Thursday, November 10, 2011

{Ottawa Doula} What to do when you're afraid of birth

After posting about the NHS's plans to offer c-sections for free in the UK, I have noticed an increase in traffic from people googling "scared of birth, should I have a c-section."

This has really touched me, and I wish there was some way I could reach out to these women and give them a hug. So here's my way - a blog post!

Preparing for birth can be a scary and overwhelming experience. I remember coming home from my first prenatal class, curling up into a ball and having a huge cry. The reality of what I was about to face hit me over the head like a ton of bricks, and I didn't know how to deal with the fear.

I studied for birth like it was a PhD comprehensive exam. When I would hear about other women's wonderful birth stories, I would suddenly become fearful - what if that doesn't happen to me? What if I can't do it? What if it all turns out "bad"?

The thing I've come to realize as a doula is that a woman who is well prepared, and well supported, can have a positive experience regardless of the outcome. Happy birth stories can happen in any hospital, with any care provider, as long as the woman feels like the director of her own experience.

Here are some information and tips for women out there who are scared of birth and considering a c-section instead:

1) What are your specific fears? There are most likely 2 or 3 things that you are dreading - for some women, it's the pain; for others, it's the possibility of a tear; others fear things like vomiting, being naked, or losing control (by making too much noise, fainting, or doing other "crazy" things)

2) Write out a plan of how you will deal with this fear if it does happen. Visualize it happening, and then visualize yourself dealing with the situation. Talk to someone about your fears, and have them work through them with you.

3) Hire a doula. Your husband can not be your "everything" and he will be scared as well. Most likely he has his own set of fears. If you can't afford a doula, ask for a friend or family member who has given birth (and who has a positive birth story to tell) to support you.

4) Make sure you have a good caregiver. You all know my thoughts on midwifery care. There is no one better equipped than a midwife to calm your fears.

5) Take a GOOD prenatal class. The classes offered at the hospital are usually biased and extremely boring. Look around for prenatal educators in your community who offer alternative classes. Here are a few great ones in Ottawa:

Ottawa Childbirth Education Association

Birthing From Within Classes

Bradley Method

It's worth the money - another option is to hire a doula who is a childbirth educator, and ask her for some one-on-one classes in addition to your prenatal appointments.

Any other tips or thoughts out there for women who are afriad of birth?


  1. Great post Misty! I also studied and educated myself like crazy. For me - knowledge was power. The more I knew, the more comfortable I was with the situation. I was not scared and am happy with how I powered through my birth experience. I think one of the most important points you made is having a plan. If you don't set out your goals and a vision of how you want your birth to go, you will not have any control over the birth.

  2. Thanks for this post. I agree with everything you say, Misty!
    My first birth was a cesarean under a general anesthetic. My doctor gave very grave predictions for any future pregnancies, so when I became pregnant with my second (a planned pregnancy), I sank into a deep depression. Thankfully, a friend suggested that I see her doctor – not to change doctors, but just to get a second opinion. What a breath of fresh air he was! Although he was a classically trained MD, his undergrad degree was in music – PLUS, he had midwifery training! He shot down everything the other doctor had said, and I left his office feeling hopeful and positive – happy for the first time – with a totally different reading list.
    Steve and I worked really hard towards the birth we wanted. We read, walked, ate well, used affirmations and visualizations. We also looked realistically at the possibility of another cesarean birth and did our best prep for that as well. I started my labour relaxed and confident, with no fears looming. I had two unmedicated VBACs under the care of this wonderful doctor.
    One thing I would add to your list – “Read positive, helpful books.” At the time (in the 80s) the books that changed my thinking were Silent Knife and Spiritual Midwifery. Now I would add many titles - Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Birthing From Within, Labyrinth of Birth, The Birth Partner.
    I’m sure others can add to this list!

  3. FYI - coupleenrichmentottawa is me!
    Signy Fridriksson


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