It can seem overwhelming when you are feeling anxious or even terrified of giving birth. If you are pregnant then childbirth is inevitable. It’s that simple. The baby IS going to come out one way or another. So this is one fear you can’t avoid. At all.
But that’s OK. We can deal with our fears. I know it’s tempting to curl up under a duvet or try to pretend that it’s not happening. But that’s not going to do you any favours in the long run. Denial is not a good idea. Quite simply, the longer you leave it, the closer you are to the birth and the less time you have to try and tackle your fears to get a positive birth experience. This is one that is best tackled early on as the clock is ticking when you’re pregnant. You only have a few months to deal with things so don’t wait.
But fear not, there are actually lots of things that you can do to help you reduce (or eliminate) your anxiety. Here are my top 5 but if you have any other strategies that work for you then please let me know in the comments below.
Talk to someone
Whilst we’ve all heard the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ (taken with a pinch of salt…), there are other benefits to talking about your anxieties too. Firstly, talking can help you to structure your thoughts and understand what is going on. By having to verbalise how we feel we need to process it and this can help us to nail down exactly what is going on. What it is we are worried about or what we are desperate to avoid (and why). Secondly, just saying things out loud can help stop them rattling around in our heads. They can become less of a preoccupation if they are vocalised and once they’re out we can chose to let them go. Lastly, we can get support, encouragement and advice. People will only know we need this if we tell them how we are feeling.
By opening up we give the people closest to us an insight into how we are. Meaning that they can then focus on providing any help that we need. If you need anymore convincing read my story of birth anxiety and why it’s important to talk about it.
Do your research
There is a wealth of information out there on the internet that is available to help you. This is one area where knowledge is empowering so make it your mission to learn as much about childbirth, pregnancy and birth anxiety (or tokophobia) as you can. Learning how the body works during labour can help you to feel confident that your body can handle it. Finding out what causes a fear of childbirth will help you to understand where yours comes from so you can deal with it. Reading resources on how to have a positive birth or learn birthing techniques will help you to feel relaxed and confident that you know what to do when the time comes. You will even find support groups, books, videos and self-hypnosis tracks to help you with your anxieties so it pays to invest a little time digging around on Google.
Involve your midwife
Your midwife is there to support you and care for you in pregnancy. Not just physically but emotionally too. She’ll be used to helping women cope with birth anxiety so is a good resource for you to use. She can help you to tailor your birth plan to try to minimise any of the factors that add to your anxiety. It could also be that she refers you on for counselling. Or to get extra support from a mental health midwife.
It’s very important to make sure your midwife understands that your level of anxiety isn’t normal apprehension about childbirth though so this is where being absolutely honest and not putting on a brave face will help. You need to be crystal clear that you need extra support from the midwifery team. She will be able to help you and, as she should be focused on getting the best outcome for both you and your baby, it’s a good idea to involve her early on.
Emotional soul searching
Fears don’t appear out of nowhere. They are based on something. And if you can find what this is it will make a massive difference in whether or not you can overcome it. Now, when I say soul searching I don’t mean hours on end of thinking about how frightening the birth is. That’s just daft. What I mean is thinking about what elements of the birth frighten you. Why? What is it you are worried will happen? Where do you think that fear has come from? Other people’s stories? Seeing something on TV? Being in similar situation when you were younger? Worrying about how strong you are or how well you’ll cope? Or what other people will think of you in labour?
Pin it down and then write it down. Get it out on paper and then make a plan for how you can deal with it. What can you tell yourself to reassure yourself? What would you say to a friend who was worried about the things you are? Find some affirmations to deal with your specific fears and stick them up around the house so you see them every day. And if you need some help with this one, don’t be afraid to get some help (you can contact me here for more details).
Lastly, the best thing you can do is not panic. Every time the anxiety hits you take a few deep breathes and just repeat “I’ve got this”. Childbirth can feel scary as fuck. We’ve all heard horror stories or seen One Born Every Minute. But remember, it’s the horror stories that make for a good gossip. The dramatic births or the hysterical women that make for good TV. Births that go smoothly don’t really get air time or remembered by people. Women can and do have good birth experiences every day and there is no reason why you won’t be one of them.
My favourite quote about fear is that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. And there will definitely be some of that going on. Just because you fear you can’t cope doesn’t mean you won’t. Being frightened that you will end up with a c-section doesn’t mean you will (or mean that a c-section is a bad thing or you’ve failed). Each time you feel fear don’t panic. Just remember that you’ve got this and you are stronger than you think. It will all be OK and both you and baby are going to be just fine.
If you are anxious about giving birth and want to have a coaching session with me to help you feel calmer, happier and more positive about your upcoming birth then get in contact here or email firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve got your back on this one!
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