As you’re nearing the final weeks, labor and delivery are no doubt looming larger in your mind. Anxiety over labor is common—even if you’ve taken every birth class you could sign up for, prepared an extensive birth plan, and already packed your hospital bag (and repacked it a dozen times). While it’s perfectly normal to be anxious over an event as huge as giving birth, there are some steps you can take to reduce your anxiety level.
At this point in your pregnancy, you probably haven’t seen feet while standing up in weeks. You might have gained as much as 27 or 28 pounds, you’re having trouble sleeping, and things are aching more or less all the time. Labor and birth anxiety is the last thing you want to deal with on top of all your physical symptoms—but sometimes that’s just the way it is.
Information can be the best antidote to anxiety. In general, labor and birth anxiety fears fall into a few categories:
- Pain. This is easily one of the most common fears expectant moms deal with, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Lamaze mom who plans to deep-breathe through the delivery, or you’re heading straight for an epidural. The good news is that there are lots of ways your healthcare provider can help you deal with the pain of childbirth, and preparation (mental and physical) is the best approach.
- Embarrassment. There’s no doubt that giving birth is an intimate process. Even in a room full of people who completely support you, it’s not uncommon for laboring moms to worry about pooping during pushing, not being able to handle the pain, or losing your cool. As much as these developments might worry you, here’s a secret: no one else in the room with you will care (and if they do, they don’t belong in the room!).
- Complications. Birth is messy and can sometimes be a drawn-out, and medicalized process. Many moms worry about all the things that can go wrong, whether that means going off your carefully considered birth plan or having an emergency C-section. While it is impossible to know what will happen, you can try to take comfort in the fact that the vast majority of births in the United States end up with both a healthy mama and a healthy baby, and hopefully you have a good relationship with a healthcare provider you trust to help you make the best decisions.
Overall, the key to dealing with these types of fears is to keep open lines of communication with your support team, which can include your partner, members of your family, friends, and your medical team. Surround yourself with people who support you and want to help, not those who only want to scare you with their birth horror stories, and you’ve taken a powerful step to dealing with the normal fears that arise.
Your baby’s fetal age is now 30 weeks—he or she might weigh as much as 3.5 pounds and measure 18 inches from the top of the head to the tips of the toes. Believe it or not, this is very close to the birth length your baby will likely achieve before delivery. From now on, although your baby will still be gaining weight rapidly, most of the growth will be getting rounder, not longer.
One of the interesting things that happens late is pregnancy is the slow emergence of your baby’s personality. As your baby’s nervous system and brain have continued to develop, he or she has likely developed certain patterns and preferences that can stick for life. Maybe they are more active at night or have an usually high activity level. Perhaps they are already “sucking” their thumb, or they like to pedal their feet. Maybe they already like certain flavors and dislike others. Amazingly, when you talk to parents of older children, they can often recognize habits or preferences in their children that started before birth.
“One way to conquer the unknown is to take a good childbirth preparation class.”
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020