Every parent to be feels a bit uncertain or afraid at some point, even if it’s just a wobble, so if you are feeling a little anxious you are certainly not alone, it is in fact totally normal. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our guest blogger Katie Stockdale, founder of Peace Love & Birth specialises in helping first time parents who are feeling the fear when it comes to giving birth. Here she highlights some of the most common fears raised by her clients and some tips to aid overcoming these fears.
‘How are you feeling about giving birth?’ This is my opening line on meeting expectant couples at my East London Hypnobirthing course. The answers vary from anxious, worried, afraid or totally shitting it. The common theme in these feelings is FEAR.
- Fear of the unknown
I think this was the biggest one for me when I was pregnant with my son. I just didn’t know what to expect and that scared me more than anything. Consequently I buried my head in the sand and couldn’t read, watch or listen to anything about the birth itself. Sound familiar?
When I finally did take a Hypnobirthing course as a parent, it was like a breath of fresh air. My fears were out in the open and It felt great to have this shared experience with others. By talking and learning about the process of birth you can start to de-mistify everything. It’s fascinating to learn all about the amazing things that your body is capable of.
I regularly run a free 60 minute Hypnobirthing taster class, and so often, couples come to me afterwards and say how much better they feel, even after just an hour! So go on. What are you waiting for? Take the plunge, start reading some positive birth stories, take some antenatal classes and see if it helps you start to feel a bit better.
2. Fear of losing control
Would you describe yourself as a control freak? You are not alone. It’s easy to feel like you’re a passenger on the pregnancy journey. Here is the great news. There are LOTS of things you can control when it comes to giving birth. You get to decide who comes with you, whether you birth at home or hospital, what coping strategies you want…I could go on.
There are then the things that you can’t control. Part of the process is learning to make peace with those things and practicing the art of acceptance. Acceptance won’t come over night, it’s a mindset thing and takes practice so its is something I encourage you start during pregnancy.
Here is a really good affirmation to start working with in the run up to birth
“ I control the things I can, and let go of what I can’t ”
The other thing that’s really important when it comes to control is recognising that when it comes to anything medical, you ALWAYS have a choice. Want to take back the power? I suggest investigating your rights In childbirth as part of your antenatal prep.
3. I am afraid I won’t be able to cope with the pain
If like me, you struggle to get through a bikini wax without crying then this one, is for you. It’s widely assumed that birth will be painful and stories about the ‘agony of childbirth’ are sold to us from a very early age. Even episodes of friends you saw in the 90s! But it’s not a given that childbirth will be painful. Some women even enjoy giving birth or find it ‘orgasmic’
The irony is that the more you fear the pain, the more you tense up – tension the body = more likely to experience pain. It’s a vicious circle called Fear Tension Pain
My advice to anyone worries about the pain
A – Reframe the ‘pain’ as a positive sensation. A signal to take action rather than that something is wrong. Every time you have a contraction that is one step closer to meeting baby for the very first time
B – Get to know more about your helping hormones. Mother nature has equipped us with 2 amazing hormones called Oxytocin and Endorphins.The 2 of which work can hand in hand as a heady cocktail of pain relief and can bring a natural high or sense of euphoria
C – Map out your coping strategies and comfort measures. Starting with some breathing and ending with the epidural. I like my clients to be armed with an A_Z of coping strategies and I encourage research into the pros and cons of all medical pain relief prior to the big day so it can be part of your birth plan and you feel like you have made an informed decision.
4. What if I……?
Ahhh the good old what if game! It never usually ends well does it? That said, I think there is some power in addressing any big ‘what if’s’ as part of the birth prep process. Give any major concerns a bit of headspace. Discuss the implications and how this might impact your birth plan and decide if you want to make any changes. Discuss all of this with your birth partner to enable them to be the best support and to be able to act as your advocate on the day.
Common ‘what ifs’ are:
What if I need a cesarean?
What if I have an induction?
What if my baby is breech?
It’s my goal to give parents the tools they need for a positive birth even when it doesn’t go 100% to plan.
Research shows that the more involved you are in making decisions about your care, the more likely you are to be happy with the outcome. So learning how to ask the right questions and get information is key to confident decisions.
5. I am afraid I might poo during labour and my partner will see
I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is, you might poo (I can’t sugar coat that for you). The good news is that it’s a REALLY great sign that your labour is progressing and you are going to meet your baby very soon!
During the second stage of labour when your cervix is fully open, it’s time for baby to start moving down the birth canal. At this point you may feel more pressure or the urge to push or bare down. As baby moves down they can put extra pressure on the bowls. Which might mean that you go for a poo (or feel like you need to)
It’s important to note at this stage that you want the pelvic floor muscles (the hammock of muscles from the front to the back of your pelvic area) to be as loose and relaxed as possible to help you birth your baby smoothly and more comfortably. The pelvic floor is same muscle group that you use when you sit down on the toilet to go for a poo.
So if you find yourself clenching the muscles or trying to hold it in then you might not be doing yourself any favours. Embrace the sensations in your body and let go! I promise that the midwives will have seen it all before and chances are they will have discretely dealt with it before you even know about it. No one will give a shit!
Hypnobirthing is great to help with fear of childbirth. It would be the first thing I recommend to anyone who is feeling anxious about birth. Please know that you don’t have to suffer in silence. Share any fears or concerns with your midwife who can also signpost you to resources that can help with anxiety during pregnancy or Tokophobia.