Fear of childbirth
Maternity is both a state of emergency and the most natural, wholesome experience human life has to offer at the same time. So many emotional, psychological and physical changes happen during pregnancy and this time, therefore, goes hand in hand with fear. Fear of the uncontrollable, unrealizable, most challenging life event of all time.
Childbirth itself is described as the most powerful, stunning, fulfilling and scary event, also strongly linked to existence.
Therefore, these anxieties and fears are physiological to a certain degree! These normal fears of the unknown lead to a more adaptable and attentive way to deal with stressful situations due to hormones (Entringer & Heim, 2015, S. 26). (Wanna know more about hormones, check my other post)
Fear is a human feeling, triggered by changes in the physical and psychological stability your body got used to. In nature, it is a very useful instrument for your body to protect yourself from harmful situations.
Fear achieves, for example, a getaway in threatening circumstances, or increases alertness in case of danger (Rohde, 2004, S. 157). It also triggers a biological & therefore the chemical process of reacting to fear in our body.
Stress activates neurotransmitter systems, and these promote the exposition of corticotropin-releasing-hormone (CRH). The CRH induces the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone.
So if we think about the background of fear, we can easily link it to the experience of giving birth, right?
Giving birth is unexpected, stressful, uncontrollable AND on top of that, linked to our existence, therefore means danger. So this fear seems to be the ONLY normal human reaction.
Any woman is at some point willing to leave to the room and run away during birth, I experienced.
"Giving birth should be your greatest achievement not your greatest fear"
Even though this fear during childbirth seems reasonable, there is a thin line between physiological, normal fear and dread.
This dread can be very dangerous, as it increases stress as early as in the first trimester, and stress as studies from O’Donnell & Meaney, 2017 show, can increase complications during birth and also postpartum depression. Please be aware of the symptoms ladies, and also gents of course!
Symptoms can be:
constantly thinking about fear, birth, pregnancy-related challenges
thoughts of running away
panic attack-like symptoms
avoiding the topic of birth at all costs
outpours of sweat thinking/talking about it
The best detectors are relatives and partners, as they know you and how you deal with stress. Make them aware, that you are afraid, and talk with them about your fears. You will see if they react understanding and try to calm you down, its physiological fear. But if they listen closely, don’t know what to answer or cannot relate; consider talking to your doctor, your midwife or any other specialist that you can think of!! please guys, it can be treatable and extreme dread of childbirth comes with extreme stress, if you are already pregnant.
I wrote my bachelor’s thesis about childbirth fear and dread, and lots of studies showed the positive effect of clarification and education through OB GYNs and midwives. Also, midwives and also doulas try to counter these fears with antenatal classes and information about coping with childbirth. And it is soo important to have this information BEFORE birth. Why? Be prepared for the next post on the importance of antenatal classes, and you will NEVER forget.
So again, it is important to recognize the dread, as soon as possible. Every woman should be encouraged to give birth naturally, as we have been doing this for a very long time in history.
What can be done do prevent childbirth fear?
As mentioned before, information, education, and preparation for pregnancy and birth are essential, preferably done by a midwife or doula. Why so? if you feel comfortable with your OBGYN, go with it. In my experience, OB GYNs are sooo overbooked and rarely have time to discuss everything in detail. That is why midwives and doulas come in handy ;) they are experts in this area and help you get rid of the fear and maybe also teach you coping mechanisms. AND as mentioned before, awareness. Talk about it with your mum, hubby, partner, friends, whatever and get it out there. Letting go helps.
If you want to know more about said breathing techniques, follow my blog, where i will soon upload a new post about just that!!
Stay safe, stay healthy,
and always remember guys, it’s not pain, but power!!
Your midwife Sarah