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4. Learn relaxation skills
Practicing self-hypnosis, meditating and doing breathing exercises throughout pregnancy can help calm you during labor. Tina’s childbirth instructor, Wendy Dubin, director of The Relaxation Center in Kingston, Mass., made guided-relaxation tapes describing Tina’s “peaceful place”—a mountaintop in Aspen—that she listened to throughout pregnancy.
5. Share your fears
Don’t hesitate to tell your doctor that you’re afraid; just talking about it may help, and she may have ideas about how to reduce your anxiety. If your physician doesn’t seem to listen or lacks compassion, consider finding a new doctor.
6. Address your fears in your birth plan
Write a one-page birth plan that includes your desires about medication, laboring positions, fetal monitoring and an honest explanation of your fears. Share it with your doctor during a prenatal visit and have a copy ready to give to the nurses on the big day.
7. Use a midwife and/or doula
A trusted midwife or doula can help you cope with your fears before and during labor. “She understands you and will stay with you,” says Bonnie B. Matheson, a doula and the CEO of Childbirth Solutions Inc. (www.childbirth
solutions.com) in Marshall, Va.
8. Shut out negative stories
Don’t watch scary TV shows about childbirth, read horror stories or listen to friends recount the gory details of their labors, says Dubin, who believes that fear of delivery has become more widespread since the advent of sensationalized depictions of childbirth.
9. Be open-minded about drugs
Knowing that effective means of pain relief are available can help lessen your anxiety. Talk with your doctor beforehand about medication and other options and include your intentions in your birth plan.
10. Know your options
Some women fear the typical hospital childbirth experience. Choosing alternatives, such as having your baby in a homelike birthing center that permits women to deliver in different positions, can often allay such fears.
When Tina arrived at the hospital to have her baby, everything went according to the plan she’d discussed with her doctor. As soon as she was admitted, her doctor administered an analgesic to calm her. As her labor progressed, Tina listened to her Aspen tapes, and when the time was right, she asked for an epidural. A few hours later, she delivered a healthy daughter.
“My labor and delivery were pleasant and enjoyable,” Tina says. “It was awesome. I actually look forward to having another baby.” Pretty amazing for a woman who couldn’t even watch Murphy Brown give birth.