Fear of childbirth has become a modern day epidemic amongst pregnant women.
More than ever, women are frightened about birth and what ‘might’ go wrong.
Or they are worried about not being able to cope during labour and birth.
Other fears rise, such as needing interventions or having a c-section.
It’s quite normal to have these fears during pregnancy.
Childbirth Fears During Pregnancy – 12 Most Common Fears
But it’s important to face those fears and work out how to deal with them, to avoid them becomg so big they get in the way of enjoying your pregnancy.
Blowing things out of proportion means you are going into birth with fear that can interfere with your labour. This can have a negative effect on your birth outcome and the beginning of your journey as a mother.
Below at the top most common fears pregnant women have about birth and some tips and reassurance to help deal with them.
Episiotomy is a cut made in the area between the vagina and the anus. It was a routine procedure for many years, as doctors believe it would reduce vaginal tearing. However, research now shows routine episiotomy is not evidence based.
If an episiotomy is suggested, it would be in an emergency, to ensure a baby is born quickly.. If forceps/vacuum extraction is required to complete birth then it is usual to perform an episiotomy but not compulsory.
Ask your care provider if they perform episiotomies and under what circumstances. It is your right to refuse to consent to this procedure without full information about why it is needed.
#2: Loss Of Sexual Enjoyment
Most women will find sex after giving birth feels different. Discomfort may be present the first few times you have sex, but it should never be painful or ongoing. The most common reason for pain during sex after birth is related to perineal trauma that required stitches.
One studyshowed women who had a second degree tear or episiotomy during birth were more likely to experience reduced sexual desire, lower satisfaction, fewer orgasms and more pain during sex compared to women who had no trauma.
Most women do experience minor tears and grazes during birth. You can avoid episiotomy and tearing but if you do experience any pain during sex, see your care provider as soon as possible. The longer you leave the problem, the harder it can be to treat.
You can read more in Sex After Birth – Will It Feel The Same Again?.
Almost every pregnant woman has this fear at some stage. It is a normal response to the unknown in a situation you can’t control. If you find yourself worrying obsessively over the thought of stillbirth, seek the reassurance of your care provider. It can help to see the support of a counsellor to work through your fears.
Stillbirth is a rare event and mostly occurs due to congenital abnormality. This means the baby was unlikely to survive outside the womb. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data shows a stillbirth rate 0.74%.
While this number is small, it can still feel frightening.
The good news is, research is showing we can be more aware of babies’movements which can reduce the stillbirth risk. You can read more about this in Increased Risk Of Stillbirth Linked To Timing Of Babies’ Movements.
#4: Pooping During Labour
Birth is a normal event which generally involves a bit of mess, whether that is amniotic fluid, membranes or blood. Sometimes it can mean poop, but this is completely normal when you think about the physiology of birth. Whatever is in the way of the baby’s head will need to come out first.
Often at the beginning of labour women find they experience some diarrheoa, which is due to the increase of hormones. These hormones stimulate the bowel to clear out and usually by the time you are pushing, there’s nothing in your bowel to come out too.
Midwives are very experienced and used to dealing with poop during labour and you can rest assured you’re very unlikely to even know it happened. You can read more in Pooping During Labour – Is It On Your Ultimate Horrors List?.
#5: Having A C-Section
Unfortunately this is a very real fear of many pregnant women. C-section rates are high in developed countries such as Australia, the UK and the US. Based on the World Health Organization’s recommendation of a c-section rate between 1-15%, we know around or over half of the c-sections in these countries are not necessary, and likely result from routine policies and interventions which aren’t evidence based.
Avoiding an unnecessary c-section begins with choosing your care provider carefully. Having midwifery led models of care or a continuous birth support person such as a doula can reduce your risk of c-section significantly. You can read more about the amazing benefits of doulas here and midwives here.
Sometimes consenting to intervention is a choice we must make. Being well informed and prepared for what might happen can help you to make the best decision for you and your baby.
Choosing a care provider who will support you if interventions become necessary is key. Women often feel they are coerced into interventions which lead to more interventions.
When you have the facts you can make informed decisions, ask questions and understand the answers. Use the BRAIN’D technique to help you decide which interventions to consent to.
When an intervention is suggested to you ask:
- B – What are the Benefits of this procedure?
