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Is it normal to be so afraid of birth...(28 Posts)
...that you don’t want to have children?
I’m nearly 32. My DH wants us to have kids. I love children and in an ideal world would like to have them - I always thought I would. But now it’s a realistic prospect, I’m just too terrified of childbirth to do it. The terror sometimes stops me from sleeping and I’m not even pregnant. I’m avoiding sex during my fertile period and finding any reason to delay getting pregnant.
Is this normal? Does every woman feel like this and do I just need to get a grip if I want a family? If so, how did you get a grip?
Well, it's not an entirely unreasonable position. And on another thread you'll see me talking about how angry I was following childbirth, as I felt I had been misled about the reality of it.
Having said that - I want another child. I know now that it's worth all the pain and fear and more. DS is the absolute light of my life.
If you do want children, and it's literally only the fear of childbirth that's putting you off, then maybe it might be worth looking into either counselling (if you'd like to try and deal with your fear) or elective c-sections, which I've heard are generally very calm and quick. You might find it difficult to get on the NHS so perhaps look into private?
But if you're wondering if it's strange to be scared - no, of course not. We're all scared. I suppose some of us are better at denial!
I understand this feeling. Although I am 38 pregnant and it has actually gone away now.
I just tell myself that billions of woman have done this, there are lots of options for pain relief now (epidural etc.) and it will be over within a day or so. Then I get a beautiful baby to show for it.
From the moment you are young society scares women about childbirth in films/ tv. It’s all very negative. Stereotype woman lying on her back screaming in agony. It may not be that way for you and isn’t for a lot of women.
So yes I’d definitely say it is normal to feel like this.
It might be worth breaking down this general fear into more specifics - what exactly about the process is it you're afraid of? And - in an ideal world - is there anything you could do to take that fear away? Such as an elective C-section. As the PP said - this might be an option privately if you are in a position to consider this.
I'm not sure how 'normal' it is to be this afraid, but I think i used to have a similar fear. DS1 was unplanned (but not unwanted), so I didn't have a chance to work myself up before TTC, and when I was actually pregnant I just tried not to think about the labour, no birth plan etc. (not that I would recommend doing that).
What element of childbirth are you most afraid of?
Had i been overwhelmed with fear of a normal delivery, I would have asked for a c-section (or paid for it if necessary).
I'm again 26 weeks pregnant, and feel ok about having to give birth again, although I do try not to think about it!
Some fear is normal - I'm about to have dc3 and despite a pretty good experience with an emergency c section and then a really good natural birth, I'm still nervous! However it's not usual to have a fear extreme enough to prevent you from having children that you would like to have. Are you generally anxious, or is this a specific phobia for you?
In either case, in your shoes I'd speak to your gp to see if there is counselling available. They won't think it's silly, and there is support available whether it is a general health anxiety or a phobia. One of my friends was very nervous about a second after a scare with her first and also got private hypnotherapy, which helped her hugely. Good luck!
To an extent it is normal. I remember worrying about it a lot when I was pregnant with my first baby. I don't want to sound like I'm trivializing your fears in any way, but childbirth is like a lot of things in life, once you've been through it and come out the other side, you don't worry so much about it. I had a difficult delivery experience with my first baby and I won't share the specifics because I don't want to unnecessarily scare you further. It did take me time afterwards to physically, mentally and emotionally recover from my experience. But I did recover and the recovery time was insignificant compared to lifetime of happy memories I have with my children. I went on to have a second child and was pregnant 18 months after my first, so that gives you an idea of what I dealt with.
There is help and counseling available for these types of issues. Going into things informed as well makes a huge difference. There are complications and horror stories with childbirth, and despite what it might seem like there are probably twice as many non-eventful straight forward deliveries with no complications.
I just wanted to reassure you that as someone who did have a negative experience, please do not let it stop you from having the family you want.
I felt like this then fell pregnant by accident on two types of contraception.....
i couldnt bring myself to have an abortion when my partner really wanted the baby and it wasnt the thought of the child that put me off but the idea of pregnancy and childbirth...
So I went through with it and I wont lie I was terrified the entire time... Did not enjoy one second of pregnancy or the birth (which was horrific)...
Im so glad I have my little boy. I honestly think it was worth it.
So much so that I am now pregnant with our second. And actually this time im not nearly as frightened... even though I had that horrible experience first time round I do think its fear more than what actually happens iyswim?
I know now that I most likely wont die and that my body can do it... I also know that the pain is not forever, it doesnt last that long in the grand scheme of things.... its actually the fear itself that was the worst bit for me... your body just does it... you just go through it and you come out the otherside... some women have better or worse experiences than others... and theres the odd very rare complete tragedy but the majority of births though painful, are pretty straightforward,
I was unlucky and had quite a traumatic birth but like I said that has not put me off having another.
These things are probably harder to watch (OBEM) or hear about written on mumsnet than they are to go through I reckon. I used to be terrified of OBEM but now I know what it actually feels like im considerably less afraid of it. Bear in mind also that people whove had difficult experience will want to talk about them more than people who have had straight forward experiences and so on places like mumsnet you will read many intense storys that may lead you to believe thats what generally happens... but it actually isnt... birth is usually painful to some extent but for example my friend said her contractions never really got above the worst period pains. She said the crowning was the worst bit but it was over in a matter of minutes and she barely had time to register it. Her birth only took three hours all in all and she was up out to the park the next day!
