Managing the fear of birth
Every mum-to-be has some fears about the impending birth of their baby. "I call it stage fright," says Sheila Kitzinger, childbirth expert and author. "It's very common, and it usually peaks around six to eight weeks before the baby is due."
What birth fears are all about
According to Sheila Kitzinger, feelings of anxiety are often caused by fear of the unknown, because a birth is always, to some extent, an unknown quantity and no-one can ever predict precisely what's likely to happen.
"Many women are afraid that they won't be able to withstand the pain," says Sheila. "Others fear the loss of control." Some women worry about making a fool of themselves, or seeming cowardly, others have specific fears about their body, for example, that they'll tear or need an episiotomy.
Talk about it
Whatever your fear, if it's beginning to prey on your mind, you need to share it with someone. Various people can help, including:
- Your midwife - who will have cared for many women who have shared the same concerns as you
- Women who've had babies themselves, especially if they've had positive birth experiences
- Other pregnant women - it will help you to realise you aren't the only one who's worried!
- Your partner - this is important, especially if he's going to be your birth partner, because he can help at the actual birth by letting hospital staff know how you feel about certain things
'You need to be quite specific about your fears, and then you need to decide on a constructive plan to deal with them,' says Sheila. For example, if you're worried about an episiotomy you should:
- Talk it through with your midwife, who may well be able to reassure you
- Write into your birth plan that you don't want an episiotomy unless it's essential
- Tell your partner to make sure the midwife who delivers your baby is aware of your feelings
Get in the know
Find out as much as you possibly can about what's going to happen during the birth - knowing what's going on will give you confidence. Go along to antenatal classes, read books and magazines, talk to other women who've given birth recently - they can all give you information that will increase your confidence and reduce your fears.
Get to know your midwife
Another way to calm your fears and feel positive is to get to know the midwife or midwives who are going to deliver your baby. If you're lucky enough to live in an area where team or one-to-one midwifery is practised, you'll stand a good chance. You can also get to meet your midwives by going to antenatal classes at the hospital where you plan to give birth and by making sure you go to all your antenatal appointments.
Second time around
If you've had a baby before and all went well, you'll take a lot of strength from it. On the other hand, if things were difficult last time, you may be much more anxious this time. Talk through with your midwife precisely what happened during your last delivery (ask to see your birth notes, too) and decide on strategies that will minimise the chances of events repeating themselves.
You may decide that you want to be in a different environment this time around, so ask your midwife what your options are. Remember - all births are different and just because you had a difficult time the first time around, doesn't mean you will with your next birth.
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