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Terrified of childbirth (and a big baby) but desperately want to be a mum

(40 Posts)
boden83 Thu 07-Jul-11 15:54:14

I feel a fraud posting here because I'm not actually pregnant yet but the reason for posting is actually the reason why I'm not pregnant.

I'm 30 and my entire life I have been terrified of childbirth (after a bad examination as a young child). It's affected my entire life and I always swore I would never have children.

After years of counselling & therapies (which never cured the fears) I realised how much I do want a baby. It's all just fear of childbirth that is stopping me. I'm not at all afraid of pain of childbirth. It's all about doctors & examinations & intervention. I have never been able to let a doctor examine me since that bad incident 20 years ago and the thought alone makes me go into a panic attack. The only person who I can let go near me is my husband and that took years.

I came to the realisation I had two options - take out a loan for a private c section (I know from my doctors unsupportive response & the big cutbacks at my local hospital that the chances of me getting a c section on the NHS is so unlikely) .....or I could try hypnobirthing and request minimal intervention etc (hoping that the hypnosis would keep me calm enough to allow that).

But one concern I've always had is the fact I'm only 5'1 and my husband has and was born with a large head. Sounds silly but it's a real fear because he, his brother, his mum & his grandad all have big heads so it's obviously genetic. I tried to convince myself I would be fine but at the weekend my MIL (who doesn't know about my phobia) told me she was in hospital for ages after both her births because she tore badly due to their head size!

I'm now in a real panic & can't see anyway of facing birth without a c section (and the debt that will go with it).

If I could be promised a birth that would be intervention free I could face it. But I know nobody can promise that & the thought of doctors touching me or damage being done down there is giving me nightmares.

I feel like I have nowhere to turn and no options. If I don't have children I will be so sad......if I pay for a csection I will have debt & may be seen as a coward....or I can risk a natural birth and face the possibility of being mentally scarred forever. 9 months of living in terror.

Has anyone else ever has these fears? Am I crazy? I just want to be a mum. These fears are ruining my life.

Fuchzia Thu 07-Jul-11 16:07:29

Goodness it sounds as if you have a genuine terror that you have very sensibly tried to deal with. I've always been quite scared of these kind of exams after a bad coloposcopy (sp?) although not claiming it was anything like as bad as you are clearly going through. I did say I wanted no examinations to check dilation etc they respected this (or at least couldn't do anything without my consent!). And tho I did have a very difficult birth with huge baby and epeasiotomy (sp?) it never gave me any trouble. I felt nothing and it healed up fine.

boden83 Thu 07-Jul-11 16:17:37

Thank you for your quick reply. It does help to hear what others have experienced. It's reassuring to hear you were able to request no exams to check dilation. I just wish I had an off switch for this phobia. I try to tell myself it will be fine but then the fear comes flooding back in. I just wish there were a cure. But I can't seem to find it... I can picture myself having a calm birth but then the moment I imagine doctors examining me or god forbid having to cut me etc....I just want to curl in a ball & cry. I'm not someone who is against medical staff. But it's so hard to feel I can trust them when each time I've gone to a doctor or counsellor about this, they've basically said there's not much more they can do sad I seem unfixable with no options to help me get through this.

silverangel Thu 07-Jul-11 17:43:45

Sounds like you have tokophobia (sp?), and that is often a reason for elective c section. I don't know anything about it but have a search through some old threads on here, I'm sure there have been a couple recently.

Good lucksmile

Starchart Thu 07-Jul-11 17:48:44

I gave birth and no-one touched me. Not once. Certainly not down there.

Birth is a psysiological process and really doesn't need medics interfering with you.

Make sure you chose somewhere with a good reputation for active and normal birth and put in your birth plan that you do not consent to internals. Get a Doula to protect you and your birth space and see the midwife's role as someone to keep you safe and raise the alarm should anything give her concern, - apart from that she should keep her hands off you.

Starchart Thu 07-Jul-11 17:50:20

Giving birth in a large birth pool means that no-one can even GET to you down there let alone cut you. If someone gets too close you just float over to the other side and they have to run all the way round.

