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How to Not Be Scared of Giving Birth

If you’re scared of giving birth, you’re not alone. But you need to know that that fear isn’t inevitable and it isn’t inescapable. In this blog post, you’ll learn about 10 things you can start doing now to get rid of the fear and, instead, be excited and ready for labor to begin.

happy pregnant woman with her husband

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If there’s one thing that’s nearly universal when it comes to childbirth, it’s a feeling of nervousness or fear. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

While I was pregnant with my first daughter, there were times I wondered if I’d really be able to handle unmedicated labor. But for the most part, I was excited to give birth! I wasn’t afraid! And I know lots of women who feel or have felt the same way. 

So how can you beat the fear?

Every woman’s journey is going to be a little different, but here are 10 things you can start doing now to stop being scared of giving birth. 

10 Ways to Conquer Your Fear of Giving Birth

These 10 tips are things I did personally or that I’ve heard recommended over and over again. Pick a few or, better yet, try all of them!

Let’s start with an easy one.

1 – Read, watch, and listen to positive birth stories.

One of the easiest things you can start doing today to begin overcoming your fear of birth is to read, watch, or listen to positive birth stories. When I say “positive” I mean stories where birth is portrayed and experienced in a normal, uninterrupted, un-medicalized way AND where women were treated well and had a good experience overall.

That doesn’t mean they can’t be in the hospital or even that they can’t include epidurals. It doesn’t mean things go perfectly. But find sources where normal birth is the standard and where women are treated like the boss of their birth – because they are!

It’s a plus if things are unfiltered and you see the actual moment of birth. The more you see a baby coming out of his or her mother’s vagina, the more normal it will become and the less afraid of it you’ll be.

Where to Find Good Birth Stories

I love Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. The entire first half of the book is just birth story after birth story. Ina May is a midwife who had her own midwifery center, so her book is full of home birth stories.

I’ve started to gather home and/or unmedicated birth stories on my blog here

And if videos are your thing, you can find links to good birth videos here.

You can, of course, also talk to friends and family members about their births. Just be careful here – it’s common for people to want to share horror stories and that is the opposite of what you want. Be sure to choose even your live sources carefully.

2 – Eat well and exercise.

Taking care of your body may seem unrelated to managing fear. But it is connected.

In the first place, eating well and exercising helps your body be ready for the demands of labor. And the more you can do to help your body be ready, the better labor and birth will go and, therefore, the less you have to be afraid of.

Second, if your body feels good, you feel good.

If you exercise regularly, you are regularly giving yourself a shot of natural feel-good chemicals – hormones, including serotonin and endorphins – which help you feel happier, endure pain better, and be healthier from the inside out.

When you give your body the nutrients it needs, it functions better (obviously). But it’s not just that; good-for-you food also helps you produce more of your happy hormones, serotonin and dopamine.

During pregnancy, I recommend following The Brewer Diet.

As far as exercise, anything is good. But if you’re struggling to find effective, safe prenatal workouts that you actually want to do, check out my blog post about my favorite at-home pregnancy workouts.

3 – Learn labor coping techniques.

Here’s the thing. Even if you plan to go to the hospital and get an epidural or other medical pain management, you’re going to labor for a while without any medicine. That means every pregnant woman can benefit from learning about non-medical coping methods. 

Plus, learning about coping techniques can help you feel calmer NOW because you feel prepared, and that is worth a lot.

The most common coping techniques are various forms of relaxation, including massage and breath work. Those two things alone are powerful, but you aren’t limited to just that.

I like to think of labor coping methods as being divided into 5 categories: touch, movement, words, self-calming, and environment. To learn about each type of technique, check out How to Cope With Contractions: Natural Pain Relief During Labor.

4 – Hire the right care provider.

One huge thing you can do to dispel fear of childbirth is hire the right care provider. If you find a doctor or midwife who is a good fit for you –  someone you feel safe and comfortable with – and who can teach you what you need to know, you are going to be far more ready for a calm birth.

The care provider you choose, especially for your first birth, is going to influence the way you view childbirth.

They will also play a role in helping you prepare for birth – and some are going to be far better at helping you prepare than others. Because of this, it’s smart to get to know a provider before you hire them.

