If you are like most people, the first thing that crosses your mind once you have the positive pregnancy test is, “How am I going to get a baby out of my vagina?” And maybe the only thing you remember from sex ed is ‘that birth video’ (scarring), and that’s if you were one of the 33% in this country lucky enough to get sex ed in high school.
For most of us, we might not think about the actual childbirth until we are trying to get pregnant or, well… pregnant…The good news is that you are not alone!
Some studies show that about 80% of women have anxiety and fear of childbirth, with as many as 30% having a serious fear or phobia called tokophobia. The most common fears reported are the fear of the pain, fear of tearing, fear of an unplanned c-section, and fear of the epidural.
Here are simple steps you can take to help you feel more empowered at the thought of giving birth.
Voice your fears!
Asking questions during your prenatal appointments may help you feel more of a sense of connection with your care provider and feel reassured. There’s no such thing as a dumb question, especially if it will ease your anxiety— ask away. Your doc won’t (and shouldn’t) ever mind.
They may recommend you take a childbirth class. And that is a great place to start!
As a doula, I recommend a comprehensive childbirth class that covers physiological birth, interventions, and coping tools. By educating yourself about birth, you can better understand the process your body goes through. For instance, how contractions come and go, that there is a “rhythm” to birth.
Did you know that if your labor lasts 24 hours (the average for first-time moms), 18 will be spent resting? If you are planning on giving birth in a hospital, knowing more about interventions, when they are used, and what can go wrong alleviates a lot of anxiety.
These are just a few examples of things you can learn in a childbirth class based on your birth plan you decide on one.
Pick a support team!
Picking a team that supports your wishes and can advocate for you in a hospital environment is the number one reason people hire doulas.
A doula will help you narrow down what is important for you on the day and remind you of your options. And as a trained support person, they can offer tools and tips and guide you through the phases of labor. Whether you want a medicated or unmedicated birth, a doula is that person in your corner who will support you without judgment.
Learn and practice coping techniques.
Actively preparing and practicing for labor will help you feel a sense of control and empowerment.
Sure, you can’t control the way things will go, and your birth plan may change… but being prepared for all eventualities is helpful. Learning to cope with birth and contractions by breathing, visualization, positioning, and practicing with your partner are tools that go a long way!
And don’t forget to prepare mentally. Your mindset can be your biggest helper in dealing with labor!
If however, after all this, your fears still occupy your mind and affect your mental health, the help of a mental health professional is always warranted and nothing to be ashamed of. After all, you are the one going through this pregnancy and birth journey. Don’t be afraid to be selfish, and do everything in your power to release any fears about birth. You got this, mom.
Maéva Althaus is NYC’s foremost Hypnosis & Mindfulness Birthing Educator. She teaches classes based on hypnosis (hypno-birthing), mindfulness and meditation to help release fears and feel more confident about labor and birth! Drawing from her doula experience she has developed her own course of wide-ranging classes, frm childbirth preparation to postpartum-focused recovery. Maéva strives to empower people to make birthing choices that work for them and their families.