Identifying Common Labor Fears During Pregnancy and How to Handle Them

When I was pregnant with my eldest, I remember being absolutely elated. It was such an exciting time, and we were thrilled.

But as time wore on in my pregnancy, I began to become fearful of labor. I read all those books, of course, but exactly how painful was all this going to be? Would I tear down there? Would I die?

And, of course, I had the added extra of giving birth in China, a country where most people did not speak English.

Even when I was having my youngest, I had fears. Not so much about the pain, but fear of dying. It scared me to think I may go into the OR and never come out.

My point is this…most of us have these fears about going into labor. It’s scary simply because you only know what it’s like from reading about it.

So, let me help you by addressing those common fears and giving you some tips for getting through them when they make you anxious and afraid. Remember, stressing out while pregnant is not good for you or the baby.

And, if you find that you still feel fearful even after trying the tips mentioned below, please talk to your doctor about what you’re feeling. They will certainly be able to help walk you through it too.

  • Every mama is fearful the first time around for a variety of reasons.
  • Most things you worry about never actually happen!
  • There are a few things you can do to soothe yourself when those fears start to take over too much real estate in your mind.

9 Most Common Fears About Going Into Labor

We’ve all thought of them, and they can really make you feel nuts. Along with those hormones, you may be overwhelmed by your fears of giving birth.

1. Fearing the Unknown

Being afraid of labor often occurs because you don’t know what will happen. You may also be worried that someone’s own wild birth story will happen to you.

Unfortunately, you can’t completely control what happens when you’re in labor and giving birth. You CAN make a birth plan with your doctor and your spouse so everyone knows what makes you most comfortable. Having Plan A, Plan B, and even a backup Plan C can help calm your fears.

Also, choosing a doctor who makes you feel comfortable can help you with this fear of the unknown. It’s very common to worry about the labor process because it is different for every woman and every birth, even with the same woman.

Being prepared is the only way to conquer it.

I like to think of it like preparing for a hurricane. If you live in storm-prone states, you should have all your supplies ready at the start of hurricane season. You can’t change the weather no matter what you wish, but you can prepare for it. Labor is exactly like that, so prepare for your storm, and you’ll be able to ride through whatever comes your way.

2. Fear of Pain

Our bodies are amazing vessels in that they are designed for this. Still, the pain you’ll feel is genuine. And it is OK to ask for medications to relieve that pain.

I had an epidural that I didn’t take when I was trying to deliver my eldest. Since she turned around inside me, it really didn’t matter because the pain was astronomical. Then they rushed me in for an emergency c-section and soon, I was completely numbed from that pain.

mom in labor pain

If you prefer more natural methods, it is never too early to speak with your doctor about what you can do for this pain. And also what to do if those methods aren’t helping you with the pain. Having this in your plan will ensure that if things get too much for you, there will be a way to handle it that aligns with you.

3. Fear of C-Sections

As many of you know, I am a mama with 2 c-sections. The first was by way of emergency, while the second was fully planned because I didn’t want to go through labor again as I did with my first. I feared that I would have my labor stall or that this one would also turn around inside of me, and I simply felt more comfortable just going into the surgery.

It was easier when it was planned.

Honestly, you may not have control over this. If something comes up and the best thing for you and the baby is to have that c-section, then that’s what you must do. Talk to your doctor about this and make a backup birth plan in the event a c-section is necessary.

And I know it’s easier said than done, but a c-section is routine these days. You can put your fears at ease by choosing a doctor and a hospital that has experience with c-sections just in case. This way, if you must have one, you will know that you’re in the best possible place to have one.

4. Fear of the Epidural

This one is a bit amusing as I think of my younger self. When I was in my early 20s, I thought I didn’t want kids. No way did I want that giant epidural needle poking me, not to mention squeezing something the size of a watermelon out of that hole down there. Nope!

What’s funny is that you do not even see this needle. And you don’t feel it either. All you feel is the bliss of the pain melting away. Mine did work for a short time until my eldest turned the wrong way. For most of you, though, this should work like a dream, and you will not even feel it when it goes in.

Still, I understand it is scary, so tell your doctor your concerns. A good doctor will do everything to make you comfortable. They do this all the time! Trust in that, and you will release these fears.

5. Fear of Pooping During Delivery

Yes, you could poop or even pee while trying to deliver your baby. When I first heard that, I thought I could not possibly do this. But you must remember that doctors and nurses are specially trained medical professionals. They have seen this thing many times before. They will not be disgusted with you if you go #1 or #2 all over the table or the floor.

