Health & Medical Pregnancy & Birth & Newborn

Fear of Childbirth

As you are probably already aware, there is so much information from a wide variety of sources about childbirth that it is no wonder many women become flustered, confused, nervous, anxious, and even fearful of childbirth itself.
In 2000, an article published in the British Journal of psychiatry (2000, 176: 83-85) introduced the term 'tokophobia' as the recognized psychological disorder that describes the intense fear of child birth.
Recent studies related to this in Sweden and Finland have resulted in many of their hospitals setting up 'fear of childbirth' teams dedicated to focusing on these issues.
Their overall aim is to make giving birth as rewarding as possible, what ever the kind of birth.
Although such teams do not exist in the UK at present there is still plenty you can do to reduce this fear however small or large.
Remember, you are not alone and many women feel some fear as childbirth approaches and it reflects the emotional process of pregnancy.
Sorting through these feelings while you are pregnant helps reduce the stress of adjusting to life with a new baby.
It leaves you free to experience labor and birth as the first step in parenthood.
So what can help? Write a journal Writing your thoughts and feelings down can help to highlight specific concerns or fears that you have but at this point are not sure what to do about them.
You may decide to enlist the help of someone experienced in birth or in the type of fear you are experiencing.
Talk to people about your fear Not confronting worries or fears can sometimes make them feel bigger than they really are.
If expressing them to your partner, family or a close friend is not helping do not be embarrassed to ask others.
An experienced mother, doula (a woman trained to offer emotional and practical support to a woman (or couple) before, during and after childbirth), birth educator or counselor, midwife, or other therapist may be able to help you overcome your fear of birth.
Often, just having the opportunity to talk openly and honestly can really help.
Antenatal courses Prepare yourself by learning the basics about pregnancy, labor and delivery, either by reading and researching yourself or attending a childbirth education class.
Attending a class gives you the opportunity to ask questions that are important to you, as they arise.
Knowledge creates peace and preparedness, and will dispel any fears that you have made based upon misinformation.
Try not to listen to the 'horror stories' that so many women are keen to tell you! Visit the area where you will be giving birth.
If you are planning a hospital birth but can't go in person many maternity hospitals websites now offer 'virtual tours' on line.
My article in our summer edition discussed the importance of preparing your birth environment.
Remember studies have shown that this will help to reduce your fear and anxieties.
By getting the right balance of labour hormones you can give birth in a safe, secure and relaxed environment.
If you fear hospitals in general Consider planning a birth center birth or a homebirth with a trained midwife.
If this is not possible and/or your caregiver is pressed for time, arrange a visit with an independent midwife, doula, a birth counselor, or a therapist.
Each of them may help you to discover a solution to your fear.
Trust your body Just as your body knows how to create a pregnancy, it knows how to give birth.
Feeling connected to your body can give you confidence in labor.
Consider having a regular massage with a therapist who has special interest in women's health.
They not only address aches and pains, but can ensure you are in tip top condition for the very energetic business of birth and help you to be in touch with your body and your baby.
    Exercise Moderate exercise during pregnancy helps build the feeling of faith in your body.
Enrolling in a specific Pilates or yoga class not only helps to prepare your body and mind in a positive manner but can teach you techniques to cope with the demands birth can place upon your body.
Swimming or aqua natal classes are also good forms of exercise as you are not putting any pressure on your joints.
Deep relaxation techniques Consider attending a specific course designed to teach you about self-hypnosis, hypnobirthing, guided meditation, visualization techniques or breathing and deep relaxation techniques.
There are many courses now available that have been created by experts, designed especially for birth.
Support and continuity of care giver You may find yourself less frightened if you know you will not be alone during labor.
Recent studies show that women supported by doulas or midwives benefit by experiencing shorter labors, lower rates of epidural anesthesia and have fewer cesarean section deliveries.
If possible consider the option of hiring a doula or enlisting the help of an independent midwife to ensure continuity of care and support during your birth.
If this is not possible, choose caregivers and attendants who will remain with you throughout the birth process.
Make sure everyone invited to your brith is supportive of the choices you have made.
Surround yourself with people who provide emotional support and encouragement now.
Birth Plans & your ability to take Control Just as birth is not something that just happens to you, giving birth is not something that is done to you.
Design your ideal birth plan and discuss it with your caregivers so that they are aware of your plan and the reasons behind your wishes.
Being prepared like this gives confidence even before the birth process begins so you have made the best decisions possible for you.
By discussing it with your caregivers you can begin to build up a good working relationship which will continue throughout the birthing process.
If unexpected situations arise make sure you are a part of the decision making, selecting how you wish to proceed.
These are some of the things you can do now to help you overcome a fear of child birth.
Choose the tools you think will work best for you and work on them for a week or two.
When you have done this consider your fear again; do you need to make more changes or do more work to overcome your fears? Take the time to investigate any fear you have.
Overcoming the fear of labor is the first step towards a natural birth.

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