Top 5 Labor & Birth Fears

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Worry and fear are a natural part of pregnancy, labor and birth. It would be abnormal for you not to be concerned. Some women are comforted by the fact that they are not alone in being afraid of labor and birth or the events that surround the birth of their child. Here are some of the most common fears:

  1. Fear of not being able to manage the pain of labor.
    Managing the pain of labor can be done in a variety of ways. One of the best ways to deal with the pain of labor is to learn about all of your options. Taking a childbirth class, talking to other new mothers, your doctor or midwife and anyone who will share a bit of their story can be helpful.

    You'll learn that some people choose to use non-medicinal forms of pain relief like massage, relaxation, breathing and other helpful skills to get them through labor. This may include a tub or shower, support from family, friends, doula support, etc.

    Other may choose to use medications for managing pain in labor. This might be epidural anesthesia or other forms of regional anesthesia, like an epidural, for a numbing effect. Or it could be a systemic medication like an IV narcotic. Sometime the two of these can also be combined.

    No matter what form of pain relief the women have used, you will hear that support they received in labor was what benefited them most. Doulas are a large part of that support for the emotional and physical benefits.

  1. Fear of losing control during labor.
    Losing control in labor can mean different things to different women. It may mean that you worry about losing your modesty and being naked or unclothed. It may mean that you are concerned about being loud or making noise as you labor. Some women also fear the loss of control of their bowels. All of these are common and normal fears.

    It is difficult to give birth completely clothed, but if you talk to your practitioner about your concerns, you can often find a happy medium with respect to your physical privacy. The noises made by laboring women are normal and a part of the hard work of labor. Having someone remind you which noises are easier for laboring women may ease your fears. Loss of bowel or bladder control is fairly normal, particularly in inductions or medicated birth where the natural instincts of the body may be lessened. You may receive a bladder catheter if you are concerned about your bladder or if you have epidural anesthesia. A natural part of early labor is generally a cleansing of the bowels, if you don't experience this talk to your practitioner about other options like enemas to help you ease your fears.

  1. Fear of something going wrong during the birth, requiring medical intervention.
    Medical intervention is on the rise. The cesarean section rate is over 31% in the United States. Other technologies like induction, augmentation, forceps, and vacuums make up a large number of births as well. Sometimes medications can increase the likelihood that you will need added interventions. Talk to your doctor or midwife about common interventions, your concerns and how you can avoid them when they may not be necessary. Doulas also help lower the rates of many medical interventions.

    In the case of an emergency, the need for intervention may not be explained as in depth as you would like. This is where the trust in your doctor or midwife becomes necessary.

  2. Fear of something being wrong with the baby.
    The good news is that with an increase in proper prenatal care and nutrition, many of the common problems seen in previous decades have been nearly eradicated. The surprise problem with a baby is becoming more and more rare. If you have a genetic issue or concern discuss this with your doctor or midwife for genetic or prenatal screening. This can also help alleviate surprises.

    However, no amount of care, testing or planning can prevent all complications with babies. Some babies are born ill and require time in the hospital or other treatments that may help the baby. Other times babies are born with problems that are not fixable by any amount of medical technology. While these problems do not occur frequently, fewer than 1% of all births, they do happen and are devastating to the parents, relatives, and even the practitioners.

  3. Fear of dying in labor or birth.
    Since the advent of germ theory, hand washing and other changes, the risks to the mother in birth have dropped dramatically. The complications of birth that severely affect the health of the mother are managed by high risk specialists with advanced knowledge of pregnancy and labor. Technology, like the cesarean section, does pose more of a risk to mothers than vaginal births. Discuss all risks and benefits with your practitioner.

    If any of these fears are overwhelming or ruling your life, you need to talk to your practitioner. Sometimes counseling is necessary to help you deal with your fears. Report it to your doctor or midwife if you find yourself obsessing constantly and your fears aren't answered by regular prenatal visits or childbirth classes.

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