Conquering a Fear of Childbirth

conquering a fear of childbirth
A fear of childbirth can have many facets and many underlying reasons.  It can manifest itself in many ways and can be very difficult to control.  A fear of childbirth can be tangled up with an expectant mother’s many emotions, including feelings of excitement, eagerness for the child to be born, and facing unknown. We have complied various ideas to help you approach childbirth with more confidence in yourself and a more positive outlook as you approach your baby’s birth day.

A study in Sweden showed that as many as 10 % of pregnant women have a fear of childbirth.(1) How do you combat something with so many unknown factors that can be so difficult to plan for or face? First, arm yourself with an awesome labor and birthing support team.  Second, have confidence that your body is naturally made for birth.  Finally, gain as much information as you can about what to expect in each phase of childbirth, so that you can better recognize your progress through them.

Identify your fear:

Now, you may be thinking– and you definitely would not be alone–that a better title for this section might be, “Identify what you are not afraid of in childbirth.” Yet commonly, there seem to be one or two fears which are the catalysts for others.  One fear might be a traumatic first labor experience, or you might be apprehensive about the pain of childbirth.  While the hardship of labor is real and it may be the most difficult “work” you will ever experience, it’s helpful to realize this is a natural step along the path of motherhood.

Women’s bodies are designed in such a way that our mental and emotional comfort level plays a huge part in our laboring and birthing process–if we are frightened and tense up, our bodies may slow labor or even halt it altogether.  A renowned midwife and writer, Ina May,  brings up the subject in her book (2) about identifying fears before labor begins, and how much it contributes to the laboring process. According to a study done by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Linköping in Sweden, it was concluded that “women with antenatal fear of delivery were found to run an increased risk of having a negative delivery experience and of possibly also finding difficulties in the attachment to their children in the immediate postnatal period.” (2)

To read more about Ina May’s approach, read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.

Talk it out:

After you identify what it is that you are most afraid of, sometimes the greatest way to alleviate that fear is to let it out into the open. The goal here is to really get to the bottom of why it became something you fear. Tell your midwife, your doctor, your birth partner, doula, or anyone who will be in the room with you as you labor and give birth. Another idea is to join a birth group at a local birthing center or a natural birth class, if that’s the route you hope to take.  Maybe writing in a journal would be a good way bring your thoughts into the open, too.

Educate yourself:

You can never be too educated on the subject of childbirth, especially if the unknowns are where your fears originate.

  • Educate yourself about the stages of labor and find out about different laboring options and positions. (this is where a childbirth class or books on different childbirth methods may be very helpful) See our post about the 10 Best Books to Read While Pregnant post for some initial ideas.
  • Research the hospitals or birth centers in your area along with cesarian and intervention rates.  Stop by the location and take a look at the delivery rooms so you know what to expect on delivery day.
  • Ask and find out about the background and philosophy of the particular doctors and nurses in your area with whom you may be interacting.
  • Try watching a documentary such as The Business of Being Born. So, even if you may not feel fully prepared, you will know more of what to expect.
If you are considering having a natural childbirth in the hospital, check out our Natural Childbirth: Your In Hospital Options  post along with accompanying resources!

Have a Plan B:

Every mother has what she would call her “dream birth” in her mind. Whether it is a home or hospital birth, medicated or natural, vaginal or cesarian section, each type of birth may also have accompanying fears.

“Will we get to the hospital in time?”
“Will my midwife make it?”
“Will something unforeseen happen?”

There can be dozens of questions like this. So, always strive for your dream birth, but have realistic expectations and prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for things to not go exactly as you planned. That way, if things go differently than you expected, you are not blindsided. Thinking about contingencies and how you would deal with them will ensure you’re better prepared.  You will have better peace of mind and security, even during unforeseen circumstances, since you’ll be better prepared.

Trust your doctor or midwife:

If you are having a hospital birth, consider questions such as: Will you be able to labor in the way you desire? Does your doctor advocate or are they open to allow alternative birthing positions? Do they rely on and advise medications often? Can you eat and drink during labor? Can you stand/walk/shower while in labor?  If you are having a home birth: Do you feel comfortable with your midwife? Does she have a complementary personality to your own, or will things become difficult in the laboring process? These are all questions to consider. Obstetrician Isabel Blumberg says that, “Knowing that you and your doctor share a similar birthing philosophy can go a long way in calming your fears.” (3)

In 2011 the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reported that only “one third of the recommendations put forth by the College in its practice bulletins are based on good and consistent scientific evidence.”(4)  So, if you are planning to have a hospital birth, this is all the more incentive to find out as much as you can about the methodology your doctor has. It will be comforting to you during labor if you know that your doctor understands and will accomplish the kind of birth for which you hope.

