Advanced search

Terrified of the prospect of childbirth

(18 Posts)
janeh1984 Fri 29-Aug-14 15:42:48

Hi everyone,

I'm new to this site and really need some help. My husband and I want to start trying for a baby in a month or so and I really really want one. I have wanted children since I was a teenager and would love nothing more than to start a family.

However, since I was ten, I've had an extreme fear of childbirth. It started when I watched a graphic film of a woman giving birth when I was at primary school. I don't remember there being any build-up to the film- we hadn't had sex ed lessons or anything; the teacher simply took the class into the library, put on the film and then left us. The film really shocked me and afterwards, when some of the other girl were saying how natural and wonderful childbirth was, I was thinking 'oh my God, that's awful- I can never go through that!' Since then, the fear has gradually got more extreme, particularly after I met my husband, moved in with him, got married, etc This is because I've got closer and closer to starting a family and, whilst I really want children, I can't seem to get over this fear.

Over the past few months, the fear has got much worse. I have nightmares, feel sick when I think about childbirth and generally feel that my phobia is 'haunting' me; I think about it pretty much 24/7; if not consciously, then it's there at the back of my mind. In once sense I'm really looking forward to being pregnant and starting a family, but on the other hand, I'm petrified and am convinced that I wont be able to enjoy my pregnancy as I've be worried about the birth and obsessing over that for nine months.

If someone was to tell me I could have a caesarean, my worries would almost completely go away and I'd be able to enjoy my potential pregnancy and look forward to everything. Do any of you know whether I could request a caesarean? How likely is it that I would get one? Would they turn me down? I am well aware of the risks of a caesarean and have researched and pros and cons of c-section versus vaginal birth, but I feel that I would be able to deal with the risks of a c-section far better than going through a natural birth.

If any of you could help (particularly if you've been through this yourself) I would be so, so grateful! I feel like I'm going out of my mind here, which is silly, as I'm not even pregnant yet! I just want to be able to look forward to pregnancy and babies and not feel an all-encompassing since of dread.

Thank you!!!!


Nononon Fri 29-Aug-14 15:50:20

Hi, I haven't had this fear myself but I just wanted to say it must be horrible for you. I'd imagine you were shown an extreme example of childbirth in order to scaremonger you all into not having sex as teenagers!

First of all child birth is honestly not that bad. Women do it every day and choose to do it multiple times. Everyone loves up tell a good birth story but honestly most births are fine.

However an extreme fear of childbirth is a legitimate reason to request a C-section. It is a major operation also, this is not to be forgotten, but many women do have C-sections on the basis of an extreme fear of childbirth.

I wish you all the best in starting your family. Honestly child birth is so so worth it!! And is completely normal and your body is made to do it (I realise this won't just make your fear go away though.)

Good luck xx

bonzo77 Fri 29-Aug-14 16:09:08

yes. you can request a CS on these grounds. They may try to get you to have counselling before they agree to it. If your consultant refuses they have to refer you to another consultant. If you have done your research and understand the risks, you are I think very very likely to get the CS you want.

Fairylea Fri 29-Aug-14 16:11:46

As bonzo says. If you want a c section you should be able to get one. I did on non medical grounds. I had 3 appointments with consultants and made sure they knew I understood the risks.

If it's a c section you want read the NICE guidelines and don't give up.