Whether you choose a doctor or a midwife, schedule consultations with several and be prepared with questions. As you talk with them, you’ll get lots of insights into whether or not they are a good fit for you and your desired birth. Pay attention to not only what’s talked about but also how they talk about things.

In addition to helping you prepare and influencing the way you view birth, your care provider is going to be the one at your birth, obviously.

Birth is a very intimate, vulnerable time. It’s important to find a care provider you can be relaxed around so that birth isn’t inhibited by their presence because the more relaxed you are, the better birth will go, and, again, that means there is less to be worried about.

5 – Educate yourself.

A lot of fear, including fear of childbirth, is really fear of the unknown. When you don’t understand something, it’s easy to be afraid of it. That’s why educating yourself about birth and your body is so important in beating the fear.

You can do a lot of learning on your own – through trusted online sources, books about birth, etc – but I recommend you also do two other things.

First, talk to trusted people who are familiar with normal birth and have time to answer your questions. (Hopefully that includes your care provider, but it may not if you go to a busy OBGYN clinic.)

Talking to real people who have experienced and/or attended birth in the way you want to experience it will help you know how to prepare and what to expect.

Second, take a birth class. I recommend The Bradley Method because it is the most comprehensive. I also love that it specifically focuses on helping Dad prepare to be Mom’s main support person and it includes education about the risks of medical intervention.

Alternatively you could take a HypnoBirthing or Lamaze class or one of the many others you can find online or near you.

(If you want to compare all three – The Bradley Method, HypnoBirthing, and Lamaze – check out Choosing a Natural Childbirth Class: Comparing the Big 3.)

In all this learning, make sure you really understand the physiology of labor and birth – how it all actually works in your body and what’s going on. That includes understanding the stages of labor and the role of hormones, among other things.

As you learn, the birth process will become normal to you. It won’t be a scary unknown anymore.

6 – Choose your birth location carefully.

In addition to finding the right care provider, choosing the right birth location is a big part of not being afraid. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in the place you plan to give birth, you are probably going to be afraid of labor beginning.

I love being at home; I feel safe and comfortable there, and the only people in my house are people I invite there. I don’t like hospitals – to me they feel cold and impersonal. So for me, planning a home birth made much more sense and helped me feel calmer than planning a hospital birth.

On the other hand, you may not mind being in a hospital room with nurses, doctors, and machines. And maybe you feel better able to relax knowing that emergency equipment is immediately available should you need it.

Every woman is different, so take time to think about how you feel about your current planned birth location. If it makes you feel nervous, uncomfortable, or unsafe, consider choosing a new place.

If you want to learn more about your options for birth location, check out Birth Center vs Hospital: What They’re Like and Factors to Consider and Birth Center vs Home Birth: Similarities and Differences.

7 – Use positive affirmations.

The way we talk about things affects us. The way we talk about ourselves affects us. It’s true in day-to-day life and it’s true in birth.

If you tell yourself over and over that you aren’t strong enough to give birth or that you won’t be able to handle contractions well, you’re probably right. But if you tell yourself that your body was created to give birth and that you’ve learned how to cope even when it gets hard, you’re probably right then, too.

That’s where positive affirmations come in.

Positive affirmations are phrases you say to yourself – daily or whenever you need them – to remind yourself of who you want to be and what you want to do. In pregnancy and birth, that might be…

  • “My body knows how to grow and give birth to a baby.”
  • “I am strong. I am capable. I am brave.”
  • “Birth is beautiful.”

…and so much more. You could even include scripture verses and lyrics to songs if either of those appeal to you.

In this way, we have a lot of power over how much fear we feel or don’t feel. The more you remind yourself to not be afraid, the less afraid you’ll be.

8 – Acknowledge the worst possible outcomes.

This one may seem weird. How can talking about the worst things, the things you’re most scared of, help you feel less scared? This is actually something I learned from my husband.

When I’m worried, anxious, or nervous about something, sometimes my husband asks me, “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen?” He wisely reminds me, “You need to go there.” And, surprisingly, when I do go there – when I answer honestly and say it out loud – I start to feel better. 

