Does the mere thought of labor and delivery give you the jitters? Whether you've done it before or are a first-time-mom, here are 8 ways to ease your birth worries.
Virtually every pregnant woman has a few anxious moments in the lead-up to labor and delivery. It's only natural considering the stories you hear. Women all over the world have shared with me their fears of all kinds of birth-related issues that are almost always universal—from anxiety about the pain of labor to fear for you and your baby's wellbeing.
Here's the good news: For most mothers who live in the United States, it's very, very unlikely that anything terrible will happen when giving birth. Our healthcare system can deal with life-threatening complications and most mothers have access to the healthcare they need. If you get good prenatal care and take care of your health, the odds are excellent that you'll thrive during childbirth.
Still feeling jittery? The best way to dial down pre-labor nerves is with information. The more you know, the less you have to be afraid of. Here are some great ways to stay in formed and quell your labor worries.
Get a comprehensive prenatal education. Take the classes offered by your hospital or recommended by your doctor or midwife, but then, do additional research on a wide range of birth techniques and philosophies. Take natural birth classes, even if you know you want an epidural. Classes like HypnoBirthing and Lamaze teach breathing and relaxation techniques along with other tips for getting through labor without medication (or before an epidural). They also tend to do the most thorough job of explaining the birth process and demystifying much of what you're probably afraid of.
Tell your healthcare provider about any specific fears you have. She may be able to reassure you that what you're worried about is unlikely to happen and offer specific tips for how she will address the issue, should it come up.
Tell your healthcare provider if you suffer from any mental health conditions, especially anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorders. You may need custom care to get through the stress of labor and birth.
Remind yourself that labor is normal. "As you prepare for birth, try to keep in mind that birth is natural, that the physical pain associated with laboring is normal and not necessarily an indicator of something scary, and labor is finite," says Jessica Zucker, PhD, a psychologist in Los Angeles who specializes in maternal mental health. "Unlike other experiences of pain, birth is a dance between your body and your baby, a way to move your child into the world, and therefore a purposeful journey."
Make a birth wish list, not a set-in-stone plan. Leave room for flexibility. And if you need more help and support as you approach your delivery, consider speaking to a mental health professional who specializes in maternal health. Lastly, evaluate your plans carefully and feel free to adjust them according to your worries. Here are a few examples:
- If you're worried about the pain: Don't put "all natural"/"no epidural" at the top of your list. While achieving natural birth might be entirely possible, you might need the option of solid pain relief to help you deal with your fear. No judgment, ladies—epidurals are perfectly OK.
- If you're worried about losing control in front of others: Consider limiting the number of people on your labor support team. Your nurses will do all they can to protect your modesty and dignity but labor can be messy and emotional.
- If you're worried about having an episiotomy, forceps, a tear or a C-section: Consider hiring a midwife and/or a doula to assist you during labor and birth, or look for an OBGYN with low C-section rates. Midwives and doulas are associated with dramatically lower episiotomy and C-section rates and use fewer interventions over all. A good midwife is also very skilled at protecting the perineum from tears.