Fear and Anxiety Around Birth

Stress at pregnant womanIn our culture it’s understandable that parents have an element of anxiety about birth, particularly first-time parents. After all, what experience have you had? What do your friends and family tell you about their experience? What do you see on TV?

Our expectations arise from social conditioning, education, influence of medical staff, stories from friends and relatives and media representations and all of these influences affect the deep-seated, instinctive force of our unconscious minds which studies suggest has a far greater influence than that of our conscious minds.

Not many of us are exposed to labour and birth as part of growing-up anymore as most births take place away from home. We don’t have that awareness to draw upon. The stories women hear from other women about their birth experiences are often negative. On forums it seems that when a woman asks a question, there will be those who leap in with dramatic accounts of their personal experience.

And then, of course, there’s mainstream media. In TV dramas women in labour are usually shown to be panicking and screaming, the drama further hammed up by the accompaniment of stirring music. Documentaries, in a bid to provide compelling watching, also tend to focus on labours and births in a histrionic way. It would make for fairly dull viewing otherwise – their objective is high ratings after all.

If this is ringing true with you, you’re not alone. Would you consider it a good use of your time to seek out some positive birth stories/imagery to counteract it all? If so, some good places to start online are:

The Birth I Want
Tell Me a Good Birth Story
One World Birth

You can also visit The Positive Birth Movement’s website to find a meeting local to you. These groups have only two strict criteria, they must be 1) free and 2) positive about birth. They are places for ALL pregnant women, regardless of their experience or choices to come together and share stories, thoughts, feelings and insight about childbirth.

A positive birth doesn’t have to be ‘natural’ or ‘drug free’. Any birth can be positive – at home, hospital, birth centre, caesarean, with or without medical intervention etc.

Often, when women & their partners talk about positive birth experiences those feelings are rooted in having felt they were listened to & given the accurate information they needed to be part of any decision-making process, rather than how their baby was born. This starts in pregnancy, and all parents deserve these things and the support to approach birth feeling informed and respected. So, why not find a local meeting and get information on ALL your choices and to hopefully work through any concerns or anxieties in a warm, supportive environment.

It is also worth being aware that recent evidence from The Birthplace Study is that birth really is safe for healthy women. This research was instrumental in the recent NICE drafted update to guidelines which suggest that low risk women should be encouraged to choose a unit led by midwives instead of a hospital labour ward.

First time mothers may prefer to give birth in an obstetric unit, but these updated guidelines will hopefully steer parents away from thinking that birth is dangerous or requires medical measuring and management. Hopefully, there will be more discussion with caregivers and in the media about why these guidelines have been updated too.


by Louise Daniels



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