Sometimes the worst thing, the thing I’m scared of most, is a bit illogical or pretty unlikely. Sometimes it’s not as scary as I thought or there are things I can do to make it less scary. Even if that’s not the case, though, facing the fear head on like that helps it seem smaller and more manageable.

And sometimes, even if it’s still scary, I decide it’s okay, or, in the case of birth, that it’s worth it.

So try it. Ask yourself, “What am I most scared of? What is the worst possible thing that could happen during labor or birth?” And ask yourself why.

You may have several answers.

For some things, it might be enough to get it out in the open. Fear is often rooted in uncertainty so talking about it as if it were real for a moment can take away that fear of the unknown and unplanned.

For other things, you may need to do a little more work. But that’s where number 9 comes in.

9 – Release your fears and change your beliefs.

While speaking your worst fears can be helpful, sometimes you need to do a little more. And sometimes you have other little anxieties that you can’t seem to get rid of. That’s when this tip comes in – address and release specific fears.

This has to do with beliefs. 

Collecting Beliefs

Throughout life, we collect beliefs. Some of these beliefs are positive and helpful. But some are not. We collect beliefs through personal experiences and through interactions with other people.

For example, maybe you babysat young children as a teenager but had some rough babysitting experiences that left you feeling insecure and inadequate. From those experiences (maybe one kid told you he hated when his parents left him with you) you may have “collected” the belief that you are not a good caretaker.

If that were the case, once you start nearing the birth of your first child, you may start to feel those emotions and beliefs creep back in – “I’m not good enough. I won’t be a good mom.” Those kinds of things.

That is not a good place to be when you are giving birth to your child.

But here’s the good news: you can get rid of that belief, almost as simply as saying, “No, thank you.”

How to Change Your Beliefs

To change a negative belief, you first have to recognize that you have the belief. This usually happens when something triggers the feeling, like I explained above. Once the emotion comes up, you have to acknowledge it – lean into it – instead of burying it.

The next step is to figure out where it came from. Our minds often do the work here – a memory will likely come to mind out of the blue as you consider.

Once the memory or experience comes to mind, I find it’s most effective to talk through those experiences with someone safe, someone non-judgmental who can help you process even the hardest memories.

After figuring out where the belief came from and walking through that experience with new eyes, all that’s left to do is choose to let it go. This may require you to forgive someone, or it might require you to reframe the belief through a lens of truth.

The problem with some beliefs we collect is that they are lies. Even more common that straight up lies, though, are half-truths.

Going back to our example, it is true that no one is going to be totally prepared to be a parent and no woman is going to be a perfect mom. But it is not true that a few hard babysitting experiences with someone else’s kids when you were only a teenager means you won’t be a good mother.

You may find it helpful to make a statement of truth out loud, for example, “I can be a good mom, even if I’m not perfect.”

And that’s it. That’s how you change a belief.

Not Easy, but Effective

It’s not always an easy process, but it works. After releasing fear in this way, you’ll be amazed at how differently you can feel in a situation that would have been triggering before.

10 – Prepare for postpartum.

Finally, some fears are actually about the time after birth, not before or during. Postpartum isn’t easy but it doesn’t have to be miserable and it certainly doesn’t need to be feared.

You can use a lot of the same tips to overcome fears or worries about postpartum – eat well and exercise, use positive affirmations, address and release specific fears, etc. You can also do a lot to prepare for postpartum.

I have a whole blog post full of my best tips and advice as you prepare for and begin your time postpartum with a new baby: How to Prepare for Postpartum: The Ultimate Guide

Check that out, practice these tips, and don’t let worry about what’s to come interfere with your ability to have a wonderful birth experience. As they say, worry is like interest paid on a debt you may never owe.

Conclusion: No Need to Fear

If you feel a little nervous about giving birth for the first (or second or third) time, don’t feel ashamed. You’re normal. And, at the same, you don’t have to stay scared. With the 10 things you just learned about, you have the tools to overcome your fear and be ready – even excited – to give birth.

I hope you recognize that possibility. Even more, I hope that possibility becomes a reality for you.

Until next time,

Allison

READ MORE:

Is Childbirth Painful? (The Answer Might Surprise You)

The Cascade of Interventions [Explained]

How to Prepare for Natural Birth (In the Hospital or Not)

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