- R – What are the Risks of this procedure?
- A – What are the Alternatives to this treatment/procedure?
- I – What does my Intuition say?
- N – What will happen if I choose to do Nothing?
- D – Can we please have some privacy to make a Decision?
This is a very logical and helpful process to work through to help you decide whether or not the intervention recommended is right for you.
#7: Meconium Complications
Meconium is the green-black substance in your baby’s bowel which usually makes its appearance in the first 24 hours after birth. Sometimes babies poop before birth and if your waters break, it can show as a greenish colour.
If meconium is detected in amniotic fluid care providers will want to check the baby isn’t in any distress and make a decision on what to do dependant on baby’s wellbeing.
You can read more about this in Meconium – What Is It? Everything You Need To Know.
#8: Cord Around Baby’s Neck
Many pregnant women are worried their baby will be born with the cord around the neck, known as a nuchal cord. There is a conce this can cause your baby to be strangled or be deprived of oxygen.
The umbilical cord is covered in a jelly which makes it quite slippery. Most babies have their cords looped around their bodies at some stage during pregnancy. Babies have been seen on ultrasounds playing with, pulling on and even putting the cord in their mouths!
Around 30% of babies are born with their cord around their neck, so it’s quite a common occurrence. Care providers are well trained and experienced in dealing with this, for the most part waiting for the baby to be born before unravelling the cord.
You can read more in BellyBelly’s Nuchal Cord – 9 Facts About A Cord Around Baby’s Neck.
#9: Premature Birth
Premature birth occurs before 36 completed weeks of pregnancy and the thought of it happening can be very worrying to pregnant women.
The reason why premature labour happens isn’t really well known but there are a number of risk factors for it happening. Read Premature Labour – Signs, Symptoms and Management to find out what these risk factors are.
Premature labour can be prevented and other times it can’t. Be reassured premature babies do very well today with the high quality neonatal intensive care available. If you do have increased risk for premature labour, it can help to become familiar with the NICU and the staff who will care for your and your baby.
Any contractions, loss of blood or fluid from the vagina, unusual backache or abdominal pain should be checked by your caregiver.
#10: Labour Pain
Fear of pain during labour is very common and in today’s birth culture, not surprising. Most of our ideas about birth come from a medical perspective, which treats birth like an illness and we are exposed to very dramatic ideas of what birth is like through movies and TV.
It can help to remember the pain of labour is the healthy sign of your body working to birth your baby. It’s not the pain of injury and your body is perfectly designed to cope. If you run a marathon, you expect to feel some muscle soreness and fatigue. Birth is the same – your muscles and tissues are stretching and working hard.
There is always pain relief as an option, whether that is water, massage, TENS machine or pain medication. Your birth place and birth setting play an important part in how you perceive pain – so choose this carefully if you’re fearful of the pain of labour.
You can read more about this in Labour Pain: What To Expect And Things To Remember.
#11: Not Knowing What To Do If Something Goes Wrong
Being well informed through reading and research helps you to deal with any unexpected events. engaging in good quality birth education, hiring a doula, and choosing your birth place and care provider is critical to feeling prepared and supported.
Trusting the people caring for you is vital, making your needs, feelings and beliefs known to them is very important. Once you have a good rapport established with your care providers you will be able to trust them to do the right thing for you if things are not going as planned.
#12: Not Making It To The Hospital In Time
In Australia around 98% of babies are born in hospital or birth centres. The remaining 2% are planned home births or born somewhere other than hospital – known as born before arrival (BBA).
First babies are rarely BBA as they tend to take their time and mothers often get to the hospital with plenty of time. Second or subsequent babies are more likely to BBA because labour can be faster. In almost all situations these births are uncomplicated, especially if everyone stays calm.
It can help to have some knowledge about what to do in the unlikelyevent your baby ecides to come before you get to your chosen birth place. What To Do When Baby Is Born Before You Get To Hospital is packed full of tips and reassurance.
Fears during pregnancy about labour and birth are both common and quite normal. If your fears are overwhelming you, seek support from your care provider.
Hire a doula if you want to have a known support person to help you work through those fears and plan for a positive birth.
And become as informed as you can be. The BellyBelly Immersion program is designed to help parents feel prepared and increase the likelihood of a positive birth experience. Click here to learn more.