5 Ways to Conquer Fear of Birth
Today, in the United States, the most prevalent, widespread emotion surrounding labor and birth is fear. There are decades of history and cultural influences that have brought us to this reaction when we see or talk about giving birth to a baby. Consider the last movie or television show you saw that featured a birth. Odds are that it included a dramatic complication and a panicked set of parents, or at the very least, an explosion of amniotic fluid in a very public place followed immediately by the mother doubled over in extreme pain, having instantaneously and without warning been immediately launched into hard labor.
The historical, cultural and societal influences that have led to an overwhelming fear surrounding childbirth are not easily countered, but there are a few things that a mother-to-be can do to help her overcome fear in childbirth:
- Hire a doctor or midwife who gives you confidence in your body and your ability to give birth. You should look forward to prenatal appointments and leave them feeling inspired, supported and less afraid of the birth process. Having a provider that you trust to step in if complications arise is important, but your doctor or midwife should otherwise expect your body to do the work it is meant to do. This can mean a healthier birth experience for you and baby.
- Get educated. Take a childbirth class so you learn what is normal (hint: it is not typical for your water to break, to be instantly launched into hard labor without warning and have to drive 90 miles an hour to the hospital, especially with a first baby). As you learn about the process your body will go through, you feel more prepared and less frightened of the “unknown.” You will also learn about your choices and options and many different ways to be comfortable during labor, which will help you feel more confident.
- Talk with other mothers who have given birth and whose stories are joyful, happy and inspiring. In the same vein, do your best not to be exposed to the scary or dramatic stories of birth that some like to share or the opinions from others of how it should be done. Be conscious of the influences that you allow into your psyche, and try to expose yourself to things that take away fear or inspire you.
- Use self-talk and encouragement. Beginning early in pregnancy and throughout pregnancy, labor and birth, tell yourself that your body is healthy, your baby is healthy, and just as your body knows how to grow your baby, so also your body knows how to birth your baby. Write notes of encouragement to yourself and leave them where you’ll see them daily. Spend time visualizing a positive, healthy birth experience. Talk to your partner about your hopes and plans.
- Don’t panic or try to force your way through labor. Labor and birth is a very normal, natural process for the majority of healthy women, and the mind-body connection is more powerful than we sometimes realize. There is not necessarily a “right” way to “do” labor and birth. Your body will take care of that for you, and you cannot think your way through it. Boiling it down to the most basic things: stay calm and allow you body to do the work it needs to do.
And finally, remember the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”
If you are looking for more information on these topics or want a resource to help you plan for your birth and reduce fears, check out our Natural Childbirth booklet.
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