MrsHelenBee Fri 29-Aug-14 16:12:28

Hi janeh1984
Right, firstly I should say that my situation was a little different. I didn't have the scary experience before starting a family, but a horrendous experience with my fist baby and it left me with PTSD, so I well understand where you're coming from. My life ground to a halt and I was so traumatised by what I'd experienced, I had terrifying nightmares every single night, which even lead to sleep walking (never done that before!) and it massively affected how I cared for our baby - I couldn't bath him, had flashbacks all the time and got so depressed I self-harmed and couldn't leave the house. I really do know how a traumatic experience can take over your life to the point where it's hard to find the good stuff.
BUT, you can do it, especially if the family is what you really want.
You have a loving partner who will be with you all the time and you'll have a beautiful bundle who your heart bursts with love for, and being a mummy will be something that lasts forever, no one can take it away from you, so the birth bit - and yes it's bloody hard work! - is a day, maybe a couple, after 9 months and just a tiny part of what will change your life forever. It's so worth it.
There's loads I could tell you but the main thing I want to say is that I'm proof you can get control of your fears and got through a difficult time feeling strong and in control. While my husband will also say there was a lot I did to help myself, we also went on a natal hypnotherapy course, which I think could be a HUGE help to you. It wasn't cheap but over 2 days we tackled our fears head on and I've since had a second baby with a totally different experience that's actually left me wanting a third child - and believe, I NEVER thought I'd have a second, let alone be wanting a third. I don't know how widespread the courses are - I live on the south coast and found courses very near us. If I'd known before my first experience what I know now, I'm convinced I wouldn't have struggled so much. No, the course doean't guarantee you'll have a pain-free labour which will last 5 minutes, but it WILL tackle your fears. I would say that you have to put work in to get the most benefit out of it. And, you do need to be pregnant to go on the course, so that's a bridge you need to cross first, but I'm so convinced by what I learned (no, it wasn't all airy-fairy and being humiliated while in some kind of trance), that I'm planning to become a midwife, once the new baby is older, and I'd do the courses myself for other women if I could.
PM if you want to know more but otherwise, google Natal Hynotherapy and Birthing With Confidence. In the mean time, know that you aren't alone - here will be loads of people on here who will share your fears, and many will have tips on how to overcome them. Maybe talk to your GP about a counselling referral? The lay who ran my course also did 1:1 therapy for pregnant women and mums. If you want a family badly enough, you'll find a way but, one hing is for certain, all the while you're this stressed and scared, you'll struggle to conceive, so you really need to get some help and support to get you over that first hurdle.
Sorry it's so long, but I hope something in here helps!

Heels99 Fri 29-Aug-14 16:18:06

You can have a c section! Don't go through this anxiety when you don't need to, discuss with consultant or midwife

MrsHelenBee Fri 29-Aug-14 16:23:56

Just wanted to add what others have said - yes you can request a C-section. Your fear is very real and clearl very deep-seated, so just 'pulling yourself together and getting on with it' won't cut it, which was the same for me.
Due to the PTSD, I was getting increasingly anxious in the early stages of my second pregnancy and referred to a senior midwife and various consultants. Among many things we discussed was also the possibility of an elective c-section - it was offered to me, I didn't ask for it, and I was told some women have such a huge block when it comes to childbirth that it has to presented as a realistic option. At the end of the day, you can't give birth if you're in a terrible state, it just won't happen and your hormones will do their best to stop labour progressing by poducing tonnes of adrenaline. Some women can only become mothers because a c-section is offered, although I'm sure you've considered and realised that it's not an easy option by any means.

janeh1984 Fri 29-Aug-14 17:45:16

Thank you all for replying so quickly- you've been a great help. I feel better already, particularly because nobody has yet said 'you'll be ok- just get over it!' My fear has been with me for 18 years so I'm going to get over it in a hurry!

MrsHelenBee- your experience after your first baby sounds awful, poor you :-( I am pleased that you've managed to move on and now feel so much more positive about childbirth. I will certainly google the courses you recommend as they will certainly be worth pursuing. It's not that I want to have a caesarean, it's just that I can't bear the thought of a vaginal birth. One of my biggest fears associated with that is that I will suffer from PND or PTSD afterwards if I have a bad childbirth experience. A friend of mine did and I am the kind of person who broods on things and I imagine I won't be able to let go. So I can totally see where your fear came from, MrsHelenBee

To know that I am likely to get a caesarean if I really need it is a great help, so thanks everyone.

One last question: do you think I should seek counselling/help now or put my fear to the back of my mind until I actually get pregnant and deal with it then? How long do you think it would take for someone to grant me a caesarean? I just want to enjoy my pregnancy and not these horrific thoughts taunting me for mine months!

Thank you all so much!


somewhatavoidant Fri 29-Aug-14 17:55:05

I was similar OP with a deep rooted fear of childbirth. To this day I wouldn't watch One Born if you paid me! Can't even stand it in a comedy. Anyways it worked out ok for me in the end as my ds was born by elective cs. I was offered one in view of my age at the time (40) and the fact that ds was a much waited for IVF baby (5years at least). Don't let the fear stop your family plans. You'll find a sympathetic doctor for sure. Best of luck!

1944girl Fri 29-Aug-14 21:27:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lozzapops Sat 30-Aug-14 09:34:45

Hi Janeh, I just wanted I share my experience with you as a fellow birth-phobe! I'll start by saying that it sounds as if my phobia isn't as extreme as yours, however it caused me a lot of anxiety for many years, and at one stage I really thought I would rather no have children than go through labour/birth.

