During pregnancy it is common to have fears about labour and childbirth. Being aware of the reality behind the fears may help alleviate some stress during labour and childbirth: Childbirth is a natural, normal process and, although some medical intervention may be needed to ensure a safe birth outcome for both you and your baby, birth, generally, does not demand high levels of medical intervention.
Common labour and childbirth fears
This is the surgical cutting of the area between the vagina and the anus, for the purposes of widening the opening through which your baby will be born. With the support of a good midwife, some studies have shown that incidences of episiotomy can be reduced. While it was once practiced routinely in many maternity hospitals, these days, it is usually only performed to speed up the birth in cases of emergency or if the perineum is so tight that it is delaying the birth.
If the birth of your baby requires extraction of the baby using forceps or vacuum, performing an episiotomy has become common but is still not compulsory. You do have a say in procedures that are carried out during the birth of your baby. Writing a birth plan during your pregnancy is a good way to ensure that your wishes are made clear to the people supporting your birth experience, as well as medical staff.
Some people believe that perineal massage during pregnancy – particularly in the third trimester – may help reduce the risk of perineal tearing or episiotomy.
Death of your baby during birth
Almost every mother worries about the chance her baby might die during birth at some stage during pregnancy. This is quite normal. For some women, though, the anxiety – especially in the latter stages of pregnancy – can be quite overwhelming. Discuss these fears with your doctor or midwife and reassure yourself that this situation is not common. Your anxiety should not be thought of as a premonition. If this fear is affecting other aspects of your life during pregnancy, be sure to talk about it and seek professional advice or counselling.
Accidental bowel movement
During the process of pushing out the baby, it is normal for some women to pass a bowel movement, so don’t feel embarrassed. The midwives will attend to it quickly and efficiently. If you are worried about it, go to the toilet in the early pushing stages of your labour.
One in every four births in New Zealand is by caesarean section, and almost half of those are elective. Make sure you are well informed about this procedure and the reasons why it may be necessary.
Perhaps you’ve written a birth plan and have the precise idea of what you want your birth to be like, but the thought of medical intervention leaves you feeling overwhelmed and scared. Try not to panic. If there is a real need for medical intervention, you are best to accept that it will be the right decision for you and your baby. Having a good relationship with your doctor or midwife can help allay some of your fears.
The greater your knowledge, the more empowered and in control you will feel. If you aren’t familiar with the terminology used by medical staff, you will no doubt be left feeling confused and uncertain about what is happening. Ask for all the facts to be explained simply so you can feel more confident that the decision you make is informed and best for you and your baby at the time and based on the circumstances.
Cord around the baby’s neck
Having the cord loosely wrapped around some part of you baby’s body is common and rarely causes problems. If it is so tight that it presents a problem and is causing the baby distress, your doctor or midwife will most likely detect this and discuss the best ways to deal with it.
Some of the reasons behind premature birth can be prevented if the problem is identified early enough. Remember that there is no blame attached if your baby is born early. These days, with the high level of good quality medical assistance available, premature babies do very well. If you notice any contractions, unusual back or abdominal pains or loss of blood or other fluid from the vagina, seek medical attention.
Remember that the pain of childbirth is not the pain of injury. The pain of contractions is not due to any damage being caused – just the feeling of the muscles working very hard and stretching enough to allow the baby to be born. Don’t think of pregnancy and birth as an illness – it is a natural physical process. Different options of pain relief are available if you want them. Knowledge is power – research different types of pain relief, including massage and the power of emotional support and reassure yourself that there are many different ways of coping with the pain. Writing a birth plan to outline your preferences for pain relief may help put our mind at ease. Having good support people with you during your labour can also have a positive impact on your ability to cope with the pain of childbirth.
Not making it to the hospital in time
For first-time parents, this is not very common, although, with subsequent births it can be an issue.
If you have fears about how to cope with an emergency birth, discuss it with your doctor, midwife, or during antenatal classes.
Be prepared – in the last month of pregnancy, have your hospital bag packed, keep your mobile phone charged and handy at all times. Keeping the car’s petrol topped up is another way to ensure our safe passage to the hospital.
Is ambulance subscription part of your private health insurance package? If it isn’t, or if you don’t have private health cover, consider taking out ambulance subscription, In the case of an emergency it could save you hundreds of dollars.
This article was written by Claire Halliday for Kidspot NZ.