Common birth fears and how to beat them
Whether it's your first baby or not, childbirth can be intimidating and you might be feeling a bit nervous. Here's everything you need to know ahead of the big day.
Giving birth is a life changing experience. Every birth is different and there is plenty of conflicting stories of positive and negative birthing experiences. For a new mum to be it can be totally overwhelming. If you’re dreading your delivery, try not to fret – you’re definitely not alone. Knowledge is power so we’re talking you through some common fears women have when it comes to labour.
Here’s how you can overcome your fears ahead of the big day.
What if I poop?
It might not be easy to believe but you’re pretty much the only one in the delivery room who cares if you poop. And when it comes down to it, you probably won’t either. The nurses helping you give birth have seen it 1,000 times before and will clear it away before you’ve even realised it has happened.
Hey – you might not poop during birth! However in the event that you do try to remember that during birth you’re using all your muscles to push your baby out and that includes the ones in your rectum. So it’s a necessary evil and no one will judge you. Like you, they’re just interested in getting your baby out into the world.
What if I have to have an episiotomy?
Ah the dreaded episiotomy. This is an intentional cut to the perineum (the space between the vagina and anus) which is usually made during the later stage of the second stage of labour if the baby is distressed or if forceps are required to assist birth. Whilst it doesn’t sound great, an episiotomy is only performed if necessary and local anaesthetic is used to numb the area around the vagina to minimise pain.
An episiotomy may be recommended if your baby shows sign of ‘fetal distress’: an increase or decrease in heart rate or signs that your baby is not getting enough oxygen. It can also be performed to assist you in labour if you’re having a breech birth or if you yourself are exhausted or at risk. Whilst it might not be a pleasant prospect, it can help you deliver your baby safely.
I'm scared my vagina will tear
Please don’t panic when you hear the words ‘vaginal tearing’. It probably sounds awful but it’s a natural part of childbirth. Smaller natural tears can even heal on their own, with no help from doctors and there are steps you can take to lessen the possibility that you’ll tear at all. Massaging your perineum in the weeks leading up to birth is recommended. No matter what happens on the day, rest assured that your doctors are well equipped to give you the best possible care and ensure that you are safe and looked after. If you’re feeling particularly anxious, speak to your doctor who will be able to talk you through the process and put your mind at rest.
What if I have to have a Caesarean section?
It’s normal to be scared at the prospect of surgery but try not to worry about this ahead of labour. If your caesarean section (C-section) is planned, your doctor should make sure you feel prepared for the procedure and help you gain understanding and confidence that it’s the right decision for you.
If you need an emergency caesarean, try to remember that this decision will have been made in order to deliver you a happy, healthy baby and protect you both from risk.
A caesarean takes between 30-60 minutes and either you or your support person should be able to hold your baby soon afterwards in the delivery room. Most C-sections are performed under epidural or spinal anaesthetic so you will be awake and present for that special moment when your baby comes into the world. If there are complications you may have to have a general anaesthetic however you will be able to see your baby once you are awake.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to handle the pain
We won’t lie to you: there will be some pain involved when you give birth. However fear can cause you to tense up and make you more uncomfortable. Often the pain of childbirth can be managed with relaxation and breathing techniques.
There are a number of non-medical and medical methods you can use to manage your labour pain, from massage (link to massage article) and moving around during labour to medical pain relief. Coming up with a plan that suits you can help calm your worries about how you’ll manage the pain on the big day.
Ultimately just try to keep in mind that the pain of labour is temporary and at the end you get to meet your new baby – a pretty great reward!
My work colleague was in labour for 32 hours and said it was the most painful experience – what if that happens to me?
Whilst talking to friends and family can allay your fears, try to avoid listening to too many ‘horror stories’. Well-meaning acquaintances may be queuing up around the block to tell you about their second cousin’s three day labour, however stories like this may only up your anxiety. Bear in mind that most people like to add a dramatic flair to their stories and that birth is different for everyone. One woman’s bad experience does not mean yours will be too.
I just can’t stop worrying about giving birth – what can I do?
Firstly, speak to your doctor and tell them how you’re feeling. When you’re expecting a baby it’s especially important to be aware of any changes from how you normally feel. Talk to your doctor if your emotions are starting to interrupt your day-to-day life. Educating yourself and developing a realistic birth plan may also help you conquer the fear of the unknown, how you will manage your pain and allow you to prepare for different scenarios. Speak to your doctor and come up with a plan for how you’d ideally like the birth to go, whilst allowing for unexpected contingencies. The more you know, the more likely you are to feel prepared and ready for the day.
Finally, try to remember that birth is a natural process and your body is more than capable of delivering your baby. Whilst the prospect of childbirth can be frightening, the end result is your brand new baby which makes it all worthwhile.