Giving Voice to Common Childbirth Fears

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Even the most confidence birth goddesses in the world have their concerns! The last few weeks we have been sharing a photo essay from Piper and Chaz, Obirth alumns. Experiencing their story in this way, you may think they did not have any fears, but they do!

The trick is coping with them as they come up. It is a good idea to address your fears because fear increases pain, which increased tension, which created a FEAR- PAIN-TENSION cycle that made labor longer, more painful and more difficult for both MotherBaby. Let’s begin to learn how to remove the obstacles on your path to create a safe, satisfying and pleasurable birth.

P2P_IMAGE 03When you think about childbirth many thoughts and emotions come up. Many have been conditioned by the cultures we live in to either see childbirth as joyful, powerful and a rite of passage from maidenhood to motherhood, or to immediately think of Fear and Pain and Fear of Pain. How do you see it?

As a Lamaze Childbirth Educator and DONA International Doula trainer, I have been asking women and men about their fears in birth for 30 years. It is interesting that that fear in childbirth is growing at a time where we know more about childbirth. Science is telling us more and more that for low-risk, childbearing women safety is often with doing less and trusting our Body’s and Baby’s amazing design more.

Carol Sakala, director of Childbirth Connection Programs at the National Partnership for Women and Families said in a NY Times blog “New Report Urges Less Intervention in Births”

It’s important for both clinicians and women to understand that common interventions, that we have come to view quite casually, are actually quite consequential.

Some fear of childbirth is normal, Midwife Thinking blog wrote:

It is normal to fear for yourself and your baby. It is normal to fear the changes that will come when this new person enters your life. It is normal to fear how you will cope/are coping with the enormous physiological changes and sensations in your body.

It is unusual and unhelpful to be extremely fearful throughout labour, as prolonged high levels of adrenaline can reduce contractions and placental blood flow.

How will you release your fears and allow your good hormones, including your love hormone oxytocin that is needed to birth your baby, to flow? One way is by creating a safe, private space where you are unobserved, where you can move and be guided by what your body and baby will tell you by what feels best. When you listen to the sensations, relax and find the most comfortable positions you will create the easiest path for your baby to birth. But saying we should bring more trust does not alleviate our fears. Fears left alone creates a flow of stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol that natures intend to stop or prolong labor till we find safety. Imagine an animal in an open field; this mechanism to slow labor so she can get to her den or nest protects her and her young. Like the lioness we need to have these same elements of safety and privacy to allow our labor to proceed.

P2P_IMAGE 02We often think of birth as only physical but the revolutionary new Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing Report by Dr. Sarah Buckley released last week is helping us to understand that our emotions help us to have an easier or in too many cases a more difficult birth. Our emotions create the flow of hormones that either allow birth to proceed or can stop or prolong labor. I have often said FEAR is the elephant in the birth room and without addressing and finding ways to release our fears we not only hold them but they hold our babies in too!

Let’s look at some common fears and how to cope. It is important to know that men and other partners often have their own set of fears that deserve to be addresses (look for that in the future). Today we are staying with the pregnant woman’s fears. I have been gathered a list of Top 10 Common Childbirth Fears Women experience from numerous women of all ages, races and religions, please take time to write down which ones you share as well as any others you would add to your own personal list.

·      Pain

·      Medical complications: Baby in distress, tears, C-sections

·      Life change: motherhood, sexuality, work-life balance, change in relationship with partner and loved ones.

·      Lack of dignity: naked, exposed, strangers, frequent vaginal exams

·      Out of control: poop, pee, vomiting

·      Not meeting expectations with self or birth experience, feeling judged

·      How will I know I in labor?  How long will it be? Exhaustion

·      Caregivers not listening, Lack of informed decision making

·      Doula or midwife not showing up or falling asleep

·      Fear of Postpartum depression

Now what? Rather than ignore your, fear it is helpful to look the fear in the eye, and acknowledge your fear(s).

Don’t judge, allow yourself to express your fears. For Piper, she expressed reluctance to advance to stage 2 of birth. “To conclude another pregnancy and transition from sacred gestation space, to the postpartum love bubble.” For her, the solution was honoring and discussing her feelings with her support team until she felt ready “After acknowledging my inner dialogue, I really couldn’t justify holding myself back any longer.”

Educate, Knowledge is Power! Ask yourself, which fears will subside with good childbirth classes and information? (One of the goals of good childbirth education is to address your fears and provide good current evidenced based knowledge about all your options, the labor process and provide you with a took kit for comfort).

Talk with your caregiver to make sure you will be respected and part of decision making, ask any questions you need to know about you or your baby’s well-being and their practices during childbirth.

Explore and Express your fears on your own, with your partner, a doula, educator or if you feel you need additional support with a birth therapist or therapist who is familiar with childbearing

Learn and practice relaxation, mediation, yoga and/or prayer. Explore modalities that allows you to move thru fear to relaxation and confidence

In labor, it is normal for fears to arise, the key is to create the safety and privacy you need to express your fears, to cry, to moan to yell, to pray, to let your fears out. Labor is an emotional time, being prepared by addressing your fears prior and having a plan to allow the release of emotions in labor will help you to have a powerful birth.

As a doula, a question I learned from my mentor Penny Simkin, and one I always ask women as a way for them to check-in and ask themselves when labor is slow and long is,  “what is going thru your mind.” When it is a fear, or emotion, having a tool kit to release your feelings is an important part of any birth bag.

Often a flood of tears flow, opening up emotionally, opens the body to bring your baby closer to your arms.


 

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Knowledge is Power! It is confusing today to navigate all that the media tells you, the current research and our changing maternity care system. That is why I created an Online Childbirth Class to guide you to move from Pain to Power!

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