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Hindsight - could being obsessively scared of birth made my body refuse to go into labour?

(22 Posts)
ReastieHorrorShow Sun 09-Oct-11 08:44:14

Only just thought of this theory 7 months after having dd hmm . It's prob just one of those things and I know loads of people have failed inductions.

I was incredibly scared of being in labour - to the point where I could barely read the chapters in my pg book on labour and if I did I was in floods of tears. I detached myself from the whole thought that I'd have to go through it and in the back of my mind had a feeling I would end out having a csection for some reason. People talk about in the last few weeks of pg being so uncomfy they are desperate to get the baby out so they don't care about the thought of the pain. Not me, I was desperate to not be pg as I felt so sick all the time but I didn't seem to have the same desperate to go into labour as other people do (until I knew I was being induced, then I just wanted to go into labour so I coudl do it naturally and not be induced).

So I went through a 5 day induction process - they did the pessaries but my body never did enough to even attempt breaking my waters. On the 5th day I was told I needed a csection as they could do no more induction wise.

The whole time in the hospital at the back of my mind I was hoping it didn't work. I was just thinking this morning do you think my body somehow stopped itself because of my fear? This sounds quite far fetched but the logic comes from the fact that I'm a have emetophobia and reading up on it apparently people with this stop themselves being sick and are sick alot more than nonemets as their body fights the urge so strongly.

Obv I know that loads of people are birth phobic and go into labour so there is a lack of detail in my thoughts, but would be interesting if anyone thinks I might have something here.

ReastieHorrorShow Sun 09-Oct-11 08:45:50

sick alot LESS than nonemets of course blush

Blueberties Sun 09-Oct-11 08:48:21

Yes, I think so but that's only because of my own experience.

I was hospital phobic after a chronic elcs first time round. The second time I was at home in full labour, had been for a few hours. Arrived at hospital and everything stopped for twelve hours. Just totally and absolutely stopped. Only got going again when "threatened" with induction.

I hope it's better for you next time.

ReastieHorrorShow Sun 09-Oct-11 08:55:37

blue I don't think there's going to be a next time sad . That's interesting you say that as it reminded me of the Ina May book - she talks about people labours suddenly dilation stops or goes down after arriving in hospital for some people due to anxiousness etc

projectbabyweight Sun 09-Oct-11 09:24:38

I don't know for sure but I think it seems a likely theory. I'd planned a homebirth, but had to go in to hospital for something minor. Once there, I didn't dilate any further for 24 hours. Then, after a couple of hours of strong contractions, the midwife examined me and said I'd gone from 5/6cm back to 4!

I think it was because I'd strayed so far from the birth I'd visualised, and was in an unknown environment, so my body went on "pause" until I felt in my own habitat again, as it were. I had to be induced in the end (it was fine, had a problem-free epidural and no further intervention).

Blueberties Sun 09-Oct-11 10:21:01

I'm sorry to hear that reastie.

Nearlycooked Sun 09-Oct-11 11:32:54

read Ina May Gaskin childbirth book - YES - you can stop labour due to your emotional state - you need to be in the right head space and this will then affect the hormonal releases in your body. I really thin k you should read this book

idlevice Sun 09-Oct-11 12:37:20

Agree that state of mind can have a strong influence. I had a difficult pregnancy & spent the whole time trying to stay pregnant & also thinking I would have a CS as a consultant told me I'd need one at about 10wks pregnant. This changed in the last 2 weeks so I hadn't done any labour preparation emotionally or otherwise & physically I literally felt clamped up as if I was trying to hold the baby in. I went overdue 2 weeks & had to be augmented when something finally happened. I couldn't feel anything anywhere, just pain, no urge to push at the pushing stage & didn't know where I was pushing. I did get DS out eventually but my state of mind was not conducive in any way.

ReastieHorrorShow Sun 09-Oct-11 19:04:16

I knew you could pause of regress when in labour due to anxiety/not letting go but the idea of stopping yourself going into labour is a new one to me

sc2987 Sun 09-Oct-11 19:34:51

Yes, but it could also just be because your baby wasn't ready to be born! Your body is designed to resist premature labour to protect the baby, so inductions often fail.

quietlyafraid Mon 10-Oct-11 15:47:38

Yes, absolutely! All to do with the fact that anxiety affects the hormones you produce. The theory is that adrenalin caused by fear is the oppose to natural birth hormones and therefore slows the process down and leds to complications.

In fact a study in Sweden was published earlier this month, which suggests that women with a severe level of fear, even after counselling to help them with their fears, were significantly more likely to have intervention whilst giving birth than women who had 'normal' levels of fear.

Its something that I feel needs a lot more attention and a lot more attention by health professionals as being treated as a risk factor, which women should be made aware of and prepared for.

I've two links with a short summary of the study (one from Time so has a US tilt to it and one written for Boots web by the BMJ) which highlight what it found.

