If you are experiencing anxiety about childbirth, you are not alone. Feeling worried and anxious about childbirth is commonplace. Women have heard so many horror stories and anticipate that the pain is just going to kill them. But if that were true, we’d all be only children with no siblings. See the list of signs and symptoms of anxiety about childbirth, below. Then see what steps you can take to banish that fear, worry, and apprehension. Find yourself facing your labor with confidence, determination, and belief in your own power.
Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety During Pregnancy:
- Feel worried when thinking about the baby, or the impending childbirth experience
- Anxiousness, trepidation seems to never leave you
- You may be more irritable than usual
- You have persistent thoughts and they just seem to not go away, or come back again and again
- Panic attacks are a common experience for you
- You have constant muscle tension from all the worry and stress
- You have trouble falling asleep and/or staying asleep
Just last week, I met an expecting couple on one of the labor and delivery hospital tours I give. After the tour, we were chatting and the husband revealed his wife has a lot of anxiety about childbirth. So, I asked, “Have you taken your childbirth class?” Her answer was no. She explained that she’s so afraid of it, that she didn’t do anything about scheduling a class. Her husband said,” Is there a class online we can do?”
“Tokophobia” – Fear of Childbirth
“Never Take a Childbirth Class On-line unless you have no other choice” was my reply. You might as well dive deep into the Google Rabbit Hole! You learn so much more being with other couples and having an in-person childbirth educator. Connecting with other women and couples is so valuable. You often find you are not the only one feeling like you do. It’s so comforting to know you are not alone. You can all learn and grow together. After both my Bradley Method classes and my hospital childbirth classes, I hear, “I can’t believe how much we learned. Thank you so much!” It’s so rewarding to know that couples can benefit from the information I am privileged to share.
That River Called “Denial”
Think about this possible situation. You’re so fearful about giving birth that you just go into full denial. Do you ignore the fact that your baby is eventually going to need to come out? How will you know what to do when the time comes?
If you just leave everything to the doctors, is that really your best choice? Does that absolve you of all responsibility in the decisions that are made concerning you and your baby? All decisions need to be made, by both, informed parents, and the doctor together as a team. In order to be part of the decision-making process, you need to know all of your options – before labor begins.
If You Ignore a Problem, Does the Problem Just Go Away?
Well, what do you think? Are you “Queen of Denial”? How is that working for you? Here is what happens when you don’t take the time to be informed or prepared. Without educating yourself, I can predict that you will be so full of anxiety, your labor will not progress. You will be pumped full of medications. Your baby will get your stress hormones and the side effects of all those meds through your blood stream.
Birth doesn’t have to be that way!
You will be sending a message to your baby that you are in a dangerous situation. These stress hormones will hinder any progress you will make and your baby will be under duress. Think a Cesarean is an easier way to go? A Cesarean is major abdominal surgery and comes with all the risks of any major surgery. A Cesarean is something to avoid if you can. The risk of death is 3 times greater than that of a vaginal birth. A Cesarean is a lifesaving technique and should only be used when truly necessary.
What Kind of Birth Experience Do You Want for You and Your Baby?
Feeling anxious, frightened, and scared of labor is totally normal. But those feelings are based mainly on what you DON’T know, and erroneous(false) information you’ve heard from others. Our society has conditioned us to think of labor and birth as a dangerous, scary, and excruciatingly painful experience. But everything you THINK you know about childbirth is probably based on drama, false information, and NOT reality.
In fact, childbirth is an inherently safe, normal, natural physiological process. Many of my students are shocked and surprised to hear that childbirth CAN BE an amazingly positive and empowering experience. It can also be the opposite of that, if you don’t take time to prepare yourself, your body, mind, and spirit.
7 Steps to Banish Your Anxiety About Childbirth?
1. Understanding the Source
Write down any possible triggers. You may have past trauma from another birth, or experiences from past events, like rape, abuse, miscarriage, or still birth, or anything, not even related to birth. Many women who have had anxiety in the past, in general, may experience it again when anticipating the birth of their child.
Simply understanding the source of your fear or anxiety can be the first step to learning how to deal with it and get power over it. To quote a mentor of mine: “Here’s a good analogy…let’s say you’re driving your car and a red warning light comes on. It would be silly to get mad at the sensor, foolish to try and cover it up, or worse, ignore it, thinking it will disappear. The warning light is not the problem that represents our emotions. The blinking light(anxiety) is just getting our attention and signaling a problem with the unseen processing going on in our mind(thoughts). If that warning light(emotions) goes unchecked, it will cause our body to break down.”
That anxiety you’re experiencing is your intuition’s red light. It’s your warning that you need to do something to prepare and to deal with this anxiety.
2. Cognitive Therapy
For many women, talking to a professional, licensed therapist will be the best way to get power over your fears. These fears can affect you in many ways, both emotionally and physically. Sometimes things we need to deal with head-on, can negatively affect our health. Your body/mind will break down if you don’t deal with whatever is causing you anxiety. Think of it as healing yourself so that you can be the best mom possible. And try to remember, “There is no such thing as a perfect mother, but there are a million ways to be a good one.”
3. Knowledge is Power
The second thing to do is to sign up for a childbirth preparation class. There are so many choices:
- The Bradley Method
- Birth Bootcamp
- International Childbirth Education Association
- Birthing from Within
- Your local hospitals usually have classes
When you get a clear picture of exactly what is
happening in your body and why, you’ll have a better understanding of the process and less fear and less anxiety. You may even be able to visualize, in a positive way, the journey you and your baby are on.
