Having a child for the first time is always a step into the unknown for an expectant mother. Regardless of what they’ve read or what their friends have told them, nothing prepares a mother for childbirth. It is this fear of the unknown that worries expectant mums as their due date approaches. But there are some tried and tested coping strategies you can use in order to make the most common fears a little more bearable as your own labor approaches.
It is not uncommon for expectant mums to worry about things going wrong in the delivery room, but it’s important to remember that deaths during labor are exceedingly rare. According to official U.S. government statistics, there are only around 11 deaths for every 100,000 births, and the figure in the UK is only slightly higher. If you’re worried about what may happen during your time in labor, keep in mind just how rare fatalities are, and that most of those that occur are due to pre-existing complications.
2. A Caesarean section
There is no escaping the fact that a delivery by Caesarean section will leave you sore and immobilized for a while. Although this is a surgical procedure, try to remember that around one in three deliveries in America are made this way. Recovery and recuperation times are shorter than ever, and the procedure is carried out as a matter of routine in most hospitals. In the UK, a C-section is usually carried out if either the mother or the baby is in danger, so you may actually welcome the procedure if there are complications during your labor. If you insist on delivering by C-section, you may need to attend a private birth center to guarantee it.
3. The pain
Pain is a subjective experience, but it is often the mere thought of pain that strikes fear into expectant mothers. Whilst pain is an inevitable part of labor, your body will be ready, and it won’t be long before the endorphins will take control and push your body through the process. Remember, there will be a range of pain relief available to you, which you can request in advance.
4. Not reaching the hospital in time
Most labors, from the first contraction to delivery, last for around eight hours, so you will probably get lots of prior warning. Your contractions will become closer together as delivery approaches, which should give you an indication of how far away you are from delivery. If you are genuinely concerned about making it to the hospital in time, it’s a good idea to prepare an overnight bag and plan your route in advance – so you’re ready to go without delay when the moment finally arrives.
5. Unexpected bowel movements
A combination of pushing, pain, disorientation and pain-relief may cause you to have an accidental bowel movement. While the thought of this may be horrifying prior to the event, it will be the least of your concerns if it actually happens. If it does, try to remember that health professionals see this sort of thing every day of their working lives – there is nothing they haven’t seen before. If you’re worried about your partner witnessing an accident, try to discuss the matter in advance, and bring some humor into the conversation to lighten the mood.
Particularly if you’re expecting your first child, the risk of tears in the vaginal area is significant. Most tears are superficial, and they will either heal naturally or require a few stitches. In the rare event that you suffer a deeper tear that involves several layers of skin and muscle, some reconstruction may be necessary, but that only happens in around four percent of deliveries.
7. An epidural
You may have heard some horror stories about the process of receiving an epidural, but if you are in severe pain, the chances are you will endure anything for pain relief when the time comes. Remember, an epidural is administered in the back, so you probably won’t see it happening. And if pain is your main concern, it needn’t be, as most mothers agree that they barely felt the needle going in. Whether you are relying on the NHS or private maternity care, you can discuss the possibility of an epidural with your doctor or midwife in advance.
8. A dysfunctional birth plan
It is always a good idea to write a birth plan, but when the big day arrives and various variables come into play, you may find that your plan goes out of the window. Listen to the advice of your doctor and midwifery team, and don’t feel compelled to stick to a plan that just isn’t working. Birth plans are a great way of preparing for the big day, but if yours becomes irrelevant, ditch it.
9. A drawn-out labor
While it is true that some labors can last more than 24 hours, the vast majority are over within eight. If you’re concerned about dealing with pain for an extended amount of time, learning the Lamaze and Bradley methods of pain control at antenatal classes could prepare you. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing how long your labor will last, so you should try not to dwell on the issue.
There are several complications that can occur during labor, and most of them are exceedingly rare. Issues such as a baby in breech position, the umbilical cord getting wrapped around the baby’s neck and an unborn child becoming distressed in the womb can be distressing, but it’s important to remember that your midwife or doctor has been trained for such eventualities. The best thing you can do in order to minimize the risk of complications involves trying to keep yourself calm.
A pregnant mother’s worry about childbirth is one of life’s inescapable truths. Remember, you are facing what billions of other women have faced before you. If you prepare as much as you can, stay calm and act on the advice you’re given by medical professionals, statistics prove that you’re overwhelmingly in line for a smooth and stress-free labor.