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How to Get Over the Fear of Childbirth

by Ivy B

Being scared of labor actually makes the process worse.  Want to know how to get over the fear of childbirth? Try out a few of these tips from a 2-time natural birth mama.

It saddens infuriates me the way the media portrays childbirth.  And, obstetricians don’t really aid in exuding confidence in women’s abilities to grow and birth their babies.  I can’t understand why that is, but I can understand why you’re scared of labor.

What television show or movie ever shows a laboring woman calmly going to the hospital?  I can’t think of many scenes that doesn’t depict panic, pain, and a rush to the hospital.  You usually see the woman screaming about her water breaking.  Then, she’s rushing to the hospital in agony.  And she’s yelling until she’s pushed the baby out.

Tips to help overcome fear of childbirth from a mom who did it without drugs twice!
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Your doctor has a wide variety of reasons why he or she needs to check on your baby and you during the entire process.  I can’t remember one time my own OB saying anything to try to give me confidence in my own pregnancy and childbirth.  We’re treated as though pregnancy and childbirth are an illness to be managed.  Luckily, I knew better.  I knew that there were far too many women in the world having babies to think that nature doesn’t have a plan for it all.

Is it Normal to Be Scared of Childbirth?

Mothers, especially first-time moms, usually find themselves afraid of labor.  Why?

  • The media portrays a sense of urgency, panic, and pain.
  • Doctors want to manage the process as though pregnancy, labor, and delivery are an illness.
  • Many people like to share labor and delivery horror stories.
  • You don’t really know what to expect.
You are scared of labor because no one is teaching you not to be. #pregnancy #labor #childbirth Click To Tweet

Even when you’ve been through labor and delivery, there’s a chance you start to experience anxiety and doubt about your labor with your next.

This happened to me. I began to develop a fear of childbirth after my first, even though it went very well. I realized that as I was nearing my second baby’s due date, fear and anxiety began to invade my thoughts. I would think things like:

  • I got lucky the first time and this time might not go as well
  • Did I forget how to handle contractions?
  • Will my husband be as invested in the second birth as he was the first time?

It didn’t help my son was nearly 2 weeks past due and one day before scheduled induction. Some of my developing fears were that of having the induction itself and the increased possibility of side effects, further medical interventions (like an epidural) or c-section.

Some mothers develop such a strong fear of childbirth that they don’t want to have the baby.  This fear is called tokophobia and can affect a woman’s decisions about how she wants to give birth to her baby.

My Experience With Labor

I want to be one of the few people that support you in the journey to finding positive thoughts about labor.

Growing up, I knew my mother had my brother and me naturally.  She was scared, but I knew she did it!  She delivered my brother who was Frank Breech (when the butt is delivered first).  What a testament to how amazing our bodies are.  If she could do that, why couldn’t I?

In my post, Don’t Get The Epidural, I explained that I had two unmedicated births.  One, 26 hours, the other 9 very intense hours.  

Before having either, I, of course, wondered how it felt to be in labor.  I also wondered if I was capable of having my babies naturally because birth groups were all abuzz about inductions or scheduled c-sections based on the size of babies or changing calculations in due dates.  I knew people, personally, who never even gave their bodies a chance to birth naturally because their doctors had convinced them their bodies weren’t capable of passing large babies.

With so much doubt being shoved at us, how could you not be scared of labor?

But, I found plenty of resources to help me work through my questions.

Ways to Overcome Fear of Giving Birth

Check out these 4 tips for managing your fear of labor:

Read and educate yourself!

If you’re scared of labor, I know first hand that part of your worries is the fear of the unknown.  

I personally recommend the book  The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, which is very informative.  I’ve heard of so many other wonderful books, too.  One that has been recommended over and over is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth  Pick one (or a few) and learn about what to expect.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth
  • Henci Goer (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages – 08/01/1999 (Publication Date) – TarcherPerigee (Publisher)
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth “Updated With New Material”
  • Random House
  • Ina May Gaskin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages – 03/04/2003 (Publication Date) – Bantam (Publisher)

Take a natural birth class.

Taking a natural birth class was instrumental in alleviating fears of childbirth as a first-time mom!  

My birth class was lead by an instructor who was a former labor and delivery nurse.  She also had experience birthing 4 babies naturally.  

In class, the instructor taught us what the hospital wanted us to know.  Then, she told us what we were really capable of.  

We were prepared with some in-class exercises to learn about pain tolerance, pain management, and how long contractions last (great exercise with a hand in ice for as long as a contraction would last).  Plus, she reminded us that our state of mind plays a large role in how we perceive our situation and pain.

Your state of mind plays a big role in the perception of your labor and delivery. Being afraid intensifies feelings of pain. Click To Tweet
Earth Mama Angel Baby Free Birth Plan

Have support.

My husband ended up being my main support person.  He went to class with me and learned all the reasons we should be on board with natural childbirth.  We learned, together, how to work through the pain and that he needed to be supportive … more than just being in the same room.  He needed to be my partner to help me through contractions, pain, and fear.  

Don’t forget to share with your friends how they can support your birth plans.

Watch informative videos.

My favorite video was Business of Being Born by Ricki Lake.  She’s since worked on several follow-up videos.  I know, at one time, I was able to watch at least two of them on Netflix!

Do yourself a favor and don’t put much thought into how the media portrays childbirth.  Don’t listen to birth horror stories.  If you do listen to them (because people love telling them), remind yourself it was that person’s experience and not a fact of every birth.

Do you want more information about natural childbirth?  I wrote a whole other post on giving birth naturally, and I really think you should read it!  In that post, I share how education and support will help you through it, plus, I share a few things to remember about the pain.  If that’s not enough, check out all my pregnancy and natural birth posts!

