While birth is a natural and normal experience that a woman’s body is created to do, it is common and expected to have fears leading up to your delivery. You may be feeling anxious about your ability to handle the pain, or wondering what will happen if something goes wrong. You may be worried about how you will recover from pushing a 7-10 pound baby out of your body and what you will feel like afterward. Rest assured these fears are not only normal but even healthy when they motivate you to better prepare for the experience. Here are the five most common fears about having a natural birth and how to alleviate them as best as possible.
- What if I tear? Unfortunately, the chances of tearing when having a vaginal birth are high, about 90 percent. The good news is that about 99 percent of those tears are minor and superficial, requiring only a couple of stitches if any at all. While tearing may be inevitable for most women, there are some ways you can help prepare your body for the big task of pushing baby out and reduce the chances of more severe vaginal trauma. These techniques include doing your pelvic floor exercises regularly, practicing perineal massage, laboring in water, choosing a birthing position that aids in baby’s exit, placing a warm compress on the perineum when crowning begins and following your body’s lead and natural instincts when it comes to pushing. Even if you do experience some tearing or the need for a few stitches, your vagina and perineum will heal in about a week to ten days.
- What if I can’t handle the pain? While we won’t say that you’ll experience a pain-free childbirth, we can say that there are certainly ways to prepare yourself for the experience and natural ways to manage pain during labor and delivery. These ways include:
- Surrounding yourself with loving and supportive people who can help you stick to your wishes of a natural birth and provide any assistance you may need during labor and delivery.
- Hiring a doula to assist in your birth. Women who have delivered with the support of a doula report having less overall pain and fewer interventions.
- Using any number of natural labor pain management techniques including massage, hypnosis, acupressure, laboring in water, guided relaxation, breathing exercises, and even the use of nitrous oxide to give you some temporary relief.
- Prepare ahead of time. Whether this involves writing a birth plan, taking birthing classes, or having your partner learn special massage techniques, take the time to prepare for your birth as you would any other major event in your life.
- Lastly, remember that your body was miraculously designed for the job of delivering your baby so you are already more prepared than you realize.
- What if I don’t make it to the hospital or birth center in time? While just about every movie that contains a birth scene depicts a woman frantically racing into the hospital in the 11th hour being rushed into the delivery room right in the nick of time, in real life labor takes time. In fact, the average amount of time active labor takes is about 8 hours and perhaps even longer if it’s your first. More likely than not, you will have plenty of time to get where you need to be for your delivery and probably even enough time to check over your bag, take a shower and drop the dogs or other kids off with a neighbor or grandparents. Not to mention, you will likely also have plenty of warning signs that baby is preparing to make his debut from intense cramping and contractions to back pain and possibly even your water breaking.
- What if I poop during the delivery? You may not have voiced this concern to your care provider yet but we know you’re thinking it. All women seem to worry about this one! Having a bowel movement when pushing a baby out is a completely normal and unremarkable thing given the basic physiology of the body. While the thought may horrify you (or your partner) rest assured that your midwives or doctors will not even be the slightest bit phased if you deliver more than you had planned on. If you are feeling particularly anxious about this possibility, try sitting on the toilet in the early phases of labor to empty yourself out before the pushing phase. It’s not uncommon for your midwife to recommend this strategy and it may help circumvent the issue. But, if it does happen, we guarantee you won’t care at all in all the excitement and adrenaline of the moment.
- What if something goes wrong? This is a big one for most expectant moms and understandably so. There are so many things that could happen during childbirth and most of them are not things we can plan ahead for. First off, trust that you have surrounded yourself with capable and compassionate professionals who have the best interest of you and your baby at heart. Should complications arise, your birthing team will know what to do and what the next steps should be. Discuss possible obstacles that may arise and how you would like to handle them ahead of time. Learn about what changes to the plan may be made in the event that you or your baby is experiencing any sort of distress. If one of your biggest fears is having a C-section, consider factors such as having a care provider that is supportive of natural birth, using a doula to assist in your birth and delivering outside of a hospital setting--- all which may reduce your chances of it occurring. Try to be flexible going into your delivery. While birth plans are an awesome way to detail your preferences and wishes for your birth experience, it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time that things may not go exactly as planned.
It is completely normal to have fears leading up to childbirth. The best way to address those fears is to educate yourself through speaking with your care providers, taking classes, reading books and talking to friends who have experienced different types of births. It’s also important to familiarize yourself on the reasons why you have decided that you want a natural birth. The ‘why’ behind your desire to deliver your baby naturally will help you find the strength that you’ll need during labor to keep going. Just remember that despite your fears, you are strong, you are able bodied and you were created to do this. For questions about how you can have the natural birth you’ve always wanted contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.