How To Overcome Anxiety About Birth

Feeling anxious about the unknown is a normal reaction. However, anxiety can really be a problem when you are planning for a birth and about to embark on this wild adventure of parenthood! Getting to the root of anxiety and why you are feeling it, can be the key to having a birth without fear and a birth of empowerment instead!

As you approach your due date, it starts to get real. You realize that the life you have now is about to change dramatically, you will be responsible to keep another very vulnerable, very tiny human alive, but most of all, you keep thinking about birth. Oh, mysterious, ever-changing, allusive birth!

Just this week, while at a birth, I sat in the hospital waiting room and I overheard conversations happening around me about birth. And I realized something, as a society, we don’t know a lot about birth. We know what our mothers and girlfriends have told us. But that isn’t always helpful, is it? It can usually add to our anxiety because we are hearing opposing (sometimes negative) perspectives and experiences of multiple people!

“Oh, I had my baby 45 minutes after arriving to the hospital and didn’t have time for the epidural!”, “I was in labor for DAYS!”, “My wife’s mom’s sister’s daughter-in-law gave birth to a baby with a TAIL!”

(Side note: Why do people feel like they have to tell their horror stories about birth? Maybe because they did not go in educated about their options or supported in their choices and therefore, did not have an empowering experience. So now they project their negative experiences onto other people because that’s all they know. But that’s just my observation and opinion {sips tea}.)

So what can you do, dear expectant parent, about this nagging anxiety you have about your birth? I’m glad you asked, because I’m going to break it down for you and hopefully give you some simple steps that you can take to give you peace of mind as you face your {natural, epidural or cesarean} birth experience head on!

1. Ask as many questions as you can.

When it comes to choices about birth, ask AAAALLLLL the questions! No question is too small or “stupid” to be asked. Actually, anybody who makes you feel stupid for asking a question is definitely not a person you want in your “bubble” during this time of your life (or ever, but that’s your boundary to draw). Here’s the thing, the more questions you ask, the more you will know. This is not an abstract or far-fetched plan. We know this. Knowledge is Power. Asking questions from good sources gives understanding to your “why?” questions. What are some good sources? Well, there’s nothing wrong with Google, but if you are going to do that, be sure you have trusted people to compare what you find to. Your medical provider, your doula, supportive friends, select Facebook groups can all be great sources! That brings me to my next tip…

2. Take a childbirth class.

Most hospitals have their classes for you to take and it’s good for learning about the basics of birth. BUT they are often long and smooshed into one day - I don’t know about you, but when you’re 30+ weeks pregnant and have to sit in a class for 6+ hours, it can be physically and mentally difficult. Find someone {*cough* me *cough*} who works on your schedule and with your needs in mind! You can learn more about my private, in-home childbirth classes here.

3. Don’t listen to the people who don’t know you or have your best interest at heart.

Everybody will have their opinion or story. You will get them from your friends (and their husbands/boyfriends), male family members (no uterus, no opinion!), even complete strangers in the grocery store! They all probably think they are helping, when really they are making you think about their experiences through their lenses. They are telling you their own stories and probably are not taking the time to learn about you and your fears/concerns/medical history, etc. Another thing to consider when hearing others’ stories is this: research and recommendations are changing often! What was once the common recommendation even 4 years ago, could be different now in light of new research and evidence. Your medical provider and doula should be your top resources.

4. Focus on what you are feeling, honor those feelings and trust your intuition.

Our emotions are a part of us. Without emotion, we are not well. Emotions are the thermometer for our life, but not our thermostat. Just like a thermometer tells us if we have a fever or not, emotions tell us a lot about what is going on our lives. And just like we set our homes’ temperatures by our thermostat, we can’t set our lives or make life decisions off of emotion. When we act out of emotion and set our lives around what we are feeling, it can kind of get us into some trouble. If we acted or planned our lives around anger, sadness, fear, even happiness, we might regret our words, saying no to experiences and even saying yes to other experiences.

Emotions are the thermometer for our life, but not our thermostat.

The same goes for anxiety in birth. If you make your choices for your birth plans out of fear, that fear will seep into other parts of your birth. If you fear, say, that your OB or nurses will “force” you to get an epidural because you read on the internet that this one woman one time had that happen to her {Insert other scenario that you’ve built in your mind from the stories of other people}, you will be on edge that your autonomy will be in jeopardy for everything else. But just asking the right people a few questions, you would discover that to get an epidural, your medical providers will have to have your consent, the anesthesiologist will have to have your consent and it’s not a medication that can just be “slipped” into your IV.

Knowing that you have autonomy and that any intervention in birth cannot be done without your consent is an empowering piece of knowledge!

You are not only free to use your voice, but you must use your voice. Talk to your provider, build a relationship with them and if you can’t, find a new provider with whom you can build a relationship with and feel that you can trust!

If you are feeling anxious about your upcoming birth, take some time to sit in that feeling, follow that feeling to the thoughts and beliefs that are triggering those feelings, then ask questions about those thoughts. It could be that you are internalizing the experiences and fears of other people (hello, empath here! I get it!). Maybe you need to have a conversation with your doula or maybe even a therapist (therapy is SO helpful when preparing for big life changes!), but don’t make any decisions until you know where that fear and anxiety is rooted.

But don’t short-change yourself if you are feeling anxious and your intuition is firing up that anxiety and fear for good reason! Honor your intuition and pay attention to what it is telling you. Intuition is “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” But if you have reasoned yourself in a circle, you’ve asked all the questions, and still are having a “gut feeling” about something, tell your partner or doula “My intuition is telling me ______”. That is important and mustn’t be ignored. Honor it and surround yourself with other people who also honor it. Sometimes your intuition is just telling you where to look and what to ask.

In this journey, you might discover that the knowledge you gather will fuel you to face your birth head-on without fear of the “maybes” or “what ifs”. You might even discover yourself in the middle of a pretty dang empowering birth experience!