3 things about pain and natural childbirth

This post about Fear of Childbirth originally appeared on sahmplus.com July 3, 2017 and has been updated for content.

Are you scared labor? Want to know how to get over the fear of childbirth? What are you most concerned about when you think about giving birth? I share some tips to help you overcome your fear of labor and delivery. Giving birth naturally isn't as scary or as painful as you may believe | www.sahmplus.com

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Jessi January 23, 2017 - 10:19 am

I loved this and totally agree. Women are programmed to fear birth. With my first I had a c section and,never experiences labor at all. With my second I had a VBAC. I was nervous, but I wanted that experience. Yes it hurt, yes,I had back labor…and I ended up getting an epidural at about 5cm, which wore off by 10 lol. But it wasn’t a panicked experience, it was actually lovely. Women are also frequently told one c section means you will always have one, which is also not true. https://www.thecoffeemom.net/2016/12/14/vbac-success-story/

Ivy B January 23, 2017 - 10:59 am

I’m happy you found the courage to seek a VBAC. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts 🙂

Jasmine Hewitt January 23, 2017 - 2:03 pm

My OB and Midwives were actually very encouraging and calm about birth-they totally supported me in every decision, and whenever I became concerned about something, they (brushed off isn’t the right word, but they didnt make a big deal of it) were pretty collected and made me feel at ease

Ivy B January 23, 2017 - 7:09 pm

I feel like doctors are becoming more aware, these days, that women want to reclaim their ability to birth. We have options with birthing centers and midwives that will do home births, and the increasing availability of doulas to help support us. Even 4 years after my first with the same doctors, I had less resistance about wanting a natural birth. And, my nurses were much more encouraging. But, I had a new nurse that kept asking why no one would give me drugs when I started asking. Thankfully, a more experienced nurse told explained that not every plea meant it was truly needed. In just the 4 years difference, I had so much more support from staff than I had with my first … they cheered me on. I do think they’re starting to head in a positive direction, they’re just not totally there yet.

Mary Barham January 23, 2017 - 4:25 pm

Thank you for sharing this!!! I remember when I was pregnant with my son I was TERRIFIED! Not only do the movies set the stage for giving birth, but my friends told me the horror stories. My pregnancy was amazing. It is the most beautiful miracle I have ever witnessed. That outweighs any scare I felt before.

Belle January 23, 2017 - 10:28 pm

Love this! My OB had been very encouraging about labor and birth. But it’s true that a lot of women are scared of labor. I guess part of it was because some of our friends and family would tell us that it is a pain like no other. Although they’re being honest, it doesn’t really help at all.

Belle | One Awesome Momma

Lamora January 24, 2017 - 8:30 am

The media is a really good point. When I am watching a season and someone becomes pregnant, 9 times out of 10 the season finale will involve some dramatized version of her labor. It’s a fast and easy way for them to imbue drama and anticipation. It’s sad, really.

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Tracy January 24, 2017 - 12:38 pm

Good post. Hope it helps some new moms. I’m glad it’s all behind me. 🙂

Casey January 25, 2017 - 7:47 am

It’s like going into the abyss…you just don’t know what to expect. I think the scariest part was when they hand you the baby and are like here you go…it’s up to you now!

Ivy B January 25, 2017 - 9:12 am

LOL, yes, that’s terrifying. Parenting is way scarier than labor!

Candace January 25, 2017 - 10:32 am

I totally agree with you. Although I’ve been lucky to have quick labors, the entire process is a miracle within itself. The only thing to fear is the anticipation. The actual act of giving birth is indescribable. I had my last one natural, due to timing, and I wish I would’ve done it for all three.

Ivy B January 25, 2017 - 10:48 am

Thank you so much for sharing your story Candace. I’m so glad you weren’t traumatized by having an unexpected natural birth and that you can share this with others, hopefully encouraging more women to not be afraid 🙂

Ashley | Spit Up and Sit Ups January 27, 2017 - 11:22 am

Great post! I remember one TV show, and I have no idea which TV show it was, but an ambulance was stuck and a woman was giving birth. The person on the phone with 911 was helping the woman, asked a question, and the operator replied “The woman is bleeding to death.” IT STUCK WITH ME. I was so afraid for a very long time. I touch on my son’s birth in my latest blog post, but there was so screaming though I wanted to when my epidural kept wearing off.

Ivy B January 30, 2017 - 11:19 am

Do you think you would have felt the same way if you’d never been terrified of labor in the first place?

Breyona Sharpnack February 1, 2017 - 9:12 pm

I was very afraid when I had my first child. Crazy thing, I opted for the epidural because from what I saw on TV I did not want that kinda pain and long and behold I got it and that sucker DID NOT WORK AT ALL…yup my birth ended up being natural, I felt everything and pushed out a 9 pound baby. It showed me that I could do anything I put my mind to. I freaked out when I could feel everything but then the nurse calmed me down, I focused on getting my baby here and not so much the pain and I did it. I felt great and very accomplished because I kept telling myself that I couldn’t do it. I had another natural birth and it was smooth sailing because I knew what to expect. Here we are baby number 5 coming soon!

Ivy B February 1, 2017 - 9:50 pm

Hi Breyona,

Thanks for visiting and sharing your story. Maybe it should be a required part of pregnancy that a woman’s physician educate her not to be afraid 😉 Congrats mama and good luck on your newest addition! You CAN do anything 🙂

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Lucy April 14, 2021 - 5:27 pm

Every mother needs to read this. Well written, I really learnt a lot from here

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