Prepare as much as you can, but know that the baby may come when a different doctor or midwife is on shift.  You can still try to meet some of the other doctors or get to know about them.  By doing a little research you can rest easy that you’ll be met by a professional who will do their best to deliver your baby according to your wishes.  For example, if you are in a situation where there is little time, a simple and direct one page birth plan will help a doctor know a bit about your case and your desires for the birth.

Consider a Doula:

Who doesn’t love the idea of a peaceful and beautiful birth? With a doula’s experience you can enter the delivery room with a whole new outlook. You are reassured with her knowledge, her relaxation techniques, and her ability to interface with the medical staff.  For some women, having a doula is the biggest factor in helping to alleviate fears and relax during labor. It is definitely a wonderful option to consider.

If you are interested having a doula at your birth, or are simply are wondering what in the world a doula is, check out our 10 Reasons to Consider Having a Doula post.

Know Your Rights:

Did you know that you have special rights while pregnant in the United States? Knowing your rights can help you if you are ever in a tough situation with a maternity care provider and ensures that your voice will be heard.  Be sure to check out your maternity rights:

U.S.A : The Rights of Childbearing Women

Conquering a Fear of Childbirth

Have a Detailed Birth Plan:

Speak in detail with someone who has recently given birth in the same way that you hope to. After that, look at a few sample birth plans. Having a birth plan set can give you the reassurance that everyone in the delivery room will be aware of the labor you hope to have, and what to do should complications arise.  Make sure your plan is simple, direct, and one page or less–put yourself in the doctor’s shoes who is trying to skim an important document in a time sensitive environment.

Need some ideas for your birth plan? Check out our post on How to Write an Effective Birth Plan.


So many books and articles stress the importance of relaxation during the weeks before labor. You many feel this is so much easier said than done, and you would be right. Even simple things such as taking a bath by candlelight, listening to your favourite music, cuddling up with your spouse, or enjoying a leisurely walk can all be ways that allow you to relax.

For a few relaxing date ideas see our post on 10 At Home Dates After Bedtime.

Stay Positive:

According to a study in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Dr. U. Waldenström concluded that, “Fear of childbirth has also been associated with a negative experience of the subsequent birth.” (1) So whether this is your first birth, a cesarian section, a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarian), or a subsequent birth (especially after a very difficult first birth), don’t give up! Don’t let negativity or other women’s horror birth stories dictate your experience! Be prepared, be educated, be pragmatic, be positive and stay focused on the little person who is about to have their first look at the world. Your new little baby will be waiting for you on the other side of all of your hard work.

Looking for Un-Maternity Wear?

If you need to add some maternity clothing to your wardrobe, but don’t want to spend money on pieces you’ll only wear for a short period of time, then head on over to Melody Lane for the best in regular clothing that is versatile enough to wear before, during, and after pregnancy! They offer trendy, classic, and comfortable clothing that is hand-picked for all the life stages women usually experience. With nothing over $100, always free shipping, and new styles featured every season, Melody Lane makes sure your “fashion meets life”.

Melody Lane | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

For more great information to peruse while you’re expecting, be sure to check out the rest of our Pregnancy category!

This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician, doctor or health care professional. Please read our terms of use for more information.


Photo Credits: Primer contacto, Mother and Child after birth adapted from Federico Mena Quintero (CC); birth55 Newborn baby adapted from Lindsey Turner (CC);06082012083430 Newboen and mother in tub adapted from eyeliam (CC);  Sara Eden Photography,; Kirsten H.

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Kirsten is a military wife by day, an artist by night, and an around-the-clock-mommy to her (almost) two year old daughter and a son due in the Fall. She loves to travel and is always dreaming of her next adventure. Her interests include everything from extreme sports like skydiving and rock climbing to languages and studying philosophy. As a Californian now living in South Dakota, there is no taking that golden sunshine out of this California Girl.

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