Honestly, they aren’t focusing on this. They’re focusing on helping you deliver your baby.

On another note, it feels embarrassing at first to have ALL those people looking at your parts. But you get over it really quickly. No one is judging you for how you look or whether you poop or pee during the process, I promise you this. It will be the last thing you think about when you’re having contractions!

6. Fear of Not Getting to the Hospital in Enough Time for Delivery

Only in the movies do they make labor look like it takes an hour. The reality is that it takes a LOT longer. Like a LOTTTTT.

True that my water erupted in a most spectacular way, like in the movies; this is such a rare occurrence. And when that DID happen to me, it was nearly 24 hours before I finally delivered the baby.

African American woman having labor

We rushed to the hospital when my water broke like that, and in that situation, which was wise because they needed to monitor our vitals. But for my youngest, when I started having contractions late at night, I knew it was stupid to rush to the hospital. My water wasn’t pouring out of me, though. Totally different scenario.

You will have enough time to get to the hospital in almost every situation. If this fear is plaguing your thoughts, though, speak to your doctor about what to do in the event you can’t get there on time. They will give you actionable things you can do, and having a plan, as I said before, really can put your mind at ease.

Most things you worry about will never come to fruition, so you’re wasting energy dwelling. Get a plan together just in case, and if you have to use it (you probably won’t), then you’ll know what to do.

7. Fear of Dying

I have always had a fear of dying. ALWAYS. So when I was pregnant with my youngest and wanted another c-section to avoid the chaos I’d endured with my eldest, I became terrified that I would die.

I’d die, my in-laws would raise my eldest in China, and she’d be stuck there forever. Oh, my mind went on and on about this. I’d talk to my parents weekly, who assured me repeatedly that I wouldn’t die and everything would be fine.

Spoiler alert: I did not die and everything in fact was fine.

Yes, there is always a risk this can happen. But guess what? You also have a chance of dying in a car accident. You have a risk of choking to death on your dinner tonight.

Please don’t be scared of dying. While the statistics are a little spooky, with the maternal mortality rate for 2020 at 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births, this JAMA article explains a little more in detail about how things are counted and what’s behind them if you care to read it.

And if you don’t, the bottom line is this…there is a risk in everything we do. We book a flight to visit family. And we hope that the flight arrives safely. Sometimes planes crash, unfortunately.

You could have routine surgery or go to the hospital for an illness and die.

I so relate to you being afraid of dying during childbirth. However, despite these statistics, the odds are in your favor because most of these deaths are usually due to specific prenatal complications or poor medical care. You can check the statistics at your local hospital or birth center and your doctor’s records. This will help you calm down this fear.

8. Fear of Tearing Down There

Mamas that deliver vaginally are often afraid of having an episiotomy to repair the tear down there. I was also scared, though I worried about it for no reason since I had to have that c-section.

Yes, tearing does occur during most vaginal deliveries. But you won’t be all destroyed down there. Likely, you may only need a few stitches. Big tears are incredibly rare, and if they do happen, they can also repair them.

If this is your biggest fear, perineal massage is a great way to minimize the amount of tearing that can occur.

9. Fear of a Long Labor

Some mamas are terrified labor will go on forever. And indeed, while it will feel like it’s never-ending, it does come to an end. Most mamas will be in labor for an average of 8 hours. The way to combat these fears is to learn techniques for coping with contractions and pain. You can know them while you’re early in pregnancy, like Lamaze, for example.

Managing Your Childbirth Fears

If you are getting all anxious about these fears, don’t just sit back and let them rule your life. The best thing you can do is learn about all these things that could come up, like c-sections.

Prepare your birth plan and be flexible with it too. Have a backup to that plan and a backup to your backup. Childbirth can get crazy, and having what you want communicated to your doctor, hospital, and spouse can help if things change instantly.

Additionally, you must find a way to relax. This stress serves no one, especially you and that sweet baby. Try yoga or meditation, take a walk in a scenic place, and ensure you’re eating foods nourishing your mind and body. And yes, enjoy that craving for something special once in a while, too, in moderation.

If these things still don’t help and you feel like anxiety and fear are taking over your life, please tell your doctor. They can help you find a counselor that specializes in handling these fears.

Remember, being scared of childbirth is a normal thing, but much of what you fear will happen will not. And even if it does, say in the form of an emergency c-section, you’re going to get through it just fine.

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