When you hit the 3rd trimester of your pregnancy, it is incredibly common that some anxiety starts to set in. The baby shower is complete, the birth plan has been written and your plans for maternity leave discussed, yet suddenly your due date is merely weeks away. The prospect of labor and parenthood and the lack of certainty about what happens next can be more than a little overwhelming.
Here are some of the most common labor fears and some of my realities:
- Giving birth at home / not making it to hospital – With my first child in particular this was one of my bigger fears. How would I know that my contractions were the real thing and not Braxton Hicks? What if my labor came on very quickly and I didn’t make it to the hospital? I had nightmares about giving birth at the side of the road, or having to cope with an unplanned home birth. The reality is that most labors, especially the first ones, tend to last a pretty long time, so the chances of giving birth unexpectedly are fairly slim. That said, if you find your contractions ramping up more quickly than you might expect, head to hospital sooner rather than later. Use a timer to track your contractions, and when they start to become frequent and consistent, make the call and head out the door.
- Waters breaking in public – We’ve all seen the movies where someone’s waters break in a huge gush resulting in a puddle on the floor. The reality is most waters break in more of a trickle than the explosion we might be expecting; and in many cases, waters are broken during later stages of labor. For both my babies, my waters did not break spontaneously and needed a little help along the way.
- Tearing / Needing an episiotomy – I’d heard a few horror stories of huge tears, stitches and not being able to sit down post labor, so was really worried about this happening to me. With my first daughter I did need an episiotomy, but by this stage (after 36 hours or labor) I really couldn’t have cared less. I just wanted to meet my baby, and quite frankly, I would have done whatever was needed to finally meet her! My stitches were far less painful than I imagined, and after care was relatively straight forward.
- Not sticking to the birth plan – Quite often we can have a vision of what we want our birth experience to look like – in my case I was really keen to have a water birth, and experience the joy of her floating up into my arms on that final contraction. Unfortunately it didn’t quite go to plan and instead I gave birth with an episiotomy and my legs in stirrups – something that would never have been my first choice! Whilst we all have the choice to write a birth plan, ultimately labor is by its very nature somewhat unpredictable and will depend on how you and your baby react during the experience. By all means know your preferences, but expect some flexibility and change when the big event arrives.
- Needing an emergency C-Section – After having a natural labor with my first child, I was devastated when I heard I was going to need a c-section with my second as my baby was breech. Despite being given a date for my procedure, my daughter had other ideas and I went into spontaneous labor early, needing an emergency section instead. It may not have been the labor I chose, but the procedure was actually far less stressful than I anticipated, and 30 minutes later my baby girl was in my arms. Remember if you need to have an emergency c-section, it’s because this is the safest option for both you and your baby.
- Pooping in labor – For many women, the prospect of their partner and medical professionals seeing them poop during labor is their biggest fear and I for one was really nervous of my partner seeing me in such a vulnerable state. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes the pressure and strain of a contraction can inevitably cause an unplanned bowel movement! I did experience this a little with my first. The reality is you just won’t care, it will be whisked away before you know it, sensitively and retaining your dignity and with trust me when I say, with the other bodily fluids coming out of your body during that time, chances are your partner won’t even notice!
- Not coping with the pain – I considered myself to have a fairly high pain threshold pre labor, but the reality was I had no idea how my body would cope. The reality is your body knows what to do. The most important thing is to breathe and ride the waves of your contractions. Make sure you understand what pain management options are available to you before you go in, from birthing pools to epidurals. You may want to discuss these with your partner, weigh up any risks and explore these options as part of your plan. It is however always recommended to be prepared for your feelings to change during labor, so be prepared to have a back up plan!
Whatever your labor fears and anxieties, they will all feel like a distant memory once your child is placed in your arms for the first time. Neither of my labors went entirely smoothly, but despite the ups and downs of the experience, there is no feeling in the world quite like meeting your baby. It will all be worth it in the end!