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Fear of childbirth

7-minute read

Key facts

  • You may experience fear before giving birth — this is a normal emotion.
  • There are things you can do to help manage your fear.
  • If you’re worried, it’s important to speak to your midwife or doctor about what to expect.

Types of fears about childbirth

There are many reasons why you may feel scared or worried about the actual birth process. Some fears you may have about labour are:

  • fear of the unknown
  • pain or birth injury
  • interventions during labour
  • using your bowels during birth
  • not making it to hospital in time
  • a previous difficult birth

Fear of the unknown

Fear of giving birth can stem from not knowing what is going to happen. Every labour is different. And it can be hard to prepare when you are unsure what is going to happen.

You may not feel confident that you can go through the process of giving birth. You may feel concerned about negative stories you have heard.

It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and midwife about your birth choices and preferences. Often when people are informed and involved in decision making they feel more relaxed. This can help you feel more in control and help you cope better with labour.

You might like to think about making a birth plan. A birth plan is a written plan that outlines what you would like to happen during your labour. Preparing a birth plan allows you to explore all your options. A birth plan can also help other people who will be present at your baby’s birth.

Think about who you would like at the birth with you. Talk to them about your feelings.

Every labour and birth is different. You can’t predict exactly what will happen. That’s why it’s a good idea for your birth plan to be flexible.

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.

Make sure you have the telephone number for the hospital's maternity unit or delivery suite handy. Call them if you think you are in labour. They will let you know when to come into hospital.

Very few births in Australia occur outside a hospital or birth centre. Sometimes this happens when a baby comes early.

Some people find it helpful to learn what to do if the labour starts early. This can be a good idea if you live a long way from hospital. Have emergency contact details handy so you can phone for advice.


There are different ways you can relieve pain during labour.

There are non-medical and medical pain management methods. Your doctor or midwife can discuss the different options to help you prepare.

Interventions during labour

Sometimes your baby will need help to be born. Your doctor or midwife may recommend an intervention. This might be a caesarean section or an epidural.

Understanding your options beforehand can help you feel empowered and in control. It’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare team. You might find that going to antenatal classes and reading educational material can also help.

Using your bowels (pooping) during birth

You’ve probably heard that people 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. You may not even realise it has happened.

Birth injury

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. They will support you before, during and after your birth.

A previous difficult birth experience

You may find that a new pregnancy brings up emotions about your previous birth experiences. If the previous experience was difficult, there can be emotions that were not dealt with before.

It can help if you talk about these feelings with your doctor and midwife. They can guide you to the right sort of support you need. This will help your current pregnancy.

Ways to manage your fear

If you are feeling worried or anxious about your birth, it will help to prepare both mentally and physically.

Some strategies that may help you manage your fears around childbirth include:

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 you 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.

If you need to talk to someone about your mental health, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Resources and support

If you are feeling fearful and overwhelmed, or your fears are affecting your life, contact:

Your local Child and Family Health Centre can help you once you have your baby. They will be able to refer you to other supports if needed.

If you speak a language other than English, you can find fact sheets in other languages on the Royal Women’s Hospital site.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2024

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Need more information?

Fear of birth (Tokophobia) - COPE

Tokophobia, or fear of pregnancy and /or childbirth is rare and typically divided into two different types: primary and secondary.

Read more on COPE - Centre of Perinatal Excellence website

Psychological strategies for preparing for labour - COPE

While every birth is different, there are a few things that are useful to keep in mind for preparing for labour.

Read more on COPE - Centre of Perinatal Excellence website

Pain Relief in Labour and Childbirth

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Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Antenatal classes

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Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder | Peach Tree

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Read more on Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness website

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