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.
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 through labor and birth, tell yourself that your body is healthy and your baby is healthy. Remind yourself that just as your body knows how to grow your baby, it also knows how to birth your baby. Write or visualize a positive, healthy birth experience. Leave notes of encouragement to yourself where you’ll see them daily. Talk to your partner or a friend about your hopes and plans. Share the words you think will be most encouraging to hear during labor.
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 Preparing for Birth book.
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