Tips to help you deal with Birth Anxiety

If you are nearing your due date, you're probably more than ready to have the baby! But there is also a lingering anxiety, fear even, that the thought of giving birth brings about. Most moms feel anxious about labour  and birth, even if it isn't their first time. I'm due with my second child, but that has done little to ease my nerves about the impending birth.

There are many factors that lead to this birth anxiety. I don't use this term to describe antenatal anxiety, for which professional help or medication may be required. I mean it as a general description of being worried about what is to come, whether it is your first baby or a subsequent one.

As your due date gets closer, anxiety about the birth may get hold of you. Some great tips here to help you deal with this.

Why we have these pre-birth worries may be due to some or all these reasons:

1. Lack of exposure to birth - Back in the times when there was a village to rely on, friends, neighbours, and family members would flock to help a woman during pregnancy and labour, even helping in the delivery. Now, birthing moms mainly have help except from spouses, doulas, or midwives. So, the average woman is closely associated only with her own birth or perhaps a sibling. This creates a fear of the unknown.

2. Hospitals equal uncertainty - There are few who get the intervention-free, peaceful birth they envision. What we have instead are cold, white labour rooms and operation theaters where we feel completely out of control during the birth. We have to constantly worry about whether things are going the way we want, while dealing with doctors and nurses who may be going in the other direction. So, the scenario is often that you go into a hospital with labour in progress, but can't be really certain about how things will end up.

3. Previous birth experiences - As mentioned above, things don't always go as planned. Your first birth may not have gone as expected. In fact, many woman are scarred by their birth experiences which range from negative to traumatic. This is why we become even more determined to have things our way with subsequent births, leading to more anxiety.

We can't really go back to the days when birthing was a more natural than medicated process (which is a good thing too). We have made medical progress, but have somewhere lost the need to keep the emotional well-being of birthing moms in perspective. Unless you have a great support system for a home birth, you will have to rely on your hospital to help bring your baby into the world. Delivering in a hospital in itself isn't a bad thing, but birth anxiety may derive from this lack of emotional support.

While, of course, you can't completely control your birth and labour process, there are a few things you can do to make things easier to handle:

1. Know the facts.

Do your research about the options available to you, from pain relief to medical complications that can arise during labour. This is important, because even if you wont be able to control the sequence of events, you will know what's going on and what the doctors are talking about. Be sure to source your research from reliable medical sources. Blogs and personal websites can, at best, offer opinions and personal experiences which may not apply to your situation.

2. Trust your instincts.

The thing about giving birth is that even doctors cannot completely predict how things will change. You may dilate quicker than expected, or take longer than usual. Whatever the situation, try to stay calm and have faith in your body to do its job. Sometimes, it's just about giving yourself more time, unless there is a medical emergency.

3. Trust your doctor.

While you need to have faith in yourself, there is no point in thinking of your doctor as an opposing faction either. It really depends on what kind of relationship you have with your doctor, and whether they have been supportive of your wishes so far. Doctors do want the best outcome for you, and sometimes, it makes sense to listen to them. We can get so tied up in wanting that perfect birth that we overlook real issues. So, keep an open mind and consider what your doctor advises, although the final decision is always going to be yours.

4. Be prepared for any scenario.

Your Birth Plan should include alternative scenarios, and how you plan to deal with them. You may or may not share such a detailed plan with your doctor, but you must write one for yourself. It's human nature to focus on the positive and expected, and ignore possible change of plans. You can easily brush off subjects that make you uncomfortable, thinking "That's not going to happen to me." Which is why, if the need arises for an emergency c-section, most moms feel lost, hopeless, guilty, and terrified. But such medical emergencies do occur, and you must be prepared to make quick decisions. It's best for everyone if you think them through in advance.

5. Plan ahead, as much as possible.

When you have considered all the scenarios, think of the means you will need to get through them. If your stay in the hospital ends up being longer, do you have someone to take care of your other kids? What about if your labour if prolonged? Do you have enough supplies in your hospital bag? The third trimester of pregnancy can be tiring, making you want to postpone doing certain things, but having a newborn is even more exhausting, so it's worth making a little effort beforehand. This would include meal planning, grocery shopping, and so on. Also remember to have enough comfortable clothes for your post-pregnancy body.

6. Focus on the baby.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but try to avoid thinking too much about the challenges of labour and birth, and focus on making the best decisions for  a healthy baby. It's best to take labor each step at a time, listen to your instincts, and move on with the best route.

It makes sense to remember that the process of birth, as difficult as it is, will not last more than a day or two. Whereas, you will be a new parent soon after, involving months and years of raising a baby. How you give birth is only the prologue to the parenting story.

You would also benefit from creating an After Birth Plan that focuses in your needs as a new mom.

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