Worried About Childbirth? How to Cope with 5 Common Labor and Birth Fears
Although pregnancy can be uncomfortable, the thought of holding a new baby at the end of the journey is what helps new moms get through the tough parts of those nine months. However, from carrying a baby in your belly to snuggling a newborn in your arms requires one daunting transition: labor and birth.
Women have been having babies since the beginning of human history, but that doesn’t stop first-time moms from being nervous about the birthing process. Taking a childbirth class can lessen some of those fears. The instructors of our Prepared Childbirth and Natural Childbirth classes at the Motherhood Center addresses a handful of these common labor and delivery fears.
- What if I can’t get to the hospital in time?
Movies often show couples rushing out the door at the first contraction, or having babies in a hurry in the backseat of cars or supermarkets right after a woman’s water breaks. The made-for-tv dramatics can lead first-time parents to believe that labor and birth happen quickly. They don’t. First, a woman’s water usually doesn’t break until she is in active labor. And second, it takes a while to get to active labor. Once you start to feel the first of your contractions, it can be many hours before the baby is ready to come out. Early labor can last for 8-12 hours, slowly building up from mild contractions further apart to more intense ones closer together. This means that you should have plenty of notice that it’s time to head to the hospital.
- I don’t think I can cope with the pain!
Will it be painful? Yes, but remember that your body is made for labor and birth. It will hurt during the actual contractions, but you’ll get a breather in between the painful moments. Contractions will last about 30-45 seconds or so during true labor, and you’ll have about 5-10 minutes to rest in between. The contractions will become longer and more frequent the closer you get to the birth, giving you a few minutes’ breaks after each one. To prepare yourself, you can learn and practice techniques that will help you cope with labor pains. A childbirth class is a good place for women to learn about ways to manage labor pain, and for their partners to learn how to actively support them.
- I really don’t want to tear during childbirth.
While you are pregnant, your body prepares for birth and starts to send all kinds of hormones to your joints and tissues to make you elastic enough to pass a baby through the birth canal. However, it’s not uncommon for women to tear. A childbirth class can teach you about exercises and techniques that may help prevent tearing. If you do tear, take comfort in knowing that you will heal. You’ll get some stitches and should heal within a week or two.
- I’m uncomfortable at the thought of all these strangers looking at me during childbirth!
As labor and delivery nurses will tell you, modesty is likely the last thing you’ll be concerned about when you’re birthing a baby. Doctors and nurses do this for a living. They deliver babies every day and they’ve seen it ALL. Everyone’s goal is to help you birth this baby safely. And a little loss of modesty is a small price to pay for something so wonderful in the end.
- I want everything to go just as planned and am worried that it won’t.
First, start with a flexible attitude. While you’re making your birth plans, leave room for the unexpected. Things will likely progress more or less the way you hoped if there aren’t any extenuating circumstances, but if it doesn’t work out, focus on the end result. Maybe you wanted to have an unmedicated birth, but if the pain is overwhelming and you can’t catch your breath, you may need medication to get through labor. Maybe you were counting on a particular doctor or doula to be on call, but they might no longer be available. Whatever it is, tell yourself that you can adapt to the situation! No matter how it all unfolds, keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to meet your baby, one way or another.
It’s natural to be nervous about labor and delivery. At the Motherhood Center, our Prepared Childbirth Class will educate you on what to expect. You’ll learn about pregnancy anatomy & physiology and relaxation techniques. The instructor will talk about birth plans, give you a detailed explanation of the process of labor and birth, and help you with coping strategies for labor. These strategies include counter pressure massage, labor positions, and vocalization.
The Natural Childbirth Class at the Motherhood Center differs from the Prepared Childbirth class in that all topics discussed will be based on Lamaze International’s Healthy Birth Practices, with emphasis on having an unmedicated birth. The instructor will talk about the stages of labor, how to cope with pain, how to avoid unnecessary interventions and more. The class will also discuss birth plans either as a group or privately.
No matter what your fears are about the labor and birthing process, knowing your body, being flexible with your plans, and understanding your options will help you feel prepared for the big day.