Really, birth can be calm and private and dignified but you have to make sure you plan it well.

SpeedyGonzalez Thu 07-Jul-11 17:51:14

Boden - I have just a few minutes so haven't read your whole post, but want to recommend to you the materials which cured my fears during pregnancy. I was also terrified of labour/ birth - though not as severely as you, but still very scared.

I read Ina May Gaskin's Guide To Childbirth . You should read the myriads of positive birth stories in the beginning - amazingly empowering! Then read the rest of the book as it will tell you why having a natural birth really is best for mother and baby (i.e. in case you're tempted to just opt for a C-section as a way of avoiding labour wink). Obviously in cases where there's a threat to mum & baby, c-sections are brilliant. But in most cases a natural birth is the best option.

I also listened to Maggie Howell's hypnobirthing CD, which transformed my mind and made me believe I could do it. In the end I had two drug-free births which were bloody amazing.

You MUST also avoid, at all costs, any negative birth information, as this will fuel your fears. There is loads of this stuff out there, from TV (avoid the C4 One Born Every Minute programme until you've had your first baby), from newspapers, from well-meaning people just chatting. Just cut it all out of your life and don't feel that you have to explain. In fact, I'd go so far as to say you should avoid everything in the media about having babies, because it is sadly more likely to be negative.

I wish you SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much luck and happiness in your life. You CAN overcome this, and I look forward to seeing a future thread from you saying you've given birth to your beautiful babies!


SpeedyGonzalez Thu 07-Jul-11 17:54:07

Oh, and I'm pretty sure there's something in the Ina May book about size of baby with small mums and large any case she writes all about how the pelvis/ cervix can expand beyond expectations. Re head size, if you're relaxed and in a good birthing position, you won't necessarily tear. It's all in the book, anyway!

And if you do tear, doctors are amazing at suturing and fixing, so you'll be fine. grin

CoteDAzur Thu 07-Jul-11 17:59:09

You have a phobia of childbirth and that is a perfectly valid reason for a c-section. Go ahead and get pregnant. I'm sure you will easily get a c-section on the NHS.

DancingWind Thu 07-Jul-11 18:36:56

OP, I am exactly the same. Same age, same problem even the same reason for developing tokophobia. I could have written your OP. Don't feel hopeless- I know exactly what you are going through.
I'm going to PM you in a minute and I hope I'll be able to helpsmile

pipparoo Thu 07-Jul-11 20:13:40

I really feel for you and hope that the fantastic comments on here are helping you.

I had a lovely natural birth with my DD two years ago despite having bad experiences with colposcopy and operations on my cervix (nowhere near as bad as your experience I'm sure). I wasn't examined once and the midwives were totally hands off.

I'm planning a homebirth for my second child due next week. I hope that all going well I can experience another intervention free birth.

I would highly recommend Ina May Gaskin also, as well as 'Active Birth' by Janet Balaskas. I have attended active birth classes (yoga and birth preparation) in both pregnancies and believe that these help greatly in preparing mothers physically and psychologically for the wonderful experience that is childbirth.

I genuinely wish you all the best for the future. You are a really brave person and I admire you for making the steps towards motherhood x

BagofHolly Thu 07-Jul-11 20:45:38

Private ELCS. £6k ish and upwards depending where you go. Pretty much painfree, and can be a lovely experience.

Fuchzia Thu 07-Jul-11 21:30:40

Wow loads of helpful stuff on here now! You are being very brave facing this and I'm sure you will find a way through it. good luck

boden83 Fri 08-Jul-11 10:18:03

Thank you so much for all of your kind replies. I really really appreciate it.

I think about this every day and it's really taking over my life.

I feel that mentally a c section would be best for me. I know I could have a good natural birth but what if I didn't? What if like my mil I tore badly? I fear that any intervention or damage down there would send me over the edge and that's not how I want to start motherhood. But I have no way of raising 6k (not for many years) and I don't know how I can get the NHS to help me, especially with all the cutbacks.

