Why Are We So Afraid of Giving Birth?

January 13, 2021

Whether you are thinking about having a child or already started your pregnancy journey, you are most likely wondering how you will cope with the birth process. While labor and childbirth is an unknown—unless you have already experienced it and keeping in mind that each birth is different—it has become something that we dread and for some even remembered as the worst day of their lives.

The Birth Stories of Other Women

If you have announced your pregnancy, people may already be sharing their birth story with you out of the blue. Most often what may come your way can be pretty negative. Some of my clients have shared that they’d get stopped in the street and people would proceed to tell them to get an epidural! How weird is that?! I think a lot of people share their negative birth stories as a way to warn you, to prevent you from having the same thing happening to you, but also to process their feelings. If you take a moment to review what you have heard, is there anything that stands out to you? How many positive birth stories have you heard?

The woman who has a positive, empowered birth story is usually the exception. I remember years ago at a birth, my client had a speedy, smooth labor and birth and was really happy. Yet, her doctor told her not to tell anyone that it was so easy for her… I was astonished!

What about how the media portrays birth? Usually this is done in a very dramatic way, things get intense and out of control right away. The truth is, labor can be slow and long. The main focus is usually on not feeling the pain of contractions, but what about real tools to cope?

How Perception & Feelings Impact Labor

The hormones of labor work in such a way that if you are getting into a fight or freeze response during your labor (when you perceive what is happening as danger), it will affect the release of the “good” hormones of labor: mainly Oxytocin (think the love hormone that gives you the fuzzy feeling when you are being hugged) and Endorphin (think natural pain killer). This could prevent you from getting into labor or potentially slow down your labor which can lead to more interventions. There is also a lot to be said about your baby’s positioning and how it affects labor.

Birth used to be an event when women were surrounded and supported. It used to be a family affair, all the women would gather together, share and prepare the pregnant woman for this rite of passage usually with the help of a midwife. With industrialized medicine, you get a few appointments with someone you very often barely know who in the end might not be there the day you are in labor. Where is the time to get to know that person and trust them? Could that make you feel nervous without truly realizing it?

Taking stock of the messages you are carrying around pregnancy and birth will help you identify your own fears and acknowledge where they are coming from. Owning and voicing the fears that are yours only to begin with and working on releasing these fears will ensure that you are as open to the birth experience as possible. You might even surprise yourself and get to a place where you are curious and excited for this experience!

Contributed by Maéva Althaus, Certified Hypnotist and founder of Hypnobirthing NY and The Babywagon. Visit the Hypnobirthing website to register for Maéva’s free workshops on Releasing Fears Around Birth, and follow Fit Pregnancy Club’s instagram to get out our key takeaways from this workshop in the coming weeks.