Birth Preparation

Fear of Childbirth: Where Does It Come From?

A woman is happily chatting with a friend.

Suddenly, her water breaks. It is a giant gush.

Everyone freaks out.

Thirty seconds later she is being rushed into the hospital in a wheelchair, screaming angrily at everyone she encounters.

Cut to scene of doctor handing woman a huge, perfectly clean “newborn.”

Sound familiar? How about basically every televised birth from 1980-2010? (Don’t even get me started on the pristine “postpartum” bodies.)

This is the image of birth that most of us 80s and 90s kids grew up with. Birth was something taboo and scary and happened in a really dramatic 2-minute montage, and THANK GOD there was a doctor there to save that poor woman from the pain that was so horrifying that Hollywood wouldn’t even show it!

Now, please hear me. In some areas of the world, childbirth still carries a very high risk. The United States itself has a pretty poor track record compared to other westernized cultures. I am in no way out to say that birth carries no risk, ever. Of course it does.

But the FEAR of childbirth in our country is so rampant that it sometimes shocks me.

The majority of the time, birth is a normal biological function that is designed to keep our species alive. Birth itself is not a beast out to hurt women in any way it can. Labor can sometimes be really painful, AND we can do it.

If you find yourself fearing childbirth, I encourage you to ask yourself if you can specifically name what you are afraid of. Is it pain? Is it complications? Is it hospitals? Is it being alone?

Once you have nailed down WHAT you are afraid of, I want you to ask yourself WHY you are afraid of it. Are you afraid the pain will be too much? That the complications will be life-threatening? That the hospital will be too strict? That being alone will be traumatizing?

Now that you know WHY you are afraid…I encourage you to educate yourself. Fears are often hard to sustain when we name them and learn the facts about them.

Pain can be managed. Research your options and make a birth plan. Hire a doula to help guide you through the process.

Complications can sometimes be avoided, and sometimes they can’t. Look into evidence-based preventative measures, and educate yourself on how your birth team plans to deal with anything that may come up.

You have rights in the hospital. Ask questions, take a tour, and make sure your birth team knows your wishes.

Being alone can definitely be scary if that’s not what you planned. Some labors move more quickly than you expect, or you may live a ways from where you are giving birth. Have your partner read up on how to catch a baby if it makes you feel better. Keep your phone charged. Have a friend that lives close by be your backup babysitter/chauffeur/phone dialer.

My point here is not to give medical advice or tell you what to do specifically. I am merely giving you a template to work with so that you can work through your specific fears and clear them from your head in time for labor. You may even find that some of your fears are based mostly on TV births and your great-aunt Carol’s horror stories.

Birth is kind of like a wedding in some ways. You do your best to pick the perfect venue, menu, flowers, and date. You plan what you can, you hire people you trust, and you surround yourself with support. And if it rains, well…you’ll be grateful you brought that umbrella.

Think of your birth experience in the same way. Plan, prepare, surround yourself with support…but at some point, let go, knowing that you have done what you can and that you will just have to see how the day goes.

Fear also feels bigger when we carry it alone. Grab a friend to go through this process of naming your fears and learning the facts with you! Every woman deserves the chance to enter birth with a clear mind, free of fear.