I love the idea of a waterbirth and the privacy that would give me! But I've been told you have to have internals to be allowed to get in the pool at the hospital. And there's only one available which means it's often booked out. So the other option is homebirth which in theory I love the idea of....the privacy etc. But my friend recently had placenta previa when she gave birth - they just saved both her & baby. But if she'd been at home she would have died as they literally had minutes to save her. This terrified me. And now my sister has been diagnosed with previa!! So now i worry that means I would have it.

A big thing for me is the fact you never know who your midwife/doctor will be on the day - theres no trust built beforehand at all! Not knowing who would hold my fate on the day is so scary. I could end up with someone who is pro intervention, not sympathetic.....theres so many things I fear.

When I read all this back, I realise how messed up I must sound.

I certainly don't expect anyone to answer all my fears but if anyone has any experience of any of these fears it really helps to hear any advice.

Thank you

And thank you to starchart, who for the first time in ages really made me giggle (I was imagining myself swimming around in that large pool having the midwives race from one side to the other trying to catch me!) x

AnaisB Fri 08-Jul-11 13:10:23

I think you're right - given your level of anxiety and the unpredictable nature of childbirth a CS seems the best option. I would see a different GP and talk about your fears - explain that you've already sought therapy and this has not helped. Explain that your situation is causing stress and anxiety.

I checked out the NICE guidelines around elective CS due to tokophobia and they say you should be offered counselling/CBT to reduce the anxiety about pain - but you have had counselling already and are not anxious about the pain, so they don't seem relevant in your situation, I hope someone with more personal experience of this can help you.

Wish you all the best and sorry that you have to deal with an unsympathetic GP on top of your stress.

redundant Fri 08-Jul-11 13:25:15

Hi there, the new NICE guidelines clearly say that if you request a Csect for reasons such as this, you should be offered counselling, and if after that you still want a c-sect then it should be given to you. Hope this link works.

They are still draft guidelines, consultation closed on them recently, apparently final version to be published later this year.

I have just been granted an ELCS - different reason but no "medical" need as such (although I actually think yours is a medical need, for your mental welfare) , and consultant explained that although it went against her advice to me, she has to give strong consideration to maternal preference/choice.

good luck

Curlyems Fri 08-Jul-11 13:27:12

I felt similar to you, boden, and have gone private for exactly that reason. There were too many vagaries over whether I would actually get an ELCS on the NHS so I decided to pay for it privately...worth every penny if you ask me.

fruitybread Fri 08-Jul-11 13:28:41

boden83, I had/have severe fear of childbirth - called tokophobia - and last year had an elective CS on the NHS for my 1st DC. It was a wonderful experience and for me, the best birth option.

I talked to my MW, who referred me to the consultant MW - who referred me to the perinatal mental health team. I had an appt with a psychiatrist, talked about my fears, some of the reasons for them, and potential consequences, and they recommended I have a C section.

It's very hard to say where these fears come from and how they develop [two different people can have similar experiences, but come out of them in entirely different ways!] - I do have a history of sexual abuse and depression, and that certainly seems to be related.

You say you have seen doctors and counsellors about this? And they said there was not much they could do? That seems like a bit of an odd response to me - were you seeing them to try and get treatment for your phobia? I ask only because if you've already had psychiatric input, and they've decided you have a severe phobia which is unlikely to respond to counselling or therapy, than frankly that's a reason for recommending you have a CS.

You might just have had the bad luck to be seen by HCP's who have no experience or knowledge of tokophobia. This shouldn't be the case if you deal with a perinatal psychiatric team, so you may need to be ask to be seen by them. (they deal with women who have 'secondary' tokophobia, after a traumatic birth, or less commonly, women with primary tokophobia - no children but a severe fear of birth).

What's problematic is that they tend not to see anyone unless they are already pregnant, or as part of a debrief after a difficult birth...