Eventually though, broodiness got the better of me, I got pregnant very quickly and was suddenly struck by the fact that I'd need to somehow get the baby out! I had always said I would beg for a c-section. I don't know why (and I'm not suggesting this will happen to you) but I suddenly started to feel like I was capable of giving birth, and started to get my head around this idea. I spoke lots with my midwife, and we discussed making sure I got an epidural as early as possible, which was incredibly important to me. As it happened, right up until the last minute it looked possible I wouldn't be able to have an epidural for medical reasons, and I don't know what I would have done had that even the case - I had in no way prepared myself for that possibility.

When I went into labour, I wouldn't say I felt ready or prepared, but I certainly didn't freak out like I thought I would. I had an epidural when I was only 2cm dilated, which some people may see as wimpy, but it was what I needed to cope, and I am forever grateful to my midwife and the anaesthetist for not making me feel pathetic. I was very lucky to have a straightforward labour and birth, as I was like you and worried about the PTSD aspect of it.

This isn't supposed to come across as a "look at me, I'm so much better because I had a vaginal birth" type of post, not at all. I think you sound like an ideal candidate for an elective c-section, and it sounds like you have really considered all options. However, I just wanted you to see that if for any reason you are denied a section, it is possible for a birth-phobic to have a vaginal delivery and come out the other side relatively unscathed!

squizita Sat 30-Aug-14 11:26:59

I have a fear of pregnancy (currently 38 weeks though) due to past losses one of which got scary with a cancer scare.
My advice would be to be quite calmly assertive that your phobia is a medical need: in most large hospitals there will be a psych team to help you.
They write everything into your notes when they counsel you.
This is massively valuable when discussing choices with hcp. In my case it's the opposite to you: I am very keen for the MLU as it's medical enough to make me feel safe but the labour ward might be triggering to me, being a Victorian hospital and like where I had my issues in the past.
I had a glitch last week: by drawing attention to my anxiety notes they really did ensure I was thoroughly checked - and rather than "oh let's just induce" they got a top consultant to assess the risk (turned out hardly any!) And OK me to be "normal" and wait for natural MLU birth.

I know what makes me feel safe is the opposite to you ... but the value of seeking counselling which is written into notes and the ante natal team know about was really brought home to me. Would be the same value when pushing for a cesarean I guess?

shimmymummy Sat 30-Aug-14 19:14:40

I can't add much to what the other posters have said OP but just wanted to echo how beneficial I think a hypnobirthing course could be for you. I think may be 1-2-1 (or with your DP) would be better than group as the therapist would be able to address your precise fears and their roots. I had an immense fear of childbirth after DD1 and a hypnotherepist used visualisation techniques to push that fear away. I ended up having a homebirth with no pain relief for my second child and it was wonderful. The way I think of it now is that my fear inspired a perfect birth story. I never ever thought that was possible before my hypnobirthing sessions.

devoncreamtea Sun 31-Aug-14 11:19:18

It might help to try to retrain your associations now. Perhaps you could try to watch some other births on film with your dp or as part of a counselling session?

I had a friend who felt similar to you and did have some counselling, but when preg did request a cs. however once she had heard all about that procedure she became very scared of that too and in the end had a vaginal birth.

It is so easy for those of us having given birth vaginally to say 'it will be fine' and I do acknowledge your fear. Just so you know good things are possible though - I have had 4 babies, vaginally, no pain relief (except water) and I am not an earth mother type - just a normal person.

Do ask for help from gp etc and I really hope you go on to have an enjoyable pregnancy.

janeh1984 Sun 31-Aug-14 17:31:25

Hi everyone,

Thank you all for your reassuring comments. It really helps to know that I am not a 'freak' and that other people have had similar phobias.

My biggest fear is that I will get pregnant, request a caesarean and then be denied and have to face months of anxiety and stress before delivering naturally. I really really want to enjoy my pregnancy when I get pregnant. However, your comments have made me feel confident that I will be able to get a caesarean. I intend to request one early on, then try counselling, hypnotherapy etc to try and get over my phobia . If that's not possible, only then will I have the caesarean.

Devoncreamtea- this sounds like what you friend did, so hopefully I'll end up like her. Do you know if she was granted a caesarean early on?

Thank you all so much! xx

RedToothBrush Sun 31-Aug-14 18:14:49

Hello Janeh

Tomorrow I'm having an ELCS. I am having it because I have severe anxiety over giving birth and this had haunted me for years. I am a first time mother.