Having knowledge about the process itself can reduce your fears and give you an idea of what to expect. Often, people have anxiety because of fear of the unknown. Even the simplest, seemingly benign, new experiences can induce anxiety if you’re not sure what to expect.
4. What to Look for in a Childbirth Preparation Class
A good childbirth class should teach you about many aspects of pregnancy, labor, and birth. Below are a few of the essentials:
Nutrition for Pregnancy
Pregnancy Nutrition is so important in growing a healthy baby and avoiding common pregnancy complications. You need 80-100 grams of protein daily during your 2nd-3rd trimesters, yet you only need 300 extra calories daily. It is never too late to start. Having good nutrition during pregnancy has been shown to grow a healthy baby and can benefit your labor outcome.
The Stages of Labor
You should learn about all 4 stages of labor, what happens to your body physiologically, and emotionally, and what to expect from contractions. One can most often tell where a woman is in labor just by the things she is doing, the sounds she is making, and the physical sensations she is experiencing.
LABOR IS ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOUR BABY
Many people are surprised that going through labor actually benefits your baby. According to Dr. Sarah J Buckley:
“Basically, what it boils down to is that the stress of labor is a good stress. As the mother labors her body produces hormones to help her deal with pain. As she does this her baby’s adrenal glands are stimulated, and they begin to produce high levels of catecholamines, or stress hormones. The catecholamines are the same ones that everyone’s bodies produce in the flight or fight response to a life-threatening situation or stressful event. This fetal stress response is designed to help the baby make the transition to life outside the uterus. Here is how it helps specifically:
- Helps baby breathe. The hormones produced increase the levels of surfactant that are secreted, this helps the newborn keep their lungs expanded. As it keeps the lungs open it helps the baby to clear amniotic fluid from his or her lungs.
- Increases blood flow to baby. Stress hormones help send more blood to the baby’s brain, heart and kidneys
- Increases energy supply to the baby. This is what keeps the baby satisfied until breast milk comes in.
- Facilitates bonding. That alertness your newborn has is directly related to these hormones. A more alert baby draws parents in and he or she is more responsive to parents and others.
- Increases immunity. White blood cell numbers are increased as the adrenal hormones are secreted.”
Positions and Comfort Techniques
Learning all of the positions and comfort techniques is imperative. These positions and techniques can help you experience less pain and help your labor progress faster.
Relaxation Techniques and Lots of Relaxation Practice
Every class should teach you relaxation techniques and should require you to practice both in class and at home. Learning relaxation and mindfulness techniques is crucial to being able to relax and decrease pain in labor.
Take the time to research childbirth classes. Find a method that resonates with you.
5. Make a Plan
Imagine planning a trip, or a vacation. Would you just get in the car and start driving without any kind of a plan, looking at a map, deciding where you’re going to stay, or how you’ll spend your days?
You’d take the time to learn about where you’re going. What sights are there to see? What activities are available? Where will you stay, eat, etc.? Planning is the key to successfully doing anything. That includes pregnancy and childbirth too! Having a plan doesn’t guarantee you’ll follow it “to a T”, but it gives you a goal, a guide, and an intention.
“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” Liberty Hyde Bailey
Expend effort on preparing for the best possible birth experience for yourself and your baby by learning as much as you can.
6. Hire a Doula
Research shows a doula’s presence facilitates:
- 25% reduction in length of labor;
- 60% reduction in epidural requests;
- 30% reduction in analgesia use;
- 50% reduction in cesarean rate;
- 40% reduction in pitocin use.
You can also spend time discussing with your doula your fears and anxiety. She may have the education, knowledge, and empathy to help you move through them. See how to hire a doula and where to find one.
7. Find a Release for Your Stress
This can be exercising. One of the best ways is to practice prenatal yoga. Try my FREE 25minute class.
I recently received this email, below, from a woman who practiced “with me” during her pregnancy 9 years ago.
I just wanted to express my gratitude to you!
Though we’ve never met, you made a very important impact in my life. Nine years ago, when I was expecting my son, I discovered your prenatal yoga class on yogadownload.com. I loooooved your gentle, soothing voice and felt like I could trust you to guide me through a beautiful but frightening time of (literal!) growth.
And you did!
With no mother, sister, or other close friend I could lean on for support and wisdom during this time, I tethered myself to your soothing voice. I practiced your class almost daily and brought you with me on my iPod to the delivery room. I stayed so centered and calm with your help.
The nurse said she’d never seen anyone giggle a baby out before!
Now I’m the luckiest mother alive, with a really great kid you helped me bring into the world. I’m even exploring the possibility that I may, too, become a prenatal yoga teacher.
Thank you, Liza! You are loved and appreciated. Let your light shine!”
You can do any kind of exercise – walking, running, yoga, biking, classes at a gym or online. Or find a hobby that relaxes you, maybe something you can do with others. Practice mindfulness techniques. Head Space and Calm are free mindfulness apps.
8. Express Yourself by Journaling
Sometimes just getting your thoughts and feelings on paper can empty your mind of all that chatter. In yoga that mind chatter is called “Monkey Chatter” or Chitta Vritti. Also make a list of things that have you worried, or questions on your mind. Bring them to your prenatal appointments to ask your doctor or midwife.
Knowing what all the possible options are can give you the courage and determination to have power over these fears. You can do it! You just might surprise yourself!
SHE BELIEVED SHE COULD,
SO SHE DID!