As a first-time mom, I entered into my labor and delivery with a lot of confidence. I was going to manage my pain well. I was going to have a natural birth. I believed that there was nothing to be afraid of.
When things didn’t go as planned, however, my confidence was crushed. Although I was happy to have a healthy baby, I found the pain of labor unbearable. Nearly two years later, as the birth of my second baby approached, I found myself completely overwhelmed with anxiety about experiencing it again.
Feeling worried about or even fearful of giving birth is normal. However, when those anxieties become debilitating, it is probably time to take a closer looking at what is driving the fear. It may be necessary to get a little extra support.
These six moms tell HealthyWay all about their pre-birth anxieties and share exactly how things turned out.
1. Fear of the Unknown
For new mom Annie Logue, it was the newness of being pregnant and giving birth that gave her anxiety. She tells HealthyWay she found herself caught up in fear of the unknown as her due date approached.
To ease her worries, Logue tried to regularly remind herself just how common childbirth is, and she did it with a sense of humor. Her positive mindset got her through until she gave birth to her healthy child.
“I reminded myself that there were seven billion people in the world,” she says. “So this was clearly not THAT hard.”
2. Fear for the Baby’s Well-Being
For women who have had a negative pregnancy or birthing experience, it is typical to feel concerned that the next birth experience will be negative as well. One mom, Nikki Haverstock, shares with HealthyWay that losing a baby two years prior created a lot of fear for her during her most recent pregnancy. Adding to her anxiety was the fact that she was considered to be an older mother, so she felt she had a lot to worry about.
“I talked to a therapist, spent a lot of time with my religion, and hours of walking,” she shares “I ended up having a perfect c-section and a healthy baby boy.”
Like Haverstock, Ramsey Hootman found herself consumed with anxiety over the birth of her third child after her second baby was stillborn.
“I even ended up in the ER once because I was so anxious,” she says.
Although Hootman did have a quick and relatively easy birth, she struggled for a long time to connect with her baby. In the end, what helped the most was giving herself grace as she learned what it was like to be a new mom after loss.
3. Fear About Timing
When it was time to give birth to my third, I experienced a brand new anxiety: I started to worry about getting my older kids to their grandparents’ house if I went into labor during the night. I’m not alone in this worry. In fact, two moms shared that juggling the timing of labor has been a concern for them.
“I was so worried that I’d go into labor overnight and our childcare wouldn’t be available,” Shana Westlake shares. “I was mostly worried that my husband would have to stay with her in the waiting room, leaving me alone.”
Talking with her provider helped and knowing that her toddler could be in the delivery room if need be eased her worries about being without her husband while she labored. In the end, her firstborn was at preschool when the baby came and was able to go home with a friend that afternoon.
For Kelly Burch, it’s the drive to the hospital that is causing her worry.
“I now live 45 minutes from the hospital, so my biggest anxiety this time is giving birth on the side of the road,” she shares. “Once my first daughter finally decided to come, she came fast, and a 45-minute drive in labor sounds like hell.”
Burch is still expecting, but has made a point to discuss her fears with her husband in preparation for the big day.
4. Fear of the Pain
It is common knowledge that birth is an incredibly painful experience and many moms feel ill-equipped to deal with that pain. Like me, Emily Farmer Popek found herself consumed with fears about how much pain she would experience during labor and delivery.
She found the most comfort in a little coaching from her mom, who helped her reach a point of being able to experience pain without fear. She also worked diligently at trusting her body, the process of birth, and the medical professionals helping her give birth.
“It was super helpful to hold on to that idea of, ‘I can experience pain without experiencing fear,’” she tells HealthyWay.
Another mom, who asked to remain anonymous, shared that she also found the uncertainty about the pain and how she would handle it to be intimidating. After her mother told her how painful her first birth was, she found herself worrying about the pain and having no control over the situation.
Ultimately, it was hiring a doula that brought her peace of mind.
“I really wanted someone in my corner (besides my husband) who clearly knew what I wanted and would be by my side the whole time,” she says.
Facing Pre-Birth Anxieties
If you have found yourself so worried about giving birth that you are having a difficult time coping with the fear, take action. During the day-to-day of your pregnancy, a mindfulness meditation practice can be helpful. Take a few minutes each day to practice, using guided meditation like these free recordings from the UCLA Mindfulness Awareness Research Center.
Create a support system for yourself, sharing your concerns with your partner, family, and close friends. Consider hiring a doula who has experience working with moms who are struggling with anxiety. Your OB-GYN can also be a great source of support and they can offer guidance on additional steps you can take, like developing a pain-management plan you can implement during labor and delivery and referring you to a therapist to see during your pregnancy.