Its a huge development for women like myself who suffer silently from tocophobia. It gives me hope that it will be taken far more seriously as an issue by medical professionals and other women alike. Saying you are afraid is usually met with patronising and condensing remarks and tabloid sensationalism about 'too posh to push' only help to fuel ignorance and lack of understanding of the subject. It doesn't help anyone.

Personally I feel there is far too little being done in the area of the psychological impact of childbirth, with the debate being driven by a cultural leaning towards a lack of tolerance to anyone who is viewed for whatever reason as 'a wimp'.

You're not. And far from being an irrational fear, it is a very understandable but often complicated one. It can result from any number of sources; previous trauma, fear of dying, fear of injury, fear of being out of control, having being raped, a history of sexual abuse etc etc. Its not just a fear of pain as many believe. It should be treated with the same level of respect as other mental health issues around pregnancy and child birth.

There needs to be a cultural shift to supporting child birth fear. We need people to stop having the old fashioned attitude that childbirth is a rite of passage and that "its worth it in the end" and to "suck up the fear". Too many women are like me, suffering in silence about how their fear is affecting them because it is a taboo subject. Perhaps with this study and there being a psychical reason to express fears, then it will be taken more seriously and with less contempt.

wahwahwah Mon 10-Oct-11 15:51:13

Yes. It is quite common for women to be in full swing of labour then arrive at the hospital and things to slow down. It is just mother nature doing her thing. Horses do the same. If you are scared, then your body goes into 'fight or flight' mode and all functions that are not 'survival critical' shut or slow down. If you are in labour, the body tells the brain that its not safe and has to wait a bit until you calm down.

ReastieHorrorShow Mon 10-Oct-11 16:02:02

quietly that's fascinating. my fear isn't as bad as yours and part of it is connected to my emet. i also had alot of anxiety issues in pg in general. whenever i mentioned to health professionals my worry it was always greeted with a shrug and a 'everyone is scared' comment hmm

quietlyafraid Mon 10-Oct-11 16:24:56

Tell me about the 'everyone is scared' comment... it completely misses the point. I just find it very old fashioned to be honest. If you have a fear of something else, you can get treatment for it and it gets taken seriously by the medical profession, but not for childbirth. I just find the whole thing is cultural and driven a great deal by various groups with a perfect vision of the perfect natural birth rather than in the wider interests of women. Not everyone is the same.

For me, I can't even contemplate the idea of getting pregnant due to the level of my fear and it being compounded by health professionals not taking me seriously. I think I'm at the pretty extreme end of the scale though. I already suffer from 'white coat syndrome' which means my blood pressure goes through the roof whenever it is taken in a medical setting (something that my previous doctor told me to my face didn't exist even though at least three nurses who referred me in the first place, after having seen me literally shaking with fear, were convinced I had and numerous studies saying that it is a very real condition). Its taken me four years to get registered with another doctor and I've no idea if they are any better yet. Needless to say, my faith in getting adequate support is somewhat limited as a result of my previous experience though.

If white coat hypertension is real, and is starting to result in advice being given to doctors to take blood pressure over 24hrs at home, then as the study shows there is every reason to believe that fear can have a very real impact on childbirth. Its not just 'all in your head'.

mrskbpw Mon 10-Oct-11 16:34:01

I'm not sure if this is helpful or not, but I wasn't really scared about labour (obviously the normal nerves but not excessively). I was 11 days overdue when my baby's movements slowed down and I was induced. I was induced four times over the next three days and eventually had a c-section.

With my second, I was desperate to have a VBAC. Absolutely desperate. Not scared at all. But I went five days overdue and had no signs of going into labour. The midwife couldn't even give me a sweep. I ended up with another c-section.

I very firmly believe that some people just don't go into labour. I never felt like I was going into labour with either of my children. One midwife said some women don't have the necessary hormone and I think that might be right. So don't blame yourself. Maybe it wouldn't have happened anyway.

Flisspaps Mon 10-Oct-11 16:51:56

I'd been wondering about something similar to this.

I'd had my heart set on a homebirth and was SO adamant that I didn't want a hospital birth. The due date got closer and closer and I got more and more adamant that I wasn't going in to hospital, wound myself (and DH) up about it on a daily basis - the due date passed and I got more and more adamant and eventually was induced at 40+15. I was 2cm dilated at 40+7 and never got any further, was still 2cm on admission to the hospital at 40+14.

In the back of my mind it's been ticking away as to whether my utter refusal to think of anything other than not going into hospital caused me so much stress that I never relaxed enough to go into labour naturally. It wasn't a fear of labour or birth, but of the hospital.

