The truth about the fear of childbirth: 5 tips to control the jitters

Posted By Janine Kelbach, RN
November 17, 2017

Starting when you were a little girl, you dreamt of the day you became a mother.Even the thought of how many children probably crossed your mind. If the thought of becoming a mother is wonderful, but the actual delivery part is terrifying, you’re not alone. Many women have a fear of childbirth, also known as, tokophobia. Tokophobia can lead to a more painful delivery and a higher risk of postpartum depression. We’re going to tackle the five biggest fears women have, and the truth behind them.


Fear #1: “I Will Not Able to Handle the Pain”

Reality Check – Women tell me, “I am a baby when I have pain, and I want every medication, so I don’t have pain.” Let’s be real, no pain, no gain. There will be pain. The reality is, we have medicine for it. The pain isn’t going to come on like a ton of bricks. The contractions will be mild at first. When they are, try to watch a movie, nap in between, and breathe until you really need something for pain. Give your body a chance. I promise, you will be able to handle early labor.


Fear #2: Delivering the Baby Outside the Hospital

Reality Check – Though babies deliver outside the hospital, it’s rare. If you feel the extreme urge to push before you get into the hospital walls, it’s important to keep the infant warm by putting the infant skin to skin with you. Then again, this is rare. To avoid it, start timing your contractions early on when labor starts. Once they are 10 minutes apart, and painful, it’s time to go to the hospital


Fear #3: Having an Unplanned C-section

Reality Check – The biggest fear I witness for patients is the fear of an unplanned c-section. Your delivery team want you to have a vaginal delivery. It’s safer for you and the baby. Though, keep an open mind and know, a c-section is plan B. Although it’s not in your plan, we do many of them, and you will be safe.


Fear #4: Loss of Control

Reality Check – Having control of your life is important. Women manage their households by grocery shopping, menu planning, planning outings, and work of daily to-do lists to keep their household in order. When the delivery day comes, the loss of control sets in. I tell women, “I understand labor is scary for you because you cannot control how the labor will be. I can’t control it, your spouse can’t control it, nor can the doctor. We need to let nature take its course, and I will do my best to deliver you a healthy baby, and a keep a healthy mom.” As blunt as it sounds, telling the mother to let go of her control helps her relax. The fear of losing control of their emotions while experiencing pain is also a common fear as well as having a bowel movement while pushing. I promise ladies, it’s nothing we haven’t seen, and we will help bring you back to Earth if you have a moment where you lose control. It’s worse for you than it is for us.


5 Tips for Fighting the Fear

  1. Stop listening to birth horror stories. Everyone gets their own birth story and everyone’s is different.
  2. Learn to breathe. The act of breathing is the number one piece of advice I tell my patients, from the moment they walk in the door. Breathing will help you through everything, and it’s good for your baby and uterus.
  3. Educate yourself. Go to a birthing class, even if you plan an epidural. To help prepare yourself, take a tour of the birthing unit.
  4. Have support. If you think your spouse or mother will not give you the support you need during labor, consider hiring a doula who will be by your side helping you breathe and stay calm.
  5. Ask for help. If you struggle with tokophobia, look into therapy to help calm yourself before labor.

About Janine Kelbach, RN

Janine is an RN who has worked in labor and delivery since 2006. In 2012, she started freelance writing on the side to use her “nurse” brain in a different way. She now writes full-time at WriteRN.


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