When you are expecting, it is totally normal to experience anxiety and fear on what’s to come. Very few expecting mothers would say that their pregnancy journey was one without fear. In fact, good can come from fear when you recognise it and use it to prepare your mind and body for birth. From worries about not making it to the hospital in time to the unbearable pain that you might experience; here are some of the most common labour fears and how you can overcome them to feel more confident and calm going into delivery.
Fear: It is going to be very painful
This is probably the most common fear amongst expectant mothers especially for first time mothers. But, giving birth is more about mental strength rather than physical strength because when you become anxious, your blood pressure will increase, and your muscles will also become tense. All of these heightened reactions might intensify any pain you feel. As such, it is important for you to understand and trust that your body is ready to help you cope during childbirth. In actuality, the body’s natural systems are already in place to help you minimise pain as well as give you extra strength to cope with the physical aspects of labour and birth. So, once you are fully in labour, your endorphins will kick into high gear and your body will take over. However, in the event of the pain getting to be too much and labour has dragged on longer than expected, there will still be alternative pain management techniques to help you out.
How do I overcome the fear of pain?
• Learn simple breathing techniques to help you feel more relaxed during labour. Focus all your anxiety and fear into these techniques and you will be more better equipped to handle things.
• Read up on how your own body’s hormones (endorphins and oxytocin) are designed to protect you from the pain of labour, and how your birth environment can affect the production of these hormones.
• Use positive birth affirmation cards to help you get into the right mindset and minimise pain levels.
• Consider enrolling in birthing classes which will introduce you to hypnobirthing, the Bradley Method and the Lamaze Method, which are specific childbirth techniques that can help you manage the pain of labour and birth.
• Research on birthing in water which can be a possible delivery method for you. This method is known to be more relaxing and a better option to relieve the pain of contractions.
• Better understand the number of medical options available for pain management during labour, and the risks involved if you do require it.
Fear: I am not going to make it to the hospital in time
The idea that labour starts suddenly and progresses immediately without getting to the hospital in time is a fear that most mummies-to-be have. However, it would be good to note that the number of cases where a woman suddenly goes into labour outside of a hospital is very low. The average span of active labour lasts about eight hours, and before your baby starts to make his or her way down the birth canal, there will be plenty of warning signs that will prompt you to head to the hospital as soon as possible. These signs include intense cramping, back pain, steady contractions and your water breaking. Even if you might be having a seemingly speedy labour, timing your contractions will help in gauging roughly how long you have until your baby arrives.
How do I overcome the fear of a fast labour?
• Find out how an early labour looks like and what you can do to help yourself if it does happen. Research what behaviours and signs women have in active labour so that you can see if you’re experiencing the same.
• You might also consider choosing a hospital close to home where possible, learn how to time your contractions, and plan out different scenarios to better prepare for your little one’s arrival.
• Talk to your birthing partner, doula or OBGYN about your fear of not making it to the hospital in time. By sharing your fears, you will get valuable support in planning and drafting scenarios that will help you get to the hospital at different times of the day. It’s also good to ensure that your hospital bag is already pre-packed and that you have made alternative plans if you are not able to get to the hospital due to unforeseen circumstances.
[Suggested body photo: https://www.istockphoto.com/sg/photo/the-doctor-is-diagnosing-pregnant-women-gm964098006-263225404]
Fear: I will embarrass myself when I poop during labour
Yes, pooping on the floor in a room full of people may sound like a complete nightmare but it will definitely happen. However, it is good to understand that it is natural to do so. During childbirth, when your baby’s head is ready to exit, you have to rely on many muscles to get him or her out, and this includes the muscles in your rectum. Since stool tends to be in the rectum at any given time of day, it is inevitable that some will likely come out when you are pushing.
How do I overcome the fear of embarrassment?
• Understand that it is nothing compared to the pain, the pressure and the cheering squad of doctors and nurses, and the fact that you’re giving birth to your little bundle of joy.
• Prep your partner early for what they may or may not see down there, and know that you are both sharing in a unique experience that is the birth of your child.
• Arm yourself with a good sense of humour. This will help lighten your mood and make you feel a little more relaxed.
Fear: Tearing will damage my private parts
Some tearing is bound to happen if you deliver vaginally, but it is not likely to damage your private parts. If anything, you are more likely to have one of the two more common kinds of tears which is the first-degree or second-degree tear. First-degree tears are superficial tears that are considered pretty small and only require a few stitches, if necessary. A second-degree tear tends to go a little deeper, reaching the muscle beneath the skin. Not to worry as higher degree tears are far less frequent and are often the result of an episiotomy gone awry.
How do I overcome the fear of perineal tearing?
• Learn and practice perineal massage techniques during your pregnancy from 34 weeks onwards. This is a great way to prepare your mind and perineum for the sensation of birth as it helps minimise your risk of having a significant tear or episiotomy.
Fear: I will need to have a caesarean section
Fear of having a caesarean is not uncommon. As emergencies can develop during labour, it is good to understand that a c-section might be the best choice to ensure the mother and baby’s safety. Usually, an emergency c-section is suggested by the medical team in the event of the baby being in a breech position, if the mother has pre-eclampsia or is experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding among other conditions. Otherwise, c-section is not normally brought up unless requested by the mother.
How do I overcome the fear of having a c-section?
• Speak with your OBGYN about it and express your concerns. Be clear that the both of you are on the same page and that c-section should only be suggested as the absolute last resort.
• Keep in mind that a c-section is a routine procedure and it is always the best choice to ensure mother and baby’s safety.