I think we can all agree that every single expectant mother has or has had the fear of complications arising before, during, or after birth. Birth is a scary and unpredictable process! I think its extremely important that moms make a point of tackling this fear and addressing it head on. Fear and stress can dramatically affect how you labor, and more importantly how you experience pain during labor.
Our bodies secrete beta-endorphin which is a natural opiate. It is literally as powerful as a large dose of morphine. If tapped into, this allows mothers to successfully bear through contractions. Adrenaline however, is secreted when the mother is uneasy, worried or experiences fear. It is the classic “fight or flight” hormone. Adrenaline can slow labor down and cuts out the powerful affect of the beta-endorphin.
So the less you are afraid of during birth, the better for you! How can you be less afraid of birth? Knowledge! The old saying “knowledge is power” is really true. I have learned that the fear of the unknown is powerful especially when it comes to birth. The more you know, the less things can take you by surprise, the less afraid you are. I experienced this personally with the birth of my first child. I read EVERYTHING there is to read about birth, the process of birth and the possible complications. What I didn’t read about (because not much people write about it) is what happened AFTER birth. Let me tell you, contractions, crowning and pushing did not take me by surprise nearly as much as my midwife massaging my uterus and stitching my tear did. Because I had not read anything about that! I remember that pain being much more dramatic than everything else, because it took me completely off guard.
Here are 5 things you can do to gain more knowledge! These have personally helped me!
1.Read, Read, Read!– There is so much information out there to help you learn more about the process of birth and all its intricate and gory details (yes gory). I’m not talking about a regular birthing class I’m talking about books, peer reviewed journals, meta-analysis (big words I know but pretty much articles you can only gain access to through a college library account), movies, etc.
2. Don’t take anyone’s word for it– I went to a training by a local doula friend of mine recently and I love that she kept saying “Don’t take my word for it, go look it up yourself!”. In no way am I saying to completely disregard a health professionals opinion but it is always wise to take what they are saying and make sure it is correct and accurate. I have known health professionals to straight up lie to a patient in order to get them to do a certain thing. You may need to dive deeper than just a Wikipedia search but I assure you it is completely worth it! I have personally found many flaws in what health professionals say and what the actual evidence says. If you can debunk these myths and lies yourself you can save yourself a lot of undue stress and fear.
3.Ask people – there is nothing better than a good old personal experience! This is something that helped me to choose natural birth. All the people I knew that had actually done it all had great things to say about it. But I encourage you to ask people from all different types of experiences. Ask people about their hospital birth, their birth center birth, and their home-birth. Don’t limit yourself. Get a wide variety of experiences! From all these types of experiences you should be able to make better more informed decisions and you’ll learn a lot I’m sure of it!
4. Know your options– If a woman is particularity afraid of something and feels like that is the ONLY way it has to be then it feel hopeless. Hopelessness breeds fear. But what if there is another way? What if it doesn’t HAVE to be that way? Knowing your options can help with fear! A simple question to your doctor about alternative ways of doing things can help with this. Many doctors have no problem accommodating to your needs, you just have to know your options, and ask! And if your doctor doesn’t seem to want to honor your wishes in a particular area then you have the right to switch to a doctor who will! You need to be able to trust your doctor. If you don’t trust him or her then you better believe you’re going to be scared out of your mind (not actively but subconsciously you’ll feel uneasy around them).
5. Make informed decisions/have a doula!– When a decision is made for you, you feel out of control. The more out of control you feel, the more fear can creep in. The more you know, the more informed decisions you can make! It is essential that you KNOW what you are signing your name to. You must KNOW what your doctor stands for and KNOW what the nurses are administering to you. There is nothing wrong with asking. This is why a doula is great because when you’re in labor the last thing you (or your husband) will want is to be asking doctors and nurses questions. A doula can advocate for you and remind you of your birth plan and what it was that you wanted. Doulas help women regain control of their own birth and when a woman feels in control, she feels less fear!