Nearlycooked Mon 10-Oct-11 17:50:48

This is a really interesting thread - I recommended to the OP the Ina May Gaskin Childbirth book to read - she discusses all of the points raised by other posters. What is clear to me through reading her book and other reading and research during my pregnancy is that the modern world has lost the art of natural childbirth and it has turned into a medicalised event fraught with intervention and poor understanding of how nature intended things to be. We have little positive information about birth - instead we have a steady stream of negative portrayal of birth in media, films and TV - we do not connect as women to help and support each other, therefore having real experience of the birthing process - so many of us approach the first time with no idea of what to expect - in days gone by we would have been surrounded by other females in the community and probably been involved in some way with birthing. We have lost control of the most natural of events!! No wonder half of us are scared witless by the unknown to come!!!! I can not tell you how reassuring it was to read this book and how much calmer I felt. I feel so angry sometimes when I read / see things posted here that have caused untold misery for women who I think have been badly let down by SOME medical professionsals. OP please read this book!! smile

quietlyafraid Mon 10-Oct-11 19:39:32

I agree that the modern world throws a lot of negative things about childbirth about, but I'd also counter that by saying that modern childbirth has changed and we do need to be aware of all these factors. I'd also argue the point that fear of childbirth isn't a new thing - its always existed (theres a french book from 1858 which looks into fear of childbirth), its just that now we have the power to express this more freely as we have a choice over our bodies thanks to feminism and birth control. I do think that looking at old methods and having a more positive view on childbirth as a whole has a place and can help some women but not all. Its worth noting that in the above mentioned swedish study, they were given counselling to help with their fears and there was still a significant difference between the two groups.

Plus, we really must not forget the benefits of medicalisation in childbirth having saved lives and that changing demographics really do mean that it is more necessary. Women are older, women have more complications due to obesity, birth weights have increased, there are more interacial marriages (studies have shown that asian women and caucasian men are 3% more likely to need to have a c-section) etc etc.

We should be looking at the reasons about why women are afraid and actually trying to address where possible them rather than paying lip service to them and telling women that 'everyone is scared'. You look at the things women complain about or are afraid of on all these threads... there are some very common themes. Its often not the medicalisation that is the bigger issue - its the way in which women are treated or feel ignored. Its made worse by staff shortages etc etc. The list goes on and on.

The 'suck it up' rite of passage in motherhood culture hinders women in this respect. This is what we need to modernise now.

ReastieHorrorShow Mon 10-Oct-11 20:53:20

absolutely quetly . I had my dd on an understaffed and overfull hospital and have heard horror stories which I won't mention about things that have happened that I was scared stiff would happen to me (thank goodness I didn't know they happened there until after I had DD or I would have been even more scared at how factual my worries actually were).

On this vein it doesn't matter when the media discuss things so matter of factly and shrug off being scared of labour. I listened to a radio show a few weeks ago and the presenter just went on about why should someone be offered a csection if they were scared of birth and how stupid the idea was. One of her main points to this was the extra cost to the NHS for the surgery but it's interesting the studies here that if you're scared then chances of complications seem higher so many people end out with a medicanised/complicated labour. The whole thing of post traumatic mental issues from a bad birth experience seem to be largely ignored too.

I think being scared of birth is one thing , but given all the stretches on the NHS there surely are alot more women coming out the other end with mental distress and women reading and realising what the truth of the current system can be like who are pg getting very anxious about it all (really not meaning to scare any pg people here - of course this is the minority and you will be absolutely fine)

quietlyafraid Mon 10-Oct-11 21:47:57

I've just read an article which stated the following

"Indeed, a shocking 60 per cent of all payments made by the NHS Litigation Authority relate to obstetrics."

Admittedly it was from a Daily Mail article so I do take it with a slight hesitation and pinch of salt about whether it is accurate or not.
However if it is accurate, then all these 'horror stories' and negative perception in the media is completely justifiable. Imagine that 60% being in any other area of health care? There would be outrage! Widespread problems should be being reported and highlighted. It makes it even more reprehensible that things are not being done to improve the situation. No wonder women are bloody scared!

If true this should be the top of the political agenda. The fact it isn't points to the male dominated politics and something holding back women from making more of an issue about it. I really do think that the strong pro-natural birth lobby have something to answer here by reinforcing the 'rites of passage' type of attitude. Don't get me wrong, I think its great to encourage natural birth, but I can't help but feel that the sheer dominance of it has had the side effect of also disenfranchising other groups of women too by drowning out their voices or belittling their individual needs. I do feel that the result has been that women feel they should just accept certain things as "just being part of the experience" when they shouldn't and that others should do the same.

I dunno, it just all frustrates me, and doesn't help me feel as if I can ever get any nearer to having children. In fact, quite the oppose.

Blueberties Mon 10-Oct-11 21:51:40

In some ways I'm not sure natural birth enthusiasts and NCT will really help in this, as it subliminally helps create a sort of "clinical cliche" about hospital birth which might make people feel more fearful and need induction. Exactly the opposite to what was intended.

Iggly Mon 10-Oct-11 22:07:51

I consider myself to be an advocate for natural birth but do not think that people should just suck up the fear etc.

I agree with quietly - it should most certainly be taken seriously. Women should be supported and helped to work through their fears because it is detrimental to them.

I get mild white coat syndrome and have to spend ages forcing myself before seeing a midwife or doctor doing relaxation exercises as I get nervous and anxious. That was my main reason for not wanting a hospital birth. I was also worried about childbirth so looked into it - read a lot etc etc so I could understand the process and not worry. However I appreciate that my feelings weren't a phobia.

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