The first-trimester probably felt like it would never end as you battled morning sickness and fatigue. But some women find that as they enter the third trimester, they don’t want their pregnancy to end!
Birth anxiety is real, and if you leave it untreated, it can turn your positive birth experience into a negative one. We want you to know that anxiety should have no place in your heart on "labor day" and that you deserve better than what anxiety has to offer. Laboring without anxiety is an obtainable goal and you can do it!
While you probably want nothing more than to cuddle your newborn baby, you simultaneously are terrified of the unknowns of birth and the delivery process. What will contractions feel like? What will happen if there is an emergency? How easily will I recover? Will I be in pain for days and days? As the days creep closer to your due date, it’s common to experience waves of anxiety and dread when you think about childbirth. Even second and third-time mamas experience some sort of anxiety the closer they draw near to their labor day.
Even though it is common to feel anxious, you don’t have to “suck it up” and feel miserable alone. There are many ways to prepare mentally and keep your mind focused, calm, and relaxed so you can enjoy the big day. While a little anxiety is normal, don’t wait until you are in the hospital to face your fears. Here are a few tips to get you in the right mind and on the road to relaxation before the baby’s arrival.
Have A Plan (Or Two)
Creating a simple birth plan and mapping out the things that mean the most to you will help you stay calm and organized before and after birth. Write down what you want to happen and share your birth plan with your care provider. But also make a plan for if everything goes wrong. What are your wishes if you have to have an emergency c-section? Or what will you do if you have to have pain medication even though you had your heart set on natural birth? Having several plans written down on paper (or formulated in your mind) will help you know that no matter what happens, you got this! You won’t be shaken by unexpected surprises.
Don’t Pay Too Much Attention To The Internet Horror Stories
Google is awesome for searching common aches and pains and pregnancy symptoms and how to get relief for things like morning sickness and back pain. But Google can get out of hand fast! There is a statistic that 10% of women are so afraid of birth that it interferes with delivery. If this sounds like you, it might be because you are reading about birth stories in the wrong places.
The truth is, women love to share (and sometimes embellish) their horror birth experiences without adding the important details (like they had a rare preexisting condition.) It’s the same equivalent to men’s fishing stories (the fish gets bigger each time they re-tell it.) If you have found the addictive rabbit hole of mom/pregnancy forums, it might be time to step back and find a healthier and medically sound way of researching. Most likely, “her story” won’t be your story.
One mom, for example, read about “spinal block” headaches (a severe headache induced by anesthesia and can last for days) and “how common they are.” When she asked her doctor about it he said it had been years since anyone of his patients had experienced a headache after an epidural. In other words, those kinds of headaches are very rare and if she did have one there was medicine and treatment at the hospital for her. Just because a mommy-form said it will happen does not mean that it will happen, or that it will happen to you, or that there are no ways to deal with it if it does happen. Often these internet stories leave out important details like the mom was in crazy pain because she didn’t want to take the medicine or treatment offered to her. Instead, she decided to complain about it online and scare all of her readers into an anxiety coma.
Another mom heard so many other women comment on how rough post-partum was that she was convinced she wouldn’t be able to get her “life back” for years. But she was pleasantly shocked and surprised to find that recovery has a lot to do with your positive attitude and she found that a few days after birth she was feeling herself, happy, and moving around just fine.
Remember to talk to your doctor about the risks and your fears and what they can do for you if the worst happens instead of trusting Google. A good doctor will put your situation into perspective and calm your fears.
Learn Relaxation Skills
Prayer. Meditation. Stretching. Breathing exercises. “Me time.” Your favorite TV comedy show (laugher is the best medicine.) Spending time with fun friends. These are all things you can do to help you relax and calm your nerves. You can do them on delivery day (Google Lamaze breathing techniques for labor) or beforehand to cope with anxiety. Some women even turn on their favorite show during labor to help them focus! Whatever it is that you find relaxing, do more of that.
Share Your Fears
Like we talked about, Googling your fears isn’t going to make you feel better. But sharing your fears with a trusted mentor, friend, pregnancy resource center advocate, midwife or doctor can completely end anxiety and reel your mind into perspective. Talking about your fears can also help your brain process them in a different and more productive manner than if you just quietly listen to yourself. You don’t have to suffer alone, and there is support for you!
Find A Midwife or Duloa
Midwives and doulas are birth experts. They actually spend more time with expectant mamas than your doctor does and they are certified to answer medical questions. In fact, in some countries, OBGYN’s do not deliver your baby, a midwife does. In America, midwives are becoming very popular because they go to the hospital with you to coach and guide you through each phase of birth. They also act as advocates between you and your doctor to ensure that the hospital birth team follows your exact delivery wishes.
Midwives are also on call 24/7 throughout your pregnancy to help you with anything that arises, including pre-birth anxiety. If you are anxious about birth, finding a midwife will help you stay calm and protect you from feeling alone when you are in the delivery room.
Learn About Pain Relief
When it comes to childbirth, most women fear contractions the most. But if you know all the options available to deal with pain, you will enter the delivery room with more confidence! There are medications that are safe for you and your baby and there are natural pain relievers like breathing and ball exercises. Learn about the different kinds of pain relief and make a plan on what you want in the delivery room. Remember, you are in charge of your delivery, and you can try any method you need to cope with pain (as long as it is safe.) Many women do a mix of mild medication and then labor on a yoga ball, others opt for full epidurals, others labor in a warm labor pool. There is no right or wrong way to labor. Do what you need for your body, your mind, and your baby and you will feel in control of your anxiety.
Focus On A Positive Attitude
One of the most powerful tools you have is control over your mind. Your mind is more powerful than many people know it to be. A simple “I can” instead of “I can’t” can be the difference between a negative experience or a positive one. How you go into labor and how you recover from it greatly depend on how you determine in your mind how you will respond. Remind yourself that women have been doing this for thousands of years, and you can too! Promise yourself that you will do your best to trust those who care about you (your doctor and team) and focus on the good things to come (like the baby cuddles and new memories.) There are many incredible birth affirmations on Pinterest, so check those out (or print them for the delivery room!) and practice saying them to yourself! Eventually, your brain will accept them as true and you will feel empowered for the big day.
Remember, you never have to suffer alone. There are many in your community who have been in your shoes and who have dedicated their lives to helping pregnant mothers cope with any and every pregnancy situation. Contact your local pregnancy resource center today and make an appointment with a trained client advocate if you need help coping with the anxiety of labor!