Fear of giving birth is surprisingly common. Even moderate anxiety can ruin your experience of pregnancy. Really severe fear is called tokophobia. Some women even terminate pregnancies because they cannot face labour and birth.
Feeling scared is horrible and exhausting. It makes women feel isolated and ashamed. It’s a big issue!
So what can you do if you are scared of giving birth?
1 Tell someone
The one thing worse than a fear is a secret fear. Take that big first step by telling someone how you feel. It can be anyone you like – your mum, your best friend, sister or partner. Or maybe it’s easier to tell someone you don’t really know, like a midwife or doctor. Either way, take a deep breath and say it out loud. You will probably be surprised how much support and understanding you receive.
2 Talk to your midwife or health professional
It’s really quite common to feel anxious about birth. Midwives and doctors usually understand that it can be a big deal. They can help you get the support you need and make plans for your birth. If the first person you speak to isn’t helpful, ask to speak to someone else. Many hospitals have a birth choices clinic where you can discuss your concerns with a senior midwife.
3 Seek help for underlying issues
Some women have deep-rooted anxiety about birth because of a previous traumatic birth experience. It doesn’t matter whether anyone else would have described your birth as complicated. If you found it traumatic, it was traumatic. It may help to talk through your previous birth with a trained professional. In some cases you might need to get professional help from a qualified therapist or psychotherapist in these cases. Your midwife or GP should be able to refer you. Don’t just ignore it. Pregnancy can be a real opportunity to deal with some difficult issues. Just don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need.
4 Find some really good antenatal education
Your hospital may run birth classes, but you might also like to consider private classes such as those run by the NCT or hypnobirthing teachers in your area. These classes be able to give you more time and a more personalised approach to work through your concerns. Hopefully you will meet supportive friends and teachers who can nurture you and your family.
5 Learn hypnobirthing techniques
Hypnobirthing will help you discover a calm, focused and positive approach to birth. You will learn how to prepare your body, mind and nervous system, so that you and your partner are ready for the birthing experience. A hypnobirthing woman remains fully conscious and in control, fully prepared for an empowering birth. Look for a good teacher in your local area.
6 Practice mindfulness and meditation
Pregnancy is a great time to learn or develop mindfulness. Take time to focus on your breath and notice everything going on around you, even just for a few seconds. There are some great apps and websites that can help you practice mindful techniques. Learning to rest your mind and consciously relax your body is a wonderful skill for pregnancy, birth and life as a parent.
7 Care for yourself – body, mind and spirit
Make sure you get enough rest and try to get some early nights. Eat and drink well. Gentle exercise helps too. Pregnancy yoga is ideal for preparing your body and mind for birth, and you will learn how to relax. If you can take time to care for yourself now, you will be ready for birth and the challenges of caring for a newborn.
8 Choose a great birth partner
Make sure the person who will be with you is someone you can totally rely on. He or she will be your advocate in the birthing room. They need to know exactly what is important to you – all your wishes and worries. And they need to be able to stick up for you one hundred percent. Choose this person carefully – they can help you feel strong!
9 Plan your birth carefully
Make sure all your wishes for the birth are written down, known to your birth partner, and discussed with every midwife you cares for you in labour. You can write whatever is important to you. Don’t be shy! If you want a particular piece of music, or the baby cleaned before you hold her, or anything at all, say so. If you have particularly unusual requests or medical complications, its best to discuss these with your healthcare team well in advance of the birth.
10 Be prepared for things to change
Birth can be unpredictable. Hopefully your birth plan will work out, but it’s a good idea to build in some flexibility if you can. Try to decide which things are most important for you, and where you might be able to compromise if need be. And keep communicating with your midwife, to help her support you. If interventions are suggested, make sure you understand exactly what is being proposed, and why. That will help you feel more in control.
Follow the links below for more information. Remember, tokophobia is a serious condition. Asking for help when you need it is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby.