Fear of childbirth
Some females experience fear before giving birth but there are things you can do to help manage this. If you’re worried, it’s important to speak to your midwife or doctor about what to expect.
If you’re feeling anxious and stressed, this is not ideal for you or your baby. Talk to your healthcare professional or use some of the techniques below to prepare for your birth.
Types of fears about childbirth
Fear of the unknown
Fear of childbirth can stem from not knowing what is going to happen.
Sometimes first-time parents may not feel confident that they can give birth. Other times, you may feel concerned about negative stories they have heard.
Some females find that a new pregnancy brings up unresolved emotions about previous experiences. It can help if you talk about these feelings with your doctor and midwife so they can guide you to appropriate support.
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and midwife about your birth choices and preferences. When females are informed and involved in decision making they tend to feel more relaxed and in control which can help you better cope with labour.
You might like to think about making a birth plan that documents the type of birth experience you would like. Every labour and birth is different. They can be unpredictable so it’s a good idea for your birth plan to be flexible.
There are different ways you can relieve pain during labour.
There are natural and medical pain management methods. Your doctor or midwife can discuss the different options to help you prepare.
You may be worried about a birth injury such as a tear to your perineal area.
Your doctors, midwives and nurses will be there to look after you and support you before during and after your birth.
Interventions during labour
Sometimes your baby will need help to be born. Your doctor or midwife may recommend an intervention such as a caesarean section or an epidural.
Understanding your options can help you feel empowered and in control. You can do this by talking to your healthcare team, going to antenatal classes and reading educational material.
Using your bowels during birth
You’ve probably heard that women can unintentionally poo and wee during childbirth. It’s nothing to worry about — your doctor and midwife have seen it all before. They will discretely clean this up and you may not even realise it has happened.
Think about who you would like at the birth with you and talk to them about your fears.
Not making it to the hospital in time
The first stage of labour may take longer than you expect. There is usually plenty of time to get to hospital.
Call your hospital's maternity unit or delivery suite if you think you are in labour.
A very small percentage of births in Australia occur outside a hospital or birth centre. If you are worried about this or you live in a remote area, it might help you to learn about what to do if your labour comes early.
Ways to manage your fear
If you are feeling worried or anxious about your birth, it will help to prepare mentally and physically. Some strategies that may help you manage your fear of childbirth include:
- becoming well informed and learning about birth
- attending antenatal classes — or birth classes
- practising relaxation techniques
- preparing a birth plan
- practising meditation or yoga
- eating healthily
- talking to someone who you trust such as a counsellor, your midwife, doctor or other mums
When it's something more serious
For a very small number of women, fear of childbirth can become overwhelming. This is called tokophobia. Sometimes the fear is so intense that women may avoid having babies altogether.
Other women may experience antenatal anxiety, depression, or post traumatic stress disorder following a difficult birth. These conditions are serious and need treatment.
Where to get help
If you are feeling fearful and overwhelmed, or your fears are affecting your life, contact:
- your doctor
- PANDA: 1300 726 306
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to talk to a maternal child health nurse.
Your local Child and Family Health Centre can help you once you have your baby and refer you to other supports if needed.
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Last reviewed: June 2022