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I’m so scared to give birth. Is this normal?

It's totally normal to be scared of giving birth. Our advice columnist shares her best tips to overcome your fears and anxieties.

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Dear Is This Normal,

Soon-to-be parent here: How do I manage all the fear and anxiety I am feeling about labor and delivery?

Signed,
Distressed About Delivery

Dear Distressed,

Personally, I would be a wee bit concerned if you didn’t have some fears and anxieties around labor and delivery! This isn’t a root canal or physical, if you know what I mean. This is a MAJOR life event. And with your first baby, without any context or direct experience, you have no idea what is going to go down. The fear and anxieties you’re feeling are so completely normal, trust me. Hell, even people who’ve had more than one baby are a bit scared of giving birth and anxious each and every time, because labor and delivery is very unpredictable and it’s pretty impossible to plan for each and every contingency.

I’m the kind of person who prefers to deal with fear and anxiety by confronting it head on, and I did the same with both of my babies. It really helped to identify exactly what I was scared of with giving birth, and break that down into smaller pieces. And that is my first bit of advice for you! Write down your fears and what’s causing you anxiety about labor and delivery. Is it the pain? The uncertainty? The loss of control? The physical and emotional toll it can take? Identify the things that are causing you the most anxiety and that you are the most afraid of—this is your Conquer List. The items on your Conquer List will likely fall into two categories: things you have (at least some) control over, and things that are wholly out of your hands. Now, we’re going to take each of those parts and deal with them separately.

For the things on your list that are somewhat in your control, I encourage you to talk to your support people (midwife, doula, your birthing partner, friends who’ve had kids) and work through some of these fears. Freaked out about the pain? Schedule an appointment with your doc to talk through all of your pain management options. Scared of how you’ll get through what can sometimes be hours of labor? Work closely with a doula on some laboring and birthing practices like meditation and breathing. 

And most importantly, talk to your friends who’ve been there, and listen to what worked for them, what they’d do differently, and get an idea of what you can expect when it’s go-time. There’s a lot about labor and delivery that’s out of your hands, sure. But there’s plenty you can take control of and manage yourself, so it feels less like something that’s happening *to* you and more like something that you are directing according to your wishes and concerns. A birth plan can come in really handy too, so even when you’re busy birthing, your L&D team knows exactly how best to support you and advocate for your needs.

Now, for the other half of your Conquer List—the scary stuff you can’t control or predict or plan for. There’s probably a lot of stuff on that side of the list! And understandably so. It’s SCARY! It’s scary not knowing what’s going to happen, but also knowing that things can go wrong. It’s scary to be in a simultaneously powerful and vulnerable position, with literal lives in your proverbial hands. It’s scary to go through such an intense, difficult process after months and months of anticipation. It’s OK to be scared of giving birth. But if you feel like your fear is starting to dictate your response, or is impacting your ability to enjoy your pregnancy or impeding on your joy over your impending arrival, I highly encourage you to connect with and talk to a therapist who specializes in or has experience with childbirth fears. You absolutely do not have to navigate these fears on your own, and a therapist can help you learn how to manage them. Your OBGYN or midwife should be able to recommend someone. It’s OK to not know how to process all of this, and it’s SUPER OK to seek the help of someone who does.

Delivered with Love and Support, 

Is This Normal

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