giving birth

Fear Of Childbirth Will Ruin Your Pregnancy

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shutterstock_171529646The one thing I vividly remember about pregnancy is being so, so anxious about impending labor. I felt totally out of control. I am the type of person who struggles with the unknown in daily life anyway, so the huge question looming above my head regarding when, where, and how I would go into labor didn’t help matters at all.

What’s worse is the fact that labor is entirely personal. I hate that. This basically means that your doctor or midwife can’t predict the future and tell you if it is going to go well or not. Every time that I asked a question, it was met with the annoying, diplomatic response: Well, every pregnancy is different.

That did not sit well with a Paranoid Polly like myself. I ended up having two very pleasant birth experiences, at a birthing center and at home. I’m happy with the way things went, and I wouldn’t change anything, except for my uncontrollable anxiety leading up to labor.

If you are anxious about labor as a means to an end, I’m not going to tell you to calm down—because my husband can attest that I hate that shitty advice. I am going to tell you that you’re not alone, and it is perfectly normal to feel butterflies or even gripping fear about a physical feat that you have never experienced.

Up to 20% of pregnant women feel fearful during pregnancy, especially when pregnant with their first baby. 13% of women will put off getting pregnant because of this anxiety and fear. 6% of women consider this fear disabling as it takes over their life.

If your pre-labor fear falls into the disabling category, it’s important to seek professional help. If you’re like many other pregnant women who feel a general anxiety about labor, it is my personal opinion that talking about your concerns can help immensely.

I don’t have a set solution for labor anxiety because I experienced it myself. But I do know that it is worthwhile to do everything in your power to learn about labor, talk with women about their experiences (minus unnecessary horror stories), use relaxation techniques, and make peace with the idea of giving up control. Labor may be the most challenging thing your body ever does, but you will come out on the other side. Don’t let childbirth anxiety ruin your pregnancy.

(Image: Image Point Fr/Shutterstock)

22 Comments

  1. Ursi

    May 8, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Do you know that scene in the the US version of The Office where Pam let her water break before even acknowledging she needed to go to the hospital because she was suddenly terrified that she couldn’t go through with labor and was in complete denial about what was going to happen?

    That gave me a bigger rush of sympathy for the fear of labor than any medical footage ever has.

    I can’t even imagine having it hit you like a ton of bricks that you’re about to go into labor and it’s all actually happening. Moms, you have my complete support.

    • Bethany Ramos

      May 8, 2014 at 10:16 am

      I totally remember that – great image.

  2. Jennifer Freeman

    May 8, 2014 at 10:26 am

    I was super freaked out about labor with my first, and I really believe it is part of the reason why I ended up with a C-section after a long labor. The experience was fairly horrible, but to be sure I’d already accepted defeat mentally before it even started. This is not to imply that all women who have C-sections have that mindset, obviously. I just know that I threw in the towel pretty much as soon as labor started because I was terrified of seeing it through to completion. Fast forward 16 years to my next pregnancy and I got through it just fine and ended up with a successful VBAC. My doctor was super encouraging and I think that it helped me to cope mentally with my fear of labor.

    • Kendra

      May 8, 2014 at 10:52 am

      I am so hopeful for a future VBAC! I always like seeing stories of those who have succeeded!

    • Jennifer Freeman

      May 8, 2014 at 10:58 am

      For me, the doctor (and delivery nurse, too, she was a blessing) really was what made the difference. I didn’t have any medical reason I couldn’t do it, so she was very encouraging about VBAC right from the start. I hope that you are able to get your VBAC, too! *fingers crossed*

    • Kendra

      May 8, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Thank you! My first delivery nurse was THE WORST. She kept telling me “it’s called labor, not vacation dear”, and she yelled at me because I threw up in the trash can instead of in the throw up pan. Ugh. I’ve also changed doctors so hopefully, the next time will be something I can actually have positive memories about!

    • Jennifer Freeman

      May 8, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Unsympathetic nurses and doctors are the worst. I had something similar the first time. My doctor basically told me that other women were having babies too and that it was no big dela, and the nurse on duty wasnot at all compassionate or caring. Bad career choice for them!

  3. Kendra

    May 8, 2014 at 10:32 am

    You know, strangely enough I was terrified of childbirth my entire life. I faint around needles and blood, so I assumed I was basically toast when it came to this chapter in my life. But somehow, by some crazy miracle, when I became pregnant, things changed. About the time I was in the second trimester, I decided I thought the more I knew, the less nervous and scared I would be. I researched the shit out of all things pregnancy and labor. I was never once afraid after that. Not one single moment. I even handled all the needles, the IV, the epidural, and the C-section like a first class champ. Now that’s all over, I’ve miraculously gone back to being fainty around needles and blood. But I still don’t have fear about labor.

  4. emily_bemily

    May 8, 2014 at 10:49 am

    I.credit my non anxiety with my birth going so well. I did a lot of visualization before and thought about what I would tell myself during contractions and ask the positions I would use etc. I never used a single bit of it- my body pretty much took over and I went with it, but I allowed it to happen and I’m really happy with my experience.

