Being afraid of giving birth: Normal?
We've talked about this before; fear is a completely normal emotion since it's, in fact, our body's way of warning us of potential or perceived danger. Being scared of giving birth can be caused by many reasons, but no matter where your fear comes from, your body and mind are telling you that you have worries about giving birth and it's not only normal, it's healthy. Now you know that you have to prepare yourself for labor so you can begin finding ways to manage this fear of what is coming.
Why are we afraid to give birth?
The reasons vary from one woman to another of course, but many women who are pregnant with their first child report being afraid of giving birth. In general, this is mainly due to a fear of the unknown, exacerbated by the birth stories of friends and family, which are often dramatic and sometimes even traumatizing, doing very little to help the mother relax and ease her worries. It's therefore normal for us to imagine our delivery will be the same as those horror stories we keep hearing about!
But it's not just new moms that have fears about giving birth. Even women who have already had children may experience some fears about the prospect of reliving the experience, especially if they were not well prepared the first time around, if something went wrong during the birth or if they've experienced a difficult postpartum.
Fear of giving birth and the length of labor
According to a Norwegian study, women who are afraid of giving birth take an average of 90 minutes longer to give birth than women who are better prepared and are therefore more relaxed. But how can we make sure our fears don't negatively impact our delivery? The important thing is to be well prepared and develop management techniques that will help you stay calm during childbirth.
How can you prepare?
There are several things you can do to help you get ready for childbirth and to develop strategies that will help you manage your fears:
- The first thing you can do is to demystify all your worries by getting informed. Learn about what is going to happen with your body during the birth, the different positions you can take for delivery and options that are available to you to ease the pain of childbirth. Books are always a great resource, but our Giving birth section and our discussion forums are also a gold mine of information that can help you feel better prepared.
- Be in good company: your spouse and your family and friends will be your best allies and can help reduce your fears about the upcoming birth.
- Once you feel like you are well informed about childbirth, prepare a detailed birth plan indicating your preferences so the medical staff can refer to it during the birth.
- Most women who are pregnant for the first time like to take prenatal classes that offer a personalized approach to help you prepare for birth and life with your baby.
Tokophobia goes beyond a simple fear of giving birth, it's an irrational and debilitating fear that can even make women who want kids not get pregnant so they can avoid having to deliver. The reasons why women develop tokophobia are varied and can come from negative experiences in their past or external influences.
If you think your fear of giving birth goes far beyond the normal fear or the unknown and you feel unable to take matters into your hands despite your preparations, it's important not to ignore your symptoms and to consult your doctor or midwife or even get psychological help so you can avoid developing negative consequences like post-traumatic stress disorder, post-partum depression or difficulties in developing a bond with your child.