When you think about childbirth, chances are the word “pain” is one of the first that comes to mind. While it’s normal to feel a little apprehensive as you near the end of your pregnancy, some women can experience intense fear that makes them dread delivery and could actually affect their labour. This is called Tokophobia.
Commonly, fears may focus on:
- childbirth pain
- worries related to being in the hands of healthcare professionals
- not understanding what might happen
- fear the baby may be hurt or injured
- fear of injury to themselves
- anxiety about being alone or trapped
In addition, women already fearful of hospitals, injections, or of being exposed or naked, may find their fear of childbirth exacerbated by these pre-existing fears.
The same applies to women who are anxious about being embarrassed, or who worry about how they will cope in front of others, or who think they might appear silly, stupid or out of control. Women who have these concerns are all at higher risk of fear of childbirth.
A recent U.K.-based study found that women who suffer from fear of childbirth during pregnancy have an increased rate of emergency Caesarean sections or more complicated vaginal deliveries involving vacuums or other instruments. Also, “she is more likely to use pain relief and she is more likely to have negative feelings about the whole birth experience. In addition, her risk of postnatal emotional and psychological problems increases.” (National Childbirth Trust). A Swedish study found that pregnant women with intense fear of giving birth run a considerable risk of negative experiences during labour and increased feelings of dissatisfaction after childbirth.
So, let’s talk about FEAR, the effect it has on our body and how it can interfere with your birthing experience. Have you heard Susan Jeffer’s book: “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!”? Of course, you will have to do it anyway, fearful or not, but from an energetic perspective, I would suggest there are a couple of stages missing…
I would recommend that you:
- 1. Feel the fear
- 2. Acknowledge the fear
- 3. Release the Fear
- 4. Replace the fear with something you want
- 5. THEN do it anyway.
Have you ever watched a horror film, when something scary happened on screen? It makes you jump. You heart beats faster. Your breathing becomes short and fast. You may even get sweaty palms. You can even feel your heart racing for a little while afterwards.
This is because your body went into fight, flight or freeze mode to protect you. This reaction is what has kept the human race alive since the beginning of mankind. It produced an adrenaline rush as you released cortisol which caused all those physical symptoms, but you weren’t in any actual danger. In reality, you were safe and sound in your house or the cinema. Your subconscious mind was tricked into thinking you were in danger and produced signals to your body for your survival.
So, what happens if you go into labour full of fear? Fear of the pain? Fear of the outcome? Fear of the future? When you are afraid, your body produces adrenaline and you go into fight, flight or freeze mode. We all do. This is obviously unhelpful in the extreme. So what can you do to overcome that fear? To use that adrenaline to your advantage? And to over-ride these primal responses?
Here are some practical steps you can take prior to the big day to manage your fears:
1. Surround yourself with support
The most important step in easing childbirth fears is to be surrounded with a positive support network. A recent study in Obstetrics and Gynecology found women who were in a longer term partnership of more than five years were less likely to fear childbirth. There are many other places to seek out support. Steve Schklar, a certified group psychotherapist, recommends looking for a support group. You can google groups in your area such as the NCT, ante natal meet-up groups and online groups, local midwife or doula and talking to friends and family.
It also helps not to go to the doctor alone. “Always have someone at the prenatal visit with you who you trust,” says Dr. Thomas Verny, founder of the Association for Pre- & Perinatal Psychology and Health (APPPAH). You can turn to your partner, a friend, a doula or a midwife but, whoever it is, it will make it easier than trying to approach pregnancy and delivery on your own. Although there are many reasons that could be behind your apprehension, personal support is the best way to put your fears at ease. And remember, your partner doesn’t have to be your birthing partner, so you can have another person there to support both of you.
If fears are related to a previous birth experience, help with understanding and reducing the effect of the bad memories can be important in treating the current fear.
2. Research your options
Discuss and clarify any concerns you might have at your prenatal visits. Learn about different birthing options and methods of pain control so that you are prepared for different outcomes and understand what is being said. Look into psychosocial support networks, such as childbirth classes, midwives and doulas, pregnancy coaches.
Also, learn about intravenous sedation and regional anesthesia options to find out what will be best for you. The more you learn about what to expect during delivery, the better you will feel about it.
3. Resolve worries about your new role
Are you frightened by the prospect of becoming a mum? You are not alone! After all, these babies don’t come with a manual! You may also be expressing your parenting fears in a more physical form. In Western society, fear of pain is a culturally acceptable way of expressing something more complex. Be honest with yourself about your upcoming parenthood and tackle your fears head on. You might want to attend parenting classes and read books to prepare yourself for becoming a parent. It’s important to choose avenues that empower you rather than making you more afraid, which is exactly why I have created the Master Your Mindset in Pregnancy program. I work with expectant parents so that they can experience a sacred pregnancy journey by connecting with their baby at a soul level. We also ensure that the pregnant couple develops their own self-awareness as they prepare to step over the threshold into parenthood.
Parents-to-be may find themselves feeling overwhelmed, fearful or isolated, but through the elements in my program they will develop their own bespoke pregnancy “toolkit” which they can use at any time. They will find new ways of being, doing and thinking so that they remain calm, confident and in control during pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond.
4. Address buried memories
If your own birth was difficult, or there were worrisome circumstances surrounding your delivery, it can have an effect on your subconscious. Just because you don’t remember your birth, doesn’t mean it isn’t a factor. Indeed, the unconscious is always more powerful than the conscious. Once you know where your fears lie, it will be much easier to tackle and overcome them. We do a complete element on Relationships – including your relationship as a child to your parents as well as your relationship with your partner. It is so vital to look at this now, before the birth of your baby, so that you are in a good space and feel READY for the new arrival in your family unit. We also cover an element on Limiting Beliefs and what may have been holding you back in the past so that you can start to overcome these now.
Our fears of childbirth may be a result of our mothers’ own unresolved frightening experience. “What your mother says about childbirth and her attitude will influence your feelings,” says Dr. Verny. “If your mother says: ‘You almost killed me when you were born,’ those old tapes will start playing in your mind. It’s important to realize there is no relationship between your mother’s birthing experience and your own. Just because your mum had a difficult child birth, doesn’t mean the same will be true for you.”
I have been trained in a quick, easy and effective method for overcoming and releasing fear in your energy and replacing it with your desired emotion or feeling. When you combine this with other tools from my pregnancy mind-set program, such as a body scan, breathing techniques and mantras then YOU are once again in control of your feelings and emotions. Join my group for FREE support or message me directly if you would like to know more about my coaching program, Mastering Your Mind-set in Pregnancy: Empowering Pregnancy by Empowering You.