The definition of fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat, also to be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.
Fear in childbirth is an unpleasant emotion/ thought pattern caused by the belief that birth is dangerous and or causes severe pain.
During pregnancy many women find that at times they feel worried or scared of giving birth. Feelings of worry or nervousness may increase as the due date gets nearer.
In childbirth many pregnant women have many unanswered questions. “How will I know I am in labor?” “How big will my baby be?” How long will the birth take?” “How will I behave during labor?”
These things are uncertain and for some people may be the cause of anxiety. Some women find that they actually feel very fearful. Fear of birth can range from having understandable legitimate fears, right through to being very fearful of even death.
- 20% of pregnant moms feel fearful during pregnancy, especially if it is their first baby. (80%)
- 13% of women delay becoming pregnant because of fear.
- 6% of women find this fear disabling, taking over their life.
There are many reasons why women may be fearful of giving birth, but here are a few common causes:
- Learned fear: Negative ideas about periods, sex, pregnancy and birth learnt while growing up can affect confidence in our bodies and how they work. Difficult birth stories are retold more than easier ones. Increased medical management of pregnancy and birth can sometimes add to our belief that birth is dangerous.
- General anxiety: You may be prone to anxiety, “a bit of a worrier”. Others in your family may also be worriers.
- Trauma and abuse: Experiences of rape and childhood sexual abuse can be factors. Those who have previously had a traumatic experience giving birth may also suffer.
Pain -Fear- Tension Cycle
According to the Fear Tension Pain theory of pain management, the fear (or stress) a woman experiences during labor causes her body to react in ways that increase the pain. The originator of this theory, Dr. Dick-Read, hypothesized labor was not inherently painful. He believed the pain in labor was largely due to the fear of labor prevalent in the culture. He taught the birth canal could be obstructed by this fear. As the labor becomes dysfunctional, the pain increases and the mother’s fear of what is happening increases and so increases the tension she feels and increases the pain which then cycles back to increase her fear.
The first thing to do is to acknowledge your fear. As a natural part of being a human being we all have them. But the important thing is to uncover and address your specific fears prior to labor. Labor is controlled by your sub-conscious mind, not your conscious mind. Fear in labor produces excess amounts of stress hormones in our body that can tighten up your muscles and limit the supply of oxygen to your uterus and your baby.
FAITH. Faith is believing that all is well. Faith is trusting that our bodies were designed to give birth safely and painlessly.
Faith is not the opposite of reason. Having faith does not mean that we sit back and do nothing during our pregnancy. When we have faith, we understand the psychological origins for the majority of pain and problems most women encounter in labor and we do our best to face and conquer our fears.
Having faith is the first step towards eliminating the fear/tension/pain cycle that most women experience in labor, for faith leads to relaxation, and relaxation leads to pleasure.
So, to alleviate the pain we must eliminate the fear.
In the Bible it states that:
2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.
Love is a powerful force- Love or intimacy releases oxytocin which leads to a whole lot of natural endorphins that aid in the birthing process.
What can you do if you feel fearful?
- Join a pregnancy/prenatal class: Preparing for labor through education, birth planning and mental/emotional work can stop the cycle at the fear point and give you more confidence.
- Get a Doula : A Doula is trained to assist the birthing mother to alleviate fear and pain during labor and delivery in numerous ways.
- Talk about it: Write out your fears and explain your feelings to your spouse or birth partner.
- Have a positive attitude: Women’s bodies are made to give birth. Most births are straightforward. Surround yourself with positive stories. Believe that you can give birth without fear.
- Find out the facts: Take control by reading up on your choices. This can include everything from where you have your baby, pain relief options and who you have with you.
- Pray: Spiritual practices that take away stress, anxiety, and unbelief are helpful, also the thought that God is involved in the process is very empowering for some people.