As a midwife who has been in the delivery suite for hundreds of births and having taught thousands of parents-to-be in my Birth Beat Childbirth courses, I have heard it all when it comes to the fears around childbirth.
Let’s start with noting that it is completely normal to have some fear around giving birth. You don’t need to feel like you need to have this all figured out on your own!
First of all, giving birth is something you’ve never done before. How are you supposed to know what it’s going to be like?! It’s completely natural to have some nerves and fear around something that is completely unknown.
Perhaps you’ve heard some horror stories from well-intentioned friends (or thanks to a few too many late-night Google sessions!) and worry that some of those things could happen to you too.
Maybe you’re watching your ever-expanding belly and wonder how on earth that baby is going to come out of a hole that seems significantly smaller… everyone has the same thought at some point! You’re not alone.
Having heard all of these fears and so many others before, I thought I would share with you the top three fears around childbirth and what you can do to help overcome them.
Will I tear?
Firstly, I think it’s important to distinguish the difference between types of tears.
There are grazes and tears to the vaginal mucosa – which are super common. These types of grazes and tears heal rapidly as it’s a very vascular area. Within just a few days these will heal quite well on their own or will sometimes require just a couple of stiches.
Then there are perineal tears. Your perineum is the area of skin and tissue that is in between your vagina and your anus. There are different types of tears that can occur to the perineum and they require stiches. There are surgical and non-surgical tears. A surgical tear is an episiotomy, which is a surgical cut to the perineum – which may be performed if an intervention such as a ventouse or forceps are needed, or if there is a medical reason that bub needs to be born quickly.
There are also non-surgical tears to the perineum, which just happen during the birth of the baby. There are many factors that play into your risk of tearing and things that you can do to help prepare to prevent tearing which I’ve written all about in this blog post about perineal tearing.
Remember, your body was designed and built to give birth to a baby. Everything down there becomes very stretchy and elasticised during pregnancy and childbirth thanks to oxytocin. Oxytocin also talks to your uterus, helping it contract and push out your baby. It’s a wonderful hormone!
The reality is that tears can happen and most often they’re lower degree tears that heal quickly and well. Getting educated on what’s happening during labour, how your body is designed to work so that you can work with your body during childbirth and not against it, as well how you can best prepare your body for birth, are all vital in helping alleviate any fears or concerns you may have about tearing.
Will I really be able to handle it? What if I can’t do it?
This is so incredibly common, I hear it from Mums all the time. And, when you think about it, it’s so natural. You’ve never given birth before so how on earth are you supposed to be confident that you can actually do it?!
You’re wondering how will I be able to handle the pain? What will it actually feel like and will I be able to cope with it?
These are all completely normal and very common questions.
There are many different ways you can approach your fear of whether or not you’ll be able to handle childbirth.
Firstly, I always recommend doing quality childbirth education. Whether that’s our Birth Beat course or another prenatal online or face-to-face course that suits your needs; as long as you feel that it has helped prepare you and equip you with the information you need to understand the processes of labour.
Secondly, I think it’s very important to tell yourself that your body was made to do this. Thanks to a wonderful and complex combination of those magical pregnancy and birth hormones, our bodies go through so many changes to prepare us for childbirth. Doing childbirth education will help you learn and understand this which is, in my opinion, vital for reducing your fear. It will help you trust your body.
If you’re scared, worried and uncertain what is happening, what do you think your body will naturally do? Tense up. Try this little exercise as a great reminder of the connection between fear, tension and pain.
Relax you arms and then pinch a piece of skin near your bicep. It’s hurts a little, but not so much. Now flex your bicep as tight as you can. Pinch the skin again with the same force. Feel the difference?
It’s also important to remember that there are pain relief options available to you. Childbirth education will break down what each of those options look like, what’s involved and what the potential implications of each form of pain relief could be. Get educated, do your research and with the help and support of your birth partner, decide what is best for you and your baby.
Will I do a poo?
Would you believe that this is the number one question that I’m asked by mothers in my online course and when I’m in the birthing suite!
Sometimes when I’m alongside a mother in labour, there comes a point where I can see her resisting a very hard to resist urge (if you’ve been there yourself, you know exactly what I’m referring to!) Essentially, it’s the feeling like you need to do a giant poo! And, because of all that pressure in your pelvic region as the baby makes their way out, it’s super common that you will indeed do a poo. When I whisper this into the mother’s ear and reassure her that it’s absolutely normal to have that urge, it helps her relax a little which will naturally help the whole process of birthing that beautiful baby into the world.
If you understand that it can and likely will happen, you’ll be less likely to resist that urge when it comes. Afterall, this is the exciting stage when you will finally get to meet your gorgeous bubba!
Over 80% of women will do a poo in labour. It’s so completely normal and natural that it’s not something you should be concerned about. Also keep in mind that it is very common to have some diarrhoea just before going into labour, so there’s not a great deal left to come out during labour.
A tip for Dad’s and partners – don’t point it out if your partner has done a poo! In those stages of focus during labour, it’s very likely she won’t even notice. You don’t need to make her even more self-conscious about it if it happens. Midwives are very discreet and are so used to taking care of it efficiently and with a minimum of fuss, you’ll barely notice it’s happened.
Ever since you were two years old, you’ve been told to go away and do a poo in private. Of course, you don’t want to do that in a room with people you don’t know and your partner – it goes completely against the grain of your natural instinct for privacy! I get it. But remember, it’s completely normal and all a part of the process of childbirth for the vast majority of women.
So, there you have it, the top three childbirth fears that I hear as a Midwife and Childbirth Educator.
If you’re feeling these or any other fears around childbirth, remember that knowledge is power. The more you educate yourself about what is happening to your body and importantly why, the better prepared you’ll feel and your fears will be greatly reduced.
If you want to understand exactly what happens during labour and why, what it looks, sounds and feels like, all the pain relief options and what they each mean, our online childbirth education class will teach you and your birth partner everything you need to know about childbirth, plus much more including guided meditation, relaxation and yoga as well as sleep and settle support and breastfeeding modules.
You can prepare for your best birth here.