Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Birth?

Anxiety and fear are BIG topics in midwifery, and today, I’m contemplating what scares women who will give birth to a baby. For most women, it’s The Horror of Birth. Much of this is fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, when women go to ‘experienced’ friends, relatives, and even doctors for information to try and banish the unknown, they often get The Horror of Birth Part 2: Birth Horror Stories.

When one of these terrified, wrongly informed moms-to-be walks in, don’t dismiss her anxiety. Fear is a powerful emotion and can delay the onset of labour, increase the amount of pain felt, and lead to higher rates of elective Caesarean section, pre- or post-term delivery, low birth weight babies, and neonatal breathing difficulties. 

So how do we take the scary out of labour? Because really, it doesn’t belong there! Midwives are perfectly positioned and wonderfully able to not only soothe fears during labour, but to discover their root before the birth and help moms to have a better, faster, less painful, and more empowering birth experience.

Here are five tips to help you do this: 

  1. Try to address an expectant mom’s fears long before she goes into labour; by asking the right questions, you can find out what her fears are, acknowledge them, and address them, banishing them from the birth room. 
  2. Keep women informed during labour – without scaring them – and update them on how they are progressing and what choices they have available at all times; that is, when they show a desire to know, not upsetting her quiet, private, instinctive moments.
  3. Explain any opinions which you feel strongly about, if you feel that Mother or Baby’s well-being is at risk – but make it possible for moms to make the final decision.
  4. Choose your words carefully; “Wow, you have a big baby!” could stir fears of vaginal tears or damage, and cause anxiety about her ability to give natural birth, instead of simply reassuring her that her baby is developing well – which is what you actually meant…
  5. Share empowering birth stories with expectant moms, and give them reassurance and encouragement by reminding them that each birth is unique, and that their instincts have equipped them perfectly. Stay far away from horror stories; as horror master Stephen King puts it: “…if you are told that some experience is going to hurt, it will hurt. Most pain is in the mind, and when a woman absorbs the idea that the act of giving birth is excruciatingly painful – when she gets this information from her mother, her sisters, her married friends, and her physician – that woman has been mentally prepared to feel great agony.”

Go forth, mighty midwives, and ensure fearless births for your moms! And never forget: simple steps can have profoundly positive effects!