Common Labor and Delivery Fears and How to Stay Positive - Baby Chick
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Common Labor and Delivery Fears and How to Stay Positive

It's natural to experience anxiety when thinking about your upcoming birth. Here are common labor and delivery fears and how to manage them.

Published June 16, 2022 Opinion

When it comes to giving birth, there are a lot of unknowns. That first time can be a bit more intense, though, because you genuinely have no idea what to expect. You hear the stories from other women, and you work hard to be prepared, but you still may have some lingering anxiety. No matter how many times you’ve given birth, each time is different. You may have some fears in subsequent pregnancies as well. Experiencing these common labor and delivery fears is completely normal, but most of the time, a waste of worry!

Many of these fears that go into giving birth are common among all women. We all think about what the experience will be like and try to be as prepared as we can. Here are the most common labor and delivery fears and how to stay positive.

Common Labor and Delivery Fears

What if I don’t make it in time and give birth in my car?

This scenario is improbable because first births aren’t that fast. First-time moms are in active labor for between four and eight hours, and the entire process takes at least 12 to 24 hours. So you can be confident that you’ll probably make it to the hospital on time.1 The process can be faster for second births but still not quicker than your typical car ride. Here’s some information on when to go to the hospital when you’re in labor.

What if I don’t know I’m in labor?

You will know. While you may experience Braxton Hicks as a warm-up, they have definite differences from the real thing. Braxton Hicks are not painful, but real active contractions will be. Once you’re in active labor, you won’t be able to talk or move a lot during your contractions.

How bad is it going to hurt?

It can be overwhelming to dwell on how much you think giving birth will hurt. The key here is to remember that your body is made for doing this. There are things in place for you to get through it. Your endorphins will rise during labor, which helps relieve pain and decrease anxiety.2 While it hurts, it’s more the intensity that I remember. Your body will help you through the process. If you decide to have an epidural, you can do that, too, to help with the pain.

What if I poop while pushing?

Pooping while pushing is entirely normal and nothing to worry about. Pushing out a baby feels like bearing down, similar to a bowel movement, so it isn’t surprising that you may have one while pushing. Your baby also places a lot of pressure on your colon. So while you try to push your baby down and out, your baby is pressing against your colon and can cause you to poop without knowing. Some may be aware while it’s happening, but you won’t care. You will be focused on getting that baby out. Plus, your care team has seen it before, probably many times. They will clean it up immediately and move on.

What if the baby gets stuck?

A baby can get stuck in the birth canal for a few reasons, but they are not common.3 Making sure you are in the best position to give birth will help open things up for your baby to get through your pelvis and out of the vaginal canal. Your support team can instruct you on the best positions and movements to give your baby the most space possible. Your doctor can perform a C-section if something happens to get the baby out. Shoulder Dystocia is a condition where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck, but there are ways for the doctor to help get the baby out.4

Will my vagina ever be the same?

This question is a bit complicated. The vagina will shrink to about its pre-pregnancy size after birth, but it takes some time to recover in both shape and muscle strength fully. Kegels can be beneficial for strengthening those muscles.5 The most important thing is to give yourself time. You just did an incredible thing, and your vagina needs time to heal.

Will my partner look at my body/my vagina ever the same?

Your partner had their world shaken up too, so, for some, it might take some time for them to recover. That’s okay, though, because you’re not supposed to jump back into sex after giving birth anyway. It is recommended that you wait four to six weeks or later if you are not ready.6 You will probably be more self-conscious about your body over things that your partner isn’t even going to notice. It may take some time, but things will come back.

What if I’m too late for the epidural?

This scenario happened to me with my second. I did have an epidural with my first baby because I had a long labor. When things started getting intense with my second baby, I asked for an epidural, but while the anesthesiologist gave the liability speech, I realized it was too late. I felt the urge to push and sent him away. While it’s technically never too late to get an epidural, it does take about 15 to 30 minutes to place one and then another 20 minutes before you get the full effects.7 If you feel like your baby is coming sooner than that, there may not be enough time for you to get the full benefits. However, you will do what you need to do. While pushing was super intense, my recovery was much easier.

What if the epidural doesn’t work?

If the epidural doesn’t work, you have options. They can try adding more medication or redoing your epidural. You can also try more natural pain-relieving comfort techniques to get you through. I experienced birth once with an epidural and once without. Both experiences were intense, but you will tap into survival mode either way and find a way through it to get your baby out safely.

What if it ends up in a C-section?

This was one of my biggest fears with my first baby, and I was close to this happening because of how long I’d been in labor. The idea can be scary, but the procedure is so routine that you can be sure the doctors know what they’re doing. According to the CDC,  31.8% of all deliveries in 2020 were done by C-section.8 But it’s okay to have this fear. Just know that if it does happen, you did nothing wrong, and you will join a sisterhood of incredible belly birthers.

What if something is wrong with my baby?

Before your baby is born, you already love him. It is only natural to worry about something going wrong. Remember that you have your support team with you, and they will get you everything you need. There are some things that doctors can spot at birth, but others you may need to pay attention to in the coming days.9

What if my birth plan changes?

Planning how you want things to go is essential during pregnancy. It helps calm your mind and focus on the most important things during the process. Worrying about it changing won’t do any good. Things can change, and they probably will. But you will adapt because your primary concern is getting your baby into the world as safely as possible. Write your birth plan in such a manner that accounts for this flexibility.

What if I end up with a traumatic birth?

This point was a real fear of mine going into my second birth because my first birth was a bit traumatic with how long I was in labor and the problems I had afterward. I didn’t want to go through that again, but I also knew I wanted this baby and would do whatever I could to keep him safe. So, remember that you have chosen your care provider and the hospital/birth center/or home to give birth in. You have your loved ones supporting you. Ask them to be your advocates during birth. And if things happen that cause trauma, birth trauma therapy can be helpful for recovery.10

It’s easy to let these common labor and delivery fears get the best of you. When it comes to childbirth, things can change. You may not be able to follow your exact birth plan. And things may happen in a way you didn’t expect. The idea of going into labor can be intimidating. But gaining as much knowledge as possible and surrounding yourself with a solid birth support team will help you become calmer and more prepared.

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Kristen N. Winiarski spends much of her days battling her kids' hangry moods with bacon and Cookie Monster impressions. She also encourages dance parties as P.E. whenever possible. Kristen started… Read more

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