirth is not pain-free. The best way to nip your labor pain-fears in the bud is to become as educated about the birthing process as you can. Continue reading about it, go to a childbirth education class, watch a video or two and ask moms who’ve been there.
It may help to keep in mind two things. First: This is pain with a positive purpose — that is, to thin and open your cervix and bring your baby into the world. And this pain ends. Second: The pain of childbirth is a pain you don't have to endure if you choose not to. You have a variety of labor pain management options, including medications like an epidural as well as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies to help you through.
Fear of needing an emergency C-section
Any surgery can be scary, so it’s understandable to be nervous about the possibility. It may help to put the possibility in perspective: While it may seem like everyone and her sister is having a C-section, the numbers have been on the decline for several years — now, C-sections occur in less than one third of all births.
There are, of course, some women — like those with preeclampsia — who are at a higher risk for having a cesarean. Talk to your doctor about when and why she’s performed them in the past and express any concerns you have. For instance, how does your doctor feel about delivering large babies vaginally? If you’ve had a C-section in the past, does your physician support trying for a vaginal delivery after C-section, or VBAC, this go round?
Finally, research has shown that women who have continuous labor support with someone like a doula present are 26 percent less likely to have a C-section. And no matter what kind of labor you end up experiencing, you'll be much more comfortable with company — whether that’s a doula, your partner, your mother or a friend. A little support can go a long way in easing your fears.
How can you ease fear of labor and feel more prepared for childbirth?
No worry or fear related to your pregnancy or delivery is too small. No matter what’s on your mind, these strategies can help you feel more supported and prepared.
Most important? Even if giving birth is an unknown experience for you, remember that billions of women throughout history have done it (often, more than once!). You have it in you to join their ranks and reap the most amazing reward at the finish line — a beautiful baby.