Are you a soon to be first time momma who has anxiety about giving birth? You’re not alone. I was anxious too before the birth of my little one. Unfortunately, this anxiety about giving birth is not helpful or productive. But you can overcome it.
Tokophobia is a severe fear of childbirth and can happen if anxiety is left unchecked.
During labour and delivery fear can lead to increased tension in your body which can then lead to more pain. This is called the fear-tension-pain cycle and was first described in the 1920’s by Grantly Dick-Read.
One of the ways Dick-Read suggested breaking the cycle was to become educated on what was happening during childbirth.
There are tons of books and online sites out there that can help to educate you on the specifics of childbirth. I am not a doctor and will not even begin to try and explain the intricacies of giving birth.
Hire a Doula
I hired a doula as a way to help calm my anxiety about giving birth. Unfortunately, where I live doulas are not covered by insurance. This meant I had to pay out of pocket for this expense. It was well worth it.
Not only did my doula offer free educational courses while I was pregnant. As soon as I went into labour she was there and stayed until well after the delivery of my little one.
To be honest at one point prior to her getting to the hospital my husband and I questioned our need for a doula. I was coping well with the contractions thus far and was stubborn enough to think I could do it on my own. Boy was I wrong.
Having a doula there for my labour and delivery proved invaluable as I will explain later.
In all the books and online posts I read, none of them talked about what I’m about to tell you. This information is not meant to scare you just to inform you so that you can be better prepared than I was. Hopefully reading this information will help to calm your anxiety about giving birth.
Please keep in mind this information is based on my experiences and yours may differ.
You Can’t Eat if You’re induced
All of the online things I read suggested having snacks in your hospital bag so that you can eat throughout labour as you feel hungry. I had heard that labour could take a while and I wanted to be prepared.
I’m a naturally hangry person when I don’t eat so I packed a bunch of snacks that I thought I could stomach no matter what.
I had wanted a fully natural birth. In the end that didn’t matter. I had to be induced.
It wasn’t until I was about to be induced that the nurse told me I couldn’t eat once the induction had started. I was told this was because sometimes the induction can cause you to be nauseous and vomit.
I had been up all night with contractions. Ate breakfast at like 4 o’clock in the morning because I was so hungry and now it was 10 o’clock in the morning and I was about to be included and I couldn’t eat?! I quickly scarfed down the snacks in my bag (not nearly enough food) prior to the nurse inserting my IV.
I had a scheduled induction – why had nobody told me to make sure to eat a big breakfast before heading to the hospital that morning?
If you have a scheduled induction, make sure you eat a big meal a couple of hours before going to the hospital.
Giving Birth is Nothing like TV
For me there was no magical moment when my water broke and I had to be rushed to the hospital because my baby was on the way. In fact, my water never broke naturally and I had to have it broken by a doctor.
My labour also stopped and started for 2 days! Both times I went into the hospital to get checked because I was having regular labour pains, the contractions stopped. Even after 2 days of contractions I still had to be induced to get things moving along.
Be prepared for labour to take longer than you expect.
Once I was induced and my contractions started ramping up I couldn’t sit still. I hated laying down on my back. Every few contractions I had to change positions or walk around for comfort.
Constantly moving also helped to pass the time as I didn’t get bored being stuck in one position for too long. If I found a position that worked I might stay there a bit longer but still eventually tried to find another position of comfort. After my little one was born I joked that I should have worn a pedometer to see how many steps I got in during labour.
I was able to move around freely in the delivery room because I did not have an epidural. My movements would have been more limited if I had had an epidural but I still could have changed positions slightly.
Don’t feel like you have to lay on your back the whole-time during labour.
Medical Staff Won’t Always be in the Room
I gave birth during one of the busiest months of the year for births at my hospital. At one point all of the labour and delivery rooms were full. Had another momma come in at that point she would have had to give birth in a non-labour and delivery room.
Whether it was because it was busy at the hospital or not, for the majority of the time during my labour
it was just my husband, doula and myself in the room. This was a pleasant surprise as it made some of the earlier parts of labour more intimate and personal.
This was less of a pleasant surprise when my husband said he could see the head of our little one and still there was no nurse or doctor in the room. As soon as he told me he could see our little one my anxiety about giving birth skyrocketed. Thankfully my doula was there to help coach me through it and calm my anxiety.