I will post a link to a thread I posted on last year about this, in case it's useful. I would recommend trying to work out if you would like a vaginal birth, if it followed a certain path (no VEs, a doula or known birth partner etc. although it's worth remembering there will ALWAYS be an element of birth you can't control), but have a great deal of anxiety to overcome about it - OR if the prospect of any kind of vaginal birth feels you with horror/terror/dread.

There is a big difference.

You also say you don't know how to get the NHS to help you, with all the cutbacks. Well - CS's for tokophobia should be granted because they are on balance the best birth option for that individual. The mental and emotional risks of a VB, esp with complications were deemed to be very high for me (PTSD, PND, dissociation, flashbacks, psychosis, alienation - none of them very helpful for early motherhood and bonding). From a previous smear test encounter, which was AWFUL, and involved a reaction from me that took everyone by surprise, including me, I couldn't really guarantee not just that I would let anyone near me for examination/treatment purposes, but that I wouldn't try and attack them. That sounds awful, but when you're dealing with trauma and phobia, we don't behave rationally and aren't in control of ourselves. As cotedazur says - you have a phobia and that is a perfectly valid reason for a C section.

I'll try and post that link to the thread below.

fruitybread Fri 08-Jul-11 13:30:41

Thread here -

(I was posting as barkfox then).

boden83 Fri 08-Jul-11 15:21:31

Thank you so much for all these replies. You've all been a huge help. It was really eye opening to see the NICE guidelines and hear about your experience fruitybread! So great to see some NHS staff do take it seriously.

I think I have just been unlucky with my doctor. And as for the cbt therapist I saw - every single week I had to re-explain what tokophobia and vaginismus (should have mentioned i also have vaginismus - meaning intercourse is painful because of tense muscles - caused by the tokophobia). It was so soul destroying. She didn't seem to believe that my fears could have been caused by a medical exam. She was constantly trying to get me to admit I had been abused as a child - which has never ever happened! I left those sessions feeling like an utter freak.

I should say that I am someone who in all other areas of life is very pro-natural ways. I very rarely take medicines, I'm heavily for alternative medicine and I love hearing about successful natural birth stories...I wish that could be me! But I also know I have this phobia, this psychological disorder that I can't explain. It just eats me up and has ruined many years of my life! I used to cry every day about this and wake up in cold sweats. I'm stronger nowadays but the fear just comes out in other ways and is stronger than ever.

When I had the medical exam as a child i kicked the doctor so hard out of pure fear. I'm such a placid and shy person now. But I really really fear that if during birth a dr or midwife were to try to examine or cut me then this deep phobia would make me act violently. So ashamed to say that because I'm in no way a violent person but this phobia brings such extreme emotions in me.

I'm so scared of who I could end up being if I had a bad birth and my fears were realised. I don't want another 20 years of feeling scared & traumatised. I just want to be a mum and move forward with my life.

When (if) I become pregnant I will push every avenue I can to get help on the NHS. But I fear I may have to take a Loan for private care. I hope not. I'm not too posh to push. I've had a few (very painful) ops in my life so I'm not afraid of pain. I'm just terrified. I know that tokophobia is a mental disorder and it's one I want out of my life. Sometimes I wonder if a natural birth would cure me. And I worry terribly about how my family & friends would judge me for having an elective c section. But I've got to do what's best for me. I just need to work out what that is.

One day this will all be over....I hope.

Thanks again for all your support!


