Conquering Fears of ChildbirthLuke Coutinho
As you are getting closer to your due date, is your mind flooded with questions like “Will I reach the hospital on time? What if my water breaks? Will I be able to handle the pain? For how long will I bleed after the delivery?” and many more such questions?
Well, it is entirely normal to be anxious about delivering a baby. Many pregnant women develop a phobia of giving birth called “Tokophobia” around this time. The fear or anxiety can set in anytime during the pregnancy, but it can become more pronounced as the third trimester progresses.
Fear and worry, although very natural, are wasted emotions, because they do nothing to make the situation better. Instead, we should use this fear and worry to fuel our motivation, and help us plan and prepare for the upcoming major event.
Here are some things you should know, and that can help ease your worries:
- Understand that it is a natural process.
A women’s body is beautifully designed in such a way that it can not only produce a human being, but also bring it into our world. Women have been successfully giving birth naturally from centuries before any medical interventions came into existence. It is only with the advent of the medical world that we have started to be more dependent on it. So, the first step is to trust your body, and the birthing process. Your body will support you throughout labor by releasing the much-needed endorphins, which are natural pain killers.
2. Be prepared.
Organizing everything beforehand will give you much-needed peace of mind. Keep your hospital bag ready, keep all the emergency phone numbers handy, explain to your partner about what kind of support you are expecting from them, and decide in advance who would you want in the labor room along with you.
3. Talk it out.
It is crucial to acknowledge that fear or anxiety exists within you. You can talk it out, or write your concerns down in a journal. This will give you a pathway to seek within, and dig out the source of your anxiety. Once you know that, please choose your family and friends from your inner circle, or a health care professional with whom you are comfortable sharing your fears. They can provide you with smart solutions, and even if they cannot, sometimes we find healing in only sharing our problems and fears with others. This can also help boost your confidence, and make you feel so much better.
4. Trust your gynaecologist, or the health care provider.
Trust is a critical aspect here. Discuss with your doctor, before you head into the last trimester. Discuss your fears, share your shortcomings, and give them the information they need to support you better. If you have any birth plan in mind, get them aligned with your thoughts. This will help you feel so much confident about being in the right hands. However, no one can predict what pregnancy, labor, and delivery will bring as it progresses, so be open to any last-minute changes that they may suggest to you, and accept possible twists and turns with grace. Know that they have only the best in mind for you and your baby!
5. Dismiss negative thoughts.
Fear comes from what we perceive labor will to be like. Most of us associate labor with intense pain, because of what we see in movies, and read about in books, but you have to remember that each birth story is raw and sacred. Each one has its own story. Read stories, or experiences on how birthing can be made less painful and problematic for you, and not stories that feed your fear.
6. Join a prenatal class.
If you have not joined one yet, I would suggest you choose one soon, even if it is a virtual one. A prenatal class will give you genuine information, and help you with techniques for easy birthing. You will empower yourself with tools and knowledge of what your body is capable of doing naturally. Learning about these facts will spike your confidence, and put your mind to ease.
7. Educate yourself about pain management.
Yes! Childbirth is not pain-less. We are all aware of it, and so it is natural to feel bothered. However, we should also know that your body’s reaction to these emotions is to stiffen itself, and thus the more relaxed you stay, the smoother is the process of birthing.
Read authentic books, speak to your health care provider, and learn about pain relief techniques like moving around, rocking, breathing techniques, massaging the neck and the back with slow pressure, a warm shower or bath, warm water bag, ice packs, the birthing ball, or an epidural. The pain of childbirth is a pain you do not have to endure, if you choose not to.
Being active will help your muscles stay strong and deal with the contractions positively. You can practice squats from day 1 of your pregnancy. Squatting opens the pelvis, and helps the baby get into the ideal position. You can even be in the squatting position during the first few minutes or hours (stage 1) of labor (make sure you have your partner around you while doing so).
Breathing is an essential aspect of labor. With yoga, you will have a healthy and much-relaxed body, good blood circulation during pregnancy, and a positive outlook.
10. Adopt relaxation techniques like praying, hypnobirthing, or visualization.
Make a birth plan, and visualize exactly how you want your labor day to look like. Yes! Labour and birthing cannot be planned, but you can visualize with emotions, such as the pain with a positive purpose, your labor position, helpful staff, your loved ones around for that much-needed support, and most importantly, how you will feel once you hold your baby. Talk positively to yourself. Positive words plant positive feelings in the heart.
11. Spend early labor hours at home.
Most low-risk women (first-time moms) can spend an average of 8-10 hours or more in labor. Active labor (stronger contractions) only starts after the cervix dilates to more than 4 centimeters. So, instead of spending hours in the hospital bed, and letting your anxiety rise, you can stay in the comfort of your home as long as you feel the pain is bearable, and reach the hospital in time and safely for the actual active labor.
12. Know about the recovery process post-delivery.
Be it natural or C- section; post-delivery, you may experience mild symptoms like headaches, abdominal pain, and mild pain while urinating. Many women feel fully recovered within 3-5 days after the delivery. Resting will help you recover, and heal yourself. If needed, should your muscles still be sore, you can adapt techniques like a sitz bath.
No matter how much you prepare, you are bound to feel the ride of an emotional rollercoaster. But remember this, your anxious thoughts lie to you, and when the time comes, you will be great at it! Your body is made for this, and you will have a beautiful birth story to narrate soon!