I was also surprised that there was no doctor present until I was in very active labour. The doctor didn’t come in until after I had been pushing for what felt like forever (may have been slightly less time than forever in reality).
I have a vivid memory of the doctor standing at the end of my bed with his arms crossed waiting in between my contractions. I got the feeling like he wanted me to hurry things along as he had other places to be.
Doctors and nurses also rotate shifts throughout your labour. The nurse and doctor I had at the beginning of my labour were not the same ones there for the delivery. And neither doctor was my regular OB.
After my little one was born I got these massive whole-body tremors or “the shakes.” I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t stop shaking no matter what I tried – it was completely uncontrollable. My anxiety about giving birth exponentially increased at this point.
Not only was I sacred by it, my husband was too. We both thought that something was seriously wrong.
Eventually my doula explained that it was completely normal and happens quite frequently. Again, why had nobody mentioned this? Were they worried that if I knew it would freak me out? I was more freaked out not knowing what was going on as it was happening.
Some people get whole body tremors or shakes after giving birth – this is totally normal.
Once I learned that this was a normal response my anxiety levels decreased slightly.
I knew I had a slight tear during delivery and required stitches. All I could think of is how the heck is the doctor stitching me up right now as my whole-body shakes? Am I going to look like Frankenstein down there!
It Will Hurt to Pee
Not during labour and delivery but afterward it will hurt to pee. A lot! It burns the first few times you have to go to the bathroom after you give birth. For me it hurt so much that I didn’t really even want to go but knew it was necessary.
Using a squirt bottle of warm water instead of toilet paper helps immensely.
I would also squirt my area with warm water as I was peeing which felt amazing!
Right after you give birth the nurse has to do a “massage” to get rid of any clots that may still be inside of you. Don’t be fooled by the word “massage” there is nothing relaxing about this.
The nurse will essentially push really hard on your stomach as you exhale. This will cause a large gush of blood to come out of you. Not going to sugar coat it – this hurt – a lot and the nurse has to do it more than once!
Because of the decrease in childbirth endorphins at this time I think this “massage” hurt worse than some parts of labour.
Although this “massage” hurts a lot, it is a very short-term pain.
One way that helped me cope with this pain was to close my eyes and try and relax as I exhaled and the nurse pushed.
This “massage” will also not get rid of all the clots. For the next 48 hours I was still passing clots (some the size of a ping pong ball). It never hurt to pass these clots but was still a bit scary the first time it happened.
Thankfully, I was still in the hospital when I was passing these clots and the nurse reassured me that my clots were normal.
Not all clots are normal so make sure to let medical staff know about them right away.
Be prepared for these clots to pass when you stand up or change positions. They don’t always pass when you are going to the bathroom.
Give Daddy a Job
Mommas aren’t the only ones who get anxiety about childbirth. Before going into labour my husband was so worried that he was going to pass out that he didn’t even want to be in the room during the birth of our little one. I told him that this was not an option.
Our original plan was to have my husband up near my head away from all the action. This didn’t work so well as I avoided laying on my back as mentioned previously.
I had read a bit about acupressure points that can help with the pain of contractions. Whenever I had a contraction my husband’s role was to apply pressure on certain acupressure points in my hands.
Having something to focus on helped prevent him from passing out.
After the birth of our little one my husband admitted to almost passing out at one point. I had another contraction just as he was about to get woozy. I needed his help with the pressure points.
Having an active role in the birth of our little one kept him engaged and didn’t give him time to think about passing out.
Yes, being educated on what is happening during childbirth can help to decrease tokophobia. It is easy to go down a rabbit hole. To try to read and learn everything you can about labour and delivery. Sometimes too much information can be overwhelming and can add to your anxiety about giving birth instead of helping to calm it.
At the end of the day remember that childbirth may only last a few days (or a few hours). Being a momma lasts much longer and is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
Your body will release hormones to help you deal with the pain. When it is all said and done, holding your little one in your arms is the ultimate balm for anxiety about giving birth.
No matter what happens during your childbirth remember one thing. Women were made for this and have been giving birth for thousands of years.
You can do it – you got this momma!