nephi Fri 08-Jul-11 19:12:14

Please bare with me, I have just this moment joined Mumsnet to send you a message so do not understand the lingo. Your thread title made me want to tell you about hypnotherapy - to my delight you mentioned it yourself in you first message. I struggled to become pregnant for years. Mainstream fertility treatment landed me in A&E several times and while Chinese medicine put my body in order I was rapidly becoming an emotional wreck. I had developed a very severe phobia towards pregnant women, to the point that even men with beer guts made me cry!! I turned to hypnotherapy as even my job was now being threatened due to my panic attacks. The therapist used several techniques on me inc EFT and Parts therapy. I instantly started to feel different, my phobia didn't do straight away but through EFT I learnt strategies to control it and Parts therapy directly targeted the cause of my infertility. I found a new amazing sense of calm and was finally content in the knowledge that i would get pregnant and the very next cycle i was. It sounds like you are more inclined to go for a cs than a natural birth but if you want help getting to the root of your fearS and getting shot of them hypnotherapy would serve you well.
I did think it all sounded like a load of tosh, but it really does work. I have now given birth twice using hypo - extended labours of 3.5hrs and then just 50mins, with nothing more than a lemsip. In both cases i self hypnotised until I was fully dilated ( my husband asleep in bed next to me on both occasions!) then straight of to hospital for a bit of pushing. A fab way of reducing the amount of exams! My second child arrived so fast the only exam I got was after the delivery.
After 2 fabulous labours I put it all down to hypo. My midwife says I must have hips like a bucket (don't get me started on them, the only midwives I saw that were much cop were the ones in the delivery rooms!) but I have a tiny frame and didn't tear despite the healthy size of my kids.
Good luck whatever route you take.

redundant Fri 08-Jul-11 19:47:15

OP there is nothing wrong with making an informed decision for an ELCS - people do it every day, and imo anyone that judged you for that, isn't worth worrying about. life and motherhood are far too short to waste time worrying about method of childbirth when that is really just one tiny aspect of being a mother. I know it seems a huge deal at the moment, but honestly its not. Cut yourself some slack.

TrinaLuciusMalfoy Fri 08-Jul-11 20:36:47

OP: speaking as someone who has had to live with a very extreme phobia (needles) I can completely understand where you're coming from. In my first pregnancy I had to be anaesthetised just to get my blood tests done and the idea of having to have an epidural was my worst possible nightmare. I know what you mean about hoping a natural birth would cure you: in my case having the epi did!

HOWEVER: I think from what you've said that your phobia is so extreme that attempting a natural birth would be counter-productive. I think it's great that you've been discussing things ahead of time and have tried to 'fix' this - but the fact that this hasn't happened means you need to push for a section. Try and speak to another GP, if they want you to go for counselling again go with it - but demand another counsellor. It sounds to me as if on some level the other counsellor was right: for all intents and purposes you were sexually abused as a child, but it was this medical exam that your brain has decided was abuse, if that makes sense confused!

As for how people will judge you: screw them! It's your body, your brain, your phobia. If necessary, tell them there's a medical reason - breech, twins (harder to lie about wink), placenta previa - anything. The only warning I'd put on this would be to just be aware that some rummaging around 'down there' will be necessary post-op.

SpeedyGonzalez Fri 08-Jul-11 20:59:12

Bless you, it sounds awful. sad

I'm not all that surprised that the cbt therapist didn't 'get' you: the cbt approach is a pretty superficial way of handling mental and emotional problems. You'd be better off paying for a psychotherapist or a Human Givens counsellor.

I also highly recommend that you ONLY see a therapist on someone's recommendation. There are good and bad therapists out there and the best (i.e. the least soul-destroying) way to weed them out is through word of mouth. Ask people you know, and if they can't help then ask them to ask their friends - someone in your friend/ family network will be able to recommend someone good. I don't know what your financial situation is, but it sounds as though this is an investment that you can't afford not to make.

Wrt birth stuff, it sounds like the c-section option might just be best for you. You need to be able to relax during pregnancy and enjoy it as much as you can. If you know that you won't have to worry about a vaginal birth it will take the stress away. You can also prepare for a c-section with hypnotherapy cds, if you think that might be helpful. I also still think Ina May's book will be useful to you regardless of whether you go for a c-section.

lynn1 Fri 08-Jul-11 22:20:52

listen do NOT worry about what other people say or project on you. a c/section is not a crime. forget what the criticizers might tell you and resolve in your mind that you'll ask for a c/s and find a dr who understands your very real fears, or find a way to pay for it and go private. it is worth it for you. and in the end, your delivery is not the most important thing- it lasts a moment in comparison. it's the life you bring into the world that matters.

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