  5. @Real_George_Clooney

    May 8, 2014 at 11:27 am

    ppsshh, what’s there to fear? Seems so easy! I bet you any man can do it!

    **runs away!

  6. Greta Young

    May 8, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I remember around the 6-month mark, having this incredibly intense realization of “OH GOD, THERE’S NO TURNING BACK NOW, AND HOW ON EARTH IS THIS THING ACTUALLY GOING TO COME OUT OF ME?!” I went to a prenatal yoga class the very next day; best thing I did during my pregnancy hands down.

  7. Kristina FamilyWorkLife

    May 8, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    My very first thought when the test showed positive was “oh *bleep*, I have to go through labor” and I burst into tears. Sometime after the first trimester I decided to address my fears head – on and skipped to the end of the pregnancy book. More tears. In the end, I built it up in my mind to be way worse than reality. With my first I kept saying all through labor “this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be” but got an epidural at the tail end because I was afraid that it might become more than I could bear. My second pregnancy was so relaxed, I didn’t have any if that fear and had my baby drug – free (on accident) and kept saying “that wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought.” The mind (and internet horror stories) are basically a first time mother’s worst enemy.

  8. allisonjayne

    May 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    The other irritating thing is that if you acknowledge your fears or worries, some people unhelpfully respond with “all that matters is that your baby is healthy”. Um, yeah, I know that’s the point and everything, but it’s not ALL that matters. There are two people going through this thing.

    • Kendra

      May 8, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      If I could upvote that a billion times, I would.

  9. Jessifer

    May 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Strangely enough, I was not scared of labor. What terrified me was the idea of having blood tests, spinals, IVs, catheters (or worse, a c-section!) It freaked me out so much that I didn’t even want to think of it during my pregnancy… and I was so relieved when I found out the baby wasn’t breech! BUT…I eventually went 2 weeks overdue and still never went into labor! I ended up opting for what I had dreaded all along: a c-section, complete with spinal, IV, catheter, and the works. I felt like I was being punished!

    But then again, I’ve never experienced labor so maybe having the c-section wasn’t so bad after all! I guess I’ll only find out if I’m able to have my VBAC for pregnancy #2!

  10. kay

    May 8, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    I was always a little worried about the whole birthing a baby thing.

    Then my appendix exploded and I got to have an open appendectomy with a massive infection and spend a week in the hospital.

    After going to the hospital with NO prep and having my abdomen cut open? Having a baby wasn’t so bad at all. Took out the whole scary unknown of going to a hospital (outside of my own birth I’d never spent the night in one), and the surgeons told me that if anything the pain post-appendectomy was worse than a c-section (I asked every doctor I had about it “you probably wouldn’t have an infection like you’ve got right now, and you get a baby out of it, instead of just a scar”)

    So basically, if you’re worried let your appendix explode (note: it needs to EXPLODE, so that you get an open appendectomy not just the lap one.). Childbirth won’t seem so bad!

  11. Elisa Probert

    May 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Fear of labor is part of what’s keeping me from actually trying to conceive…I should talk to my doctor about some counseling for that.

    Other things that are in the way –

    Migraines. A LOT.
    A temperamental dog that I love more than anything
    I’m not sure I’m up to the responsibility of raising a human.

  12. NotTakenNotAvailable

    May 8, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Being a control freak is a huge contributing factor to my tokophobia and dislike of children in general (if it were possible to squeeze out a remote control with the kid, I might consider having one). I know I’d schedule a C-section just to have some reassurance of an end date in which I was not an active participant in the outcome, but even then…well, I panicked the day before I had surgery to reset a broken wrist, because I was convinced that I was going to be in the 0.00000000001 or whatever % of people who OD from the anesthesia. It’s also a good thing I didn’t know beforehand just how close to my artery the surgeon was going to be cutting! So yeah, loss of control = no go for me.

  13. Liz

    May 8, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    I’m strangely not afraid at all of labor and I’m kinda looking forward to it. I’m hoping that feeling doesn’t go away lol I’m due in 3 weeks!

    • Jita Hirst Klapova

      May 13, 2014 at 7:12 am

      Same here, due in 3 weeks and actually kinda looking forward to it, mainly because we went to see the birth centre last week and it was so nice i didnt want to leave. Also reading a hypnobirthing book helped a lot !

  14. MLSKC

    May 8, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    That lack of control gave me nightmares throughout my first pregnancy. I thought educating myself would help-I read everything, from In a May to WTEWYE to all the pamphlets from the doctors office. Everything just reminded me that I would not be in control. I had to have an emergency section just before 36 weeks and even though I was scared because HELLO TAKING HOME A HUMAN, I was ecstatic to skip labor. For my second, I went straight for the repeat. Still had nightmares about going into labor, but they weren’t as bad.

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