I sort help before getting pregnant. I went through my GP who was clueless as to what to do with me, because I haven't had a baby yet and there are no care pathways for women in a similar situation. However she was supportive and said that she would help if she could. In the end I found a local hospital which was sympathetic to the situation and have experience with women in this situation. My GP referred me there, despite it being a different Trust.

I had an appointment before getting pregnant and they agreed that given the nature of my anxiety that they would support my request without question when I got pregnant. They made the point, that due to the severity of my anxiety they regarded my regard as medical need rather than maternal request. They made me feel 'normal' and stressed, that although my situation was uncommon, it wasn't unheard of and they had dealt with others in the same situation in the past.

Their general policy is never to block or obstruct a request, but to work with the woman in question and explore her fear and build up trust with her. They actually have a good success rate in helping women change their minds and go for a VB with support. This is one of the reasons, I have been so impressed with them, as I have never had any pressure either way, but their support is completely non judgment and for women in this situation they try and understand everyone's fears - which are all very different and personal - and develop an individual care plan for that woman, which may differ from 'the standard' in order to take into account their individualised needs.

I was booked in for my ELCS at 16weeks, which I believe is very early - I've not heard of anyone else being booked in so early tbh - most places do not do so until much later in pregnancy. It lifted all the pressure I felt and beyond my expectations, I have had a calm, relatively relaxed pregnancy rather than one ruled by fear. I have been given fantastic support, and have never felt judged or pressured.

I also have been given a lot of advice and support with regard to what happens after the birth - they have made sure I am aware of what services are available to me, should I need them.

From what I know, my experience is unfortunately not as common as it should be and the hospital I am at is apparently leading the way in understanding the issue. Care is incredibly patchy and experiences around the country and varies enormously. However in most places if you ultimately want an ELCS, there are few which will refuse - though you might find yourself with a very stressful battle to get there and you can face a lot of opposition on the way.

I personally do not advocate an ELCS as a solution for anxiety. It is just one option to deal with the issue. You NEED to get to the bottom of exactly what your fear is, and what it is about a VB that horrifies you so much, and why you prefer an ELCS. Others have said a few of the options available. They are not exhaustive by any means. Certainly you would benefit which ever way you decide, to have the support of a dedicated peri-natal mental health team; not every Trust in the uk has one unfortunately. When looking around for support, this is the first thing I would look for if you have the luxury of being able to travel - do not necessarily go just to your local hospital. This will hopefully give you the best chance of having your issues understood by people who are sympathetic and understand the issue well.

There is no right or wrong answer as to what is best. Just what is best for you.

The biggest thing you have going for you right now, is the luxury of time - you don't have a ticking 'baby bomb' to deal with, so can explore this more and try and get the help and support you need. I am so glad, that I did this before getting pregnant as it made the world of difference and made the experience so much more bearable in the end.

Good luck. I hope you find the help and support you need.

devoncreamtea Mon 01-Sep-14 11:02:26

Hi Janeh - yes that's exactly what she did - even chatted about with a nice (female) GP before conception and had a really helpful response. When she was pg, she bought it up early with mw and saw the special mw's who are trained to help patients experiencing mental health difficulties during pg - 'perinatal mw's'?

She was granted an ELCS early on, which made her feel like she had some options. It seemed to me that the option itself helped her to work with her fears, knowing that if she wanted to, she could opt for ELCS. As her pg progressed she actually became more worried about the CS than the vaginal birth and ended up having a straightforward birth.

I think it would be perfectly fine for you to tackle this head on by asking for an ELCS early on in the process, especially with the commitment to work with your anxiety, as you said above.

I hope very much that you go on to have the experience you want, good luck with it all! x

etienne1 Mon 01-Sep-14 11:38:59

OP- I was terrified of child birth and decided to take a hypnobirthing course, it was amazing and towards the end of the course I was genuinely looking forward to child birth!

I was very anxious about hospitals too, and in the end I managed to go through a 44 hour labour, failure to progress, syntocinon drip, failed forceps attempt, failed epidural and subsequent spinal block which ended with a general anaesthetic emergency c section, all of which I was calm about... all down to hypnobirthing!! I would try it before committing to a c section? I would just having had a c section it is major abdominal surgery, and the recovery is pretty slow and it's tough to look after a new born in the weeks afterwards. I'm 3 weeks post c section now and it is easier, but it still hurts sometimes, especially if I try and use my abs. (It turns out you use them for a lot in life, I hadn't realised!)

I would finally say child birth is the most natural thing we can do (despite my unnatural labour!) and our bodies are amazing smile The important thing is that your baby and you are healthy, so whatever you decide, good luck!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now