Being a little frightened of pain during childbirth isn’t exactly a rare phenomenon. (You want another human to come out of where?!) But fear has its downsides, including an increased risk of postpartum depression, according to a new study published in BMJ Open.
Related: 4 Delivery Day Dilemmas
Researchers looked at over 500,000 pregnant women over the course of nine years, and found that fear of childbirth was associated with triple the risk of postpartum depression six weeks after labor, in women who didn't have a previous history of depression.
“Fear of physical pain might reflect larger fears, like what will happen after the baby is born,” says Sari Räisänen, PhD, researcher at Emory University, and author of the study. In other words, if fears about motherhood are surfacing as delivery day fears, you may be at a higher risk of postpartum depression.
Remember: The study only found an association, and the last thing you need during pregnancy is more anxiety (so don't stress!). Here are some ways to feel more zen.
Create an army of support.
Worried about a super painful labor? Craft a posse of professionals: Talk to your doctor about whether or not drugs are right for you, seek the personalized care of a midwife, and consider hiring a doula, who's trained to offer support during the most challenging of contractions.
A review published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing found an association between meditation and yoga, and shorter length of labor, fewer instrument-assisted births, and lower levels of stress. Meaning, less stress and less reason to be stressed!
The unknown is overwhelming, whether or not you're pregnant. Take a Lamaze class, and think about who you want in the delivery room, if you want a natural birth, and what strategies you’ll use if the pain increases. Feeling in control will help ease your anxiety.
Talk to other mothers.
Hear new moms' stories about fears of motherhood, and know that you're not alone. Exhibit A: Our December/January cover star, Danielle Jonas, just opened up about her pregnancy anxiety. Of course, if you think you might be depressed before, during, or after pregnancy, call your doctor or nurse, so she can get you the help you need.