Overcoming the Fear of Childbirth
Updated: Feb 25
You've heard the horror stories. You shudder as Mrs. So-and-So explains in gory detail how she felt the ripping and tearing as the baby's melon sized noggin made its debut into the world. You feel yourself clench as your Aunt once again mentions how she delivered 12 pound cousin Jimmy after her 36 hour labor. The screaming…the blood… the ouch… You become dizzy and nauseated and then absolutely flabbergasted because after every gruesome tale, the woman in front of you gives you that sympathetic look upon seeing your ghostly pale face and says, "But you know what? It really is worth it."
Worth it. Really? Is it worth it???
Whether you're expecting your first, just thinking about having children, or the idea of having kids is far away in the future, allow me to tell you my tale and hopefully offer some tips on how I was able to overcome my paralyzing dread and approach delivery day with NO fear and anxiety. And this is coming from someone who has struggled with an anxiety disorder for years. If I can do it, trust me… you can do it too! Obviously, we are all different and I most certainly do not have the magic words written below to make all your worries disappear. My hope, however, is that you may be encouraged, empowered, and maybe just MAYBE find some excitement at the prospect of labor and delivery.
Common Fears About Childbirth and Tips to Overcome Them
1. The Pain/Tearing
I personally have never met anyone that didn't have some measure of fear over the pain of childbirth. After all, why wouldn't you have some fear when everyone claims it's "most likely the worst pain you'll ever experience in your whole life."? I always considered myself a pain wimp. I recall a time during my first pregnancy when I blubbered like a baby following a collision between my toe and the metal screw on my coffee table. I then continued to have a meltdown because all I could think was, "How on EARTH am I going to push a BABY out of me when I can barely handle a stubbed toe?!". The thought of the extreme pain was by far what had me terrified of childbirth. Thankfully, there's lots you can actually do to prepare yourself both physically and mentally for the big day. As this was the main worry for myself, I will address this in more detail below. However, here's some quick tips!
What can you do?
Focus on positive thoughts and remember that your body was made for this!
Eat foods high in collagen (a protein responsible for healthy joints and skin elasticity)
If you truly feel like you want/need to have an epidural or have medication during labor, that is okay! Don't let yourself feel pressured to have an all-natural birth unless you really want to go for it.
Despite the amazing technology of our modern medicine, many women still fear losing their life during/after giving birth. Childbirth is a VERY daunting thing to face. Your body goes through a lot and it's totally understandable if you can't help but worry that things might go terribly wrong. Though death unfortunately still happens, the chances are INCREDIBLY low and are most likely tied to very specific prenatal complications, poor countries with limited access to proper healthcare, and/or related to other health complications.
What can you do?
Maintain a healthy lifestyle (proper diet, mental healthcare, quality sleep, etc.).
Don't suffer alone with your thoughts. If these fears keep coming up, talk to your doctor/doula/midwife. They can help prepare and assure you along the way.
For some women, it helps to look up statistics and research on the topic. If this would only add fuel to the worries, then DON'T read up on it! Stats can help or harm depending on your personality.
Make sure you have proper prenatal care.
3. Delivery Complications
No matter the birth plan or how much you prepare, you can never truly know how it is all going to go down. As someone who tends to get VERY anxious with unknowns, I can totally understand these worries. I remember dwelling far too much on horror stories of these perfectly healthy women suddenly having insane and downright traumatic labors. However, it is so important you don't brood on this and spiral into anxiousness. Baby's feel and can be affected by our stress. The more calm, and the more positive we keep ourselves, the better.
What can you do?
As mentioned above, find ways to keep calm and not let stress take over. I personally believe stress can cause many unnecessary and avoidable physical issues.
Find comfort in the fact that doctors are able to catch so many potential issues early on in pregnancy. They can set plans in place to avoid problems, plan a C-section if needed, administer medications, etc. Remember that countless women before us have been having babies without all the lab work, blood testing, and ultrasounds that are available to us now!
Do whatever you can to keep your body healthy. Make sure you know what is safe and what should be avoided during pregnancy.
For me, it was all about the pain and tearing. My fear was so great that I at one point considered just adopting because I was such a wimp when it came to pain. When I eventually did become pregnant, I knew I needed to overcome the fear. There was no going back! And deep down, I truly wanted to birth my own children. For me, researching in depth of how the birth process works and how your body is made to deliver babies sparked a fascination and wonder (I stayed away from graphic videos. I really didn't want to actually see real life documentation of how it all looks. I stuck with animated demonstrations and more text book like illustrations). I allowed myself to feel the awe at how amazing our bodies are, and that began to drown out the fear. I knew my body was made for this. Mental preparedness was a huge factor. I told myself over and over how women have been doing this from the beginning of time. Many have and still do successfully birth children without medical assistance and I could sit comfortably knowing that I have access to good medical care in an era of incredible technology. No matter what was going to happen, the baby would come out. Even if they needed to do a C-section. Other preparations I took part of was exercise and Kegels. If you think about it, labor is a workout. A really crazy intense workout. I'm sure you moms would agree that laboring makes you tired. Lots of muscles are engaged and if you can do anything you can strengthen yourself beforehand, then that's great! You can look up many pregnancy safe workouts online.
When the day came for my first (my son) to be born, I felt little to no fear. To my great surprise, my water broke early in the morning 3 weeks before my due date. A tremendous amount of adrenaline and excitement washed over me as I realized I'd get to meet my baby soon. Labor was hard. Very hard. And yes, very painful. I had no epidural. My emotions got the best of me at some point when I was so tired and felt like I was progressing so slowly. Pushing was so great because it meant the end was coming. Then when that baby boy finally arrived, it was all over and done. No more contractions. No more pushing.
To me, giving birth is empowering. It is a beautiful miracle to be able to carry, grow, and give birth to a little human being that has their own soul. It is a privilege and an honor. Maybe there will always be some amount of fear approaching the due date. But I urge you not to let that fear consume you. Do whatever you can to focus on the positives and give yourself what you need during pregnancy. Reach out if those fears are paralyzing. There are many amazing resources in doctors, doulas, and midwives. They can be a great encouragement and guide for you along the way.
Let's encourage and uplift one another! Share your non-horror story birth experiences below!