Let's normalize and befriend it.

Fear and Anxiety of Giving Birth: Do I Need to get rid of These Feelings?

Fear is the body’s attempt to keep you safe, to look out for potential danger, and help you prepare or react.

Fear and Anxiety of Giving Birth: Do I Need to get rid of These Feelings?

I’ve had many pregnant clients ask, “How do I get rid of fear and anxiety about labor? If I can’t get past these feelings, it will affect my labor, and things won’t go how I want them to.” 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t boldly charge toward new experiences.  Starting a new job, moving, a new relationship, or starting a new educational path are a few examples that come to mind of being both anxiety-producing and exciting. While we want to enter the new experience, our minds and bodies wonder what’s ahead. Fear is trying to protect us. Think about that for a second, the worrying thoughts, the feeling of tightness in the chest, the unsettled feeling- that’s the body’s attempt to keep you safe, to look out for potential danger, and help you prepare or react. Rather than judge yourself, I invite you to reframe these feelings to see them as an adaption of your body to keep you safe. 

Maybe the question isn’t “How do I get rid of fear?” but rather “How can I notice it, befriend it, and turn it into confidence?”. Could it be that the goal is to birth despite fear, that it can be a normal part of the experience rather than a wrong feeling?

The hope is to normalize and help reframe the fear. Fear can absolutely affect your labor both physically and emotionally, and some folks experience fear/ anxiety that is overwhelming. For those experiencing an abundance of fear/ anxiety, seeking the help of a trained professional is hugely beneficial. Click here for more information about the fear/tension/pain theory. 

5 tips for Reducing Your Fear of Labor

Know what to expect

Information is power! Becoming familiar with what to expect during labor and birth can be SO helpful in alleviating anxiety. Take a childbirth education class. YouTube is full of birth videos and stories. As you explore, you’ll also begin to understand your choices during labor which is hugely important in helping you feel involved in the process rather than the feeling of it happening to you (which can feel like you have no control). 

Affirmations: Change your mind, literally

Make a list of phases that are the opposite of your fear. A few of my favorites are “I can do this” and “It’s going to be ok.” (I use these phrases almost daily for reassurance). You might consider turning your fear into an affirmation. For instance, if you’re afraid of the discomfort of contractions, the affirmation could be, “this is my body doing the work of bringing my baby to me.” For more info and ideas, check out https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/birth-affirmations. Then in your third trimester, write these affirmations on sticky notes and place them around your house: on your bathroom mirror, by the front door, or on some cabinets in the kitchen. 

Support: Find your birth team

Labor is something only you can do. However, that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Who’s on your team? This team includes medical providers, your partner, and a birth doula. With their help, identify what you think will be helpful in labor but don’t worry, it’s all subject to change. Practice allowing your team to support you before labor starts. Ask your medical provider the questions that keep popping into your mind about choices you have about with your team about your concerns, and allow them to support you.

Stories of Success

You may have noticed that everyone has a birth story to share with a pregnant person, including complete strangers. Often these birth stories are somewhat factual but often full of warnings and negativity. Not only are these stories scary, but they also lack context and background. Remember how unique birth is, and remember there are two people involved in the process- the birthing person and the baby. Consider shutting down unwanted horror birth stories with a “thanks for thinking of me, but I’m really trying to surround myself with positivity.” Seek out people and information that reinforces relevant information and describes the normalness of labor/birth. 

Self-compassion

Internal peace is a result of connection and kindness, while judgment and unrealistic expectations inhibit change. Self-compassion sounds like, “It makes sense I would feel hesitant about labor /birth - there are so many unknowns about the experience.” Practice giving yourself the same kindness, care, and concern you would offer a friend or loved one. As you practice self-compassion, you’ll see your confidence grow as well as your ability to face uncertainty. Self-compassion can be a key to informed decision-making and making choices that are right for you in labor. As you look ahead at labor, self-compassion looks like “I will make the best decisions with the information I have at the moment.” 

I invite you to practice engaging with your fearful thoughts rather than avoiding them. In this way, the goal isn’t to eliminate fear but rather to counterbalance it with confidence in the knowledge you have that you need to transition into your new role as a parent.

Rather than judge yourself, I invite you to reframe these feelings to see them as an adaption of your body to keep you safe. 

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