At some point during pregnancy, mothers-to-be tend to experience rising anxiety about labour and birth.
They may be excited to meet their baby and look forward to being a mother, but actually having the baby can induce some serious sweats.
It’s very normal to feel anxious about giving birth.
First time mamas and even women having subsequent babies are facing the unknown. You’re probably hearing labour stories from many well meaning friends, which isn’t doing much for your nerves.
10 Tips If You're Anxious About Childbirth
Here are 10 ways you can take the edge off your anxiety and prepare for a positive birth.
#1: Be Prepared
One of the best ways to get on top of your anxieties about labour is to empower yourself with knowledge. Find out as much about labour as you can, focusing on birth as a normal, natural process. It can help to know what to do if things change during labour so that you’re informed about the sort of decisions you may need to make.
Independent birth classes are a good place to start in discovering ways to make labour a positive experience. Educators are sources of good quality information and will teach you practical skills for coping during labour, as well as teaching your partner how to support you.
#2: You Are Not Alone
Every day around 350,000 women give birth around the world. When you go into labour, you will not be alone – you’ll share a connection to those other women who are travelling the same path to motherhood as you.
Women have been giving birth for millennia — our bodies have an instinctive knowledge of what to do.
Being supported and respected during labour helps us to give birth positively. Consider hiring a doula to support you during pregnancy and labour. Having experienced, trained support by a woman who is chosen by you and is there just for you can be a big anxiety reliever.
#3: Take Care Of Yourself
It goes without saying that looking after yourself should be a top priority. Physical exercise can reduce stress and relieve tension – this can clear your mind and promote a positive outlook. Try to incorporate some form of exercise into each day, whether it’s going for a swim, walk or even a pregnancy class. As a bonus, you'll get some vitamin D from the sunshine, which is great for your immune system and your mood too.
And while it can be tempting to reach for the chocolate chip cookies when you are feeling low, eating your emotions while pregnant isn’t always a good idea. Eating sugar-loaded foods can impact your health, which has the potential to turn a low risk labour into a high risk one. Gestational diabetes in on the increase, and diet (especially sugars and processed grains) is the biggest contributor. If you do feel the need for something sweet, there are plenty of alternatives: berries in smoothies or with full fat yoghurt (low fat dairy is usually higher in sugar), fruit with nut butter, dried fruit and nuts, and fresh fruit.
#4: Face Your Fears
Ok so what exactly are your fears? Perhaps you grew up hearing your own birth story repeatedly, and it didn’t sound like fun for your mother. Growing up with the idea that birth was very painful can lead to anxiety about dealing with your own labour. Perhaps you saw a movie or TV show that scared you into thinking labour is excruciating or even dangerous.
It can help to make a list of the things that you’re worrying about and talk it out with your doctor or midwife. If you’re able to discuss your fears with them and realise it’s normal to be nervous, then you’re getting there.
At the same time, you might realise that you have a lot of choice in how your labour goes. If you are able to start planning for the things you are worried about, you will feel more in control.
#5: Each Labour Is Unique
There’s a saying amongst birth workers that each labour is unique. It doesn’t matter how many times you labour, each time you’ll experience something completely new.
Going into labour thinking it’ll be like your sister’s, best friend’s or your mother in law’s is forgetting that you aren’t any of those people. Their experiences during labour are unique to them – where they gave birth and who was supporting them is likely to have made an impact on their experience. Understanding that your labour will be unique to you can help put your fears into perspective.
#6: Focus On The End Result
If anxiety about labour and birth is really getting to you, think about why you are going to go through it. Yes, labour can be hard work but you are getting to meet the little person who has been kicking you in the ribs for months.
Try sitting in the nursery and focusing on how it’ll feel to hold your baby, smell their special baby scent and count their tiny toes. You might like to get out the things you’ve prepared for your baby and focus on the fact that you’ll soon be a mother to this special person.
Surrounding yourself with the things you have chosen for your baby can remind you that there’s a really amazing reward at the end of labour and birth and the hard work is worth it.
#7: Improve Your Mood
Sometimes worrying about the unknown can get in the way of your life right now. Do things that make you feel good and happy. Spend time with your friends and loved ones or try a hobby you’ve always been interested in.
Some women find aromatherapy is very useful for lifting their mood (but check which essential oils are safe during pregnancy). Positive daily affirmations are another technique to start the day in a good frame of mind.
#8: Keep A Journal
It can really help to put your feelings and thoughts down on paper. Keeping a daily journal is one way you can work through your anxieties and help you to make some sense of them.
Writing in a journal can also give you some perspective, especially if you’re able to move on from your worries. You can look back and see how far you’ve progressed over the weeks and months of your pregnancy.
#9: Practice Relaxation
Learning relaxation skills can help you feel proactive about alleviating your anxiety. Mental tension can transfer to your body, creating muscle tension in areas such as your neck, shoulders and jaw. During labour you want to be able to relax as much as possible, as tense muscles can increase the sensation of pain.
It can be as easy as learning a simple relaxation technique and using it daily or taking up yoga, meditation or massage. Learn about mindfulness. Whatever relaxation method you choose, make sure it’s one that you’re comfortable with and can easily incorporate into your life.
#10: Get Some Sleep
Being pregnant can cause all sorts of interruption to your sleep, from multiple night trips to the bathroom, to waking in a cold sweat thanks to nightmares about coping with labour or a newborn.
Researchers have found lack of adequate sleep can make anxiety worse, so getting enough sleep is very important. If you’re struggling to get to sleep or get back to sleep, try muscle relaxation exercises on your headphones. Utilising the other tools mentioned above can all promote better sleep as well.
For many women, pregnancy is a time of emotional upheaval. It’s very normal to feel anxiety and worry about giving birth as your due date gets closer. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or fear, rest easy that you’re not alone. Most women find that by the time labour begins, they are more than ready to meet their baby.
Recommended Reading: Tokophobia – Coping With An Intense Fear Of Childbirth.