Overcoming a fear of giving birth

The fear of childbirth is very real for many women

April 05 2023

Apprehension is a normal response when we are confronted with something new such as pregnancy and birth, but an intense fear can become toxic and is not helpful. Furthermore, the less we have to do with physical fear and worry in our lives, the more we create it in our minds.

The fear around childbirth has increased and in the year 2000, became officially known as ‘tokophobia’. The extent of the fear ranges from severe and usually related to something that has happened in childhood or one’s own mother and previous birth experience (around one in 10 women), to mild fear, which is expected.

Be mindful, the culture of fear around labour and birth affects you by the horror stories told by women, the dramatic pictures of birth brought to you via the media and of course the disaster stories spread by the health profession itself. You are conditioned to fear the birth process before you ever actually experience it.

But, really, if it was that bad or not worth it, why would so many women go through it and many times over at that?

Dealing with fear

Women all over the world worry. Fear is a very common emotion in pregnancy and the key is to use it, rather than letting it use you. Let the fear guide you to where you need to do more work or get more information. Having a good caregiver that you trust and who will listen and allow you to express your fears will also help. Keep in mind these tips:

  • Choose to birth where you feel most comfortable and with caregivers whom you trust.
  • Organise a good support team for your labour and birth.
  • Name your fears and talk about them or write about them.
  • Problem solve with your carer and support team.
  • Practise relaxation techniques during the pregnancy.
  • Meditate.
  • Use positive self talk or affirmations such as: I can do this; It is just a day in my life and soon my baby will be in my arms; This is good pain and it is bringing my baby to me; I am strong and healthy and the pain is normal. (Using your own words is more effective.)
  • Use massage in labour

The key to fighting the fear of childbirth is to develop more trust in the birth process and in your ability to cope with the outcome, whatever that may be!

Birth is a journey and often no matter what you do, the unexpected can happen. There is a lot to be gained from meeting your own individual challenges and not comparing your experience to any ideal. Do the best you can and remember that whatever happens, you can handle it!