I dont know if thats helpful to you? But just in my experience if you want a child and you like the idea of raising a child dont let a very natural fear of the unknown (pregnancy/childbirth) put you off because overall thats just a very small part of the experience.
Its not typical. But its not 'abnormal' either.
Historically this is something that has always been the case as childbirth is dangerous.
The questions for you to ask is do you actually want a child and if you do, how do you go about it with your fear?
The answer to the first question can be no, but if the answer is no because of you fear, it will haunt you.
There are women who are in or have been in the position where their fear is preventing them from having the child they want. I'm one of them. My little boy is three now.
There are also people out there who have studied this and/or have experience of helping women in this position. There are few and far between, but their existence tells you that its a more common problem than you might think. It even had a name - 'primary tokophobia'. There are patterns in who suffers from it too.
My specialist midwife made the point that every woman is anxious about childbirth, but the range of that is very broad, with fewest at either end of the spectrum. All of them are 'normal'.
As a previous poster said, the first thing to do is to unpick and unravel EXACTLY what your fear is and break it down into pieces. Then go from there as to ways to deal with it.
You are 32. You do have some time, but you need to start dealing with it too. It must have taken me bout 9 years to process it all - but when I started out the topic was much more taboo and there was a lot less out there about it. Over the last 15 years things have slowly changed and there is a lot more awareness and research about it out there which makes a huge amount of difference.
Don't let it rule your life and prevent it from being what you would like it to be. Make peace with it one way or another.
I'm not the only one on MN who has been through it. There are lots of others. There are common threads and themes, but there is no overall exact reason for it. Everyone's experience is unique and every situation different. What is right for one of us, isn't for another. Just don't ever think you are somehow flawed or a failure for how your feel. You are not. Its natural. Some people just find it more difficult than others and need more support. There is no shame in that.
Step one is facing up to it and admitting to it all, and then going from there.
I was exactly like this. I ended up having a section, which was such a relief.
Is there any chance you could do this?
Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful replies. I really appreciate you taking the time to post.
I’m definitely an anxious person in general - and tbh a bit of a control freak. I’m risk averse. I suppose that’s why I wanted to know if it was normal to feel like this.
@fartniss (great name!!) I’m sorry you had a bad experience. I think it’s the total lottery of birth that terrifies me. (But every woman faces the same lottery, so why am I so terrified?!) I think I would cope much better with a planned c-section - but there’s so much online about how c-sections are bad for babies, they put babies at greater risk of obesity and allergies, etc - and as you say the NHS is massively resistant to allowing women who don’t ‘need’ them to have them. So I’d just feel guilty about having let my baby down because of my fear I guess.
@butterfly - congratulations on your pregnancy!
@ratherbe @namechange and @coffee - as I said above I think it’s the total lottery of it. And in line with @fatted’s point I also think I’m hyper aware of what can go wrong for a couple of reasons - 1) my poor mum had a terrible time with me and never shied away from telling me about it (I’m an only child for that reason) and 2) when I was younger I spent six months working in a medical negligence law firm in the obstetrics department, so I saw it all - dead babies, brain damaged babies, grievously injured mothers. I’ve never had complete trust in medical professionals since (at least not ones involved in obstetrics). I know I saw the worst of it and that’s not representative but I don’t believe that women’s health is taken sufficiently seriously by society. You’re right, I think a planned section would help ME - but there’s so much guilt heaped on women who opt for them that I can’t help feeling as if I’d be letting the baby down.
It really, really helps to hear some of you saying that your children are the lights of your lives even if you did have a negative time in childbirth or felt like i do before you gave birth. I think I’ve allowed my anxiety to balloon and completely take over.
Thank you so much again for the nice replies.
I have this and delayed having children too. The technical term is tokophobia and it's not uncommon. My doctors took it seriously and I had a planned section. DS is now 5.5 months and he was worth the pregnancy (which I hated) and the surgery.
You say that there's guilt heaped on women for opting for c sections but I honestly haven't had any. Even in my NCT group there was no judgment. 3 of 6 of us had planned sections and if anything people were interested in the phobia rather than judging.
Also, you wouldn't be letting the baby down at all. Giving birth naturally isn't a badge of honour! The important thing is the baby arriving safely and if the best way for that is a c section then there isn't any shame in that. For me I knew I would panic terribly during labour and that isn't conducive to a good birth. But a c section isn't exactly the easy route - it's major surgery and the recovery isn't a walk in the park.
@afterschool - did you have a private section? What happened for you - did you decide you couldn’t face natural birth and opt for a section?
I think I could probably afford a private section although not comfortably if that makes sense.
I almost feel like I would need ‘permission’ to have a section. I know that doesn’t make sense and I don’t know why I feel like that.
but there’s so much online about how c-sections are bad for babies, they put babies at greater risk of obesity and allergies, etc - and as you say the NHS is massively resistant to allowing women who don’t ‘need’ them to have them. So I’d just feel guilty about having let my baby down because of my fear I guess.
Right, there is a whole pile of studies that say all sorts of things on the subject. Many have methodology flaws or bias in them. Just the other day a big study came out saying that for planned CS there was no difference at age 5 for obesity.
Honestly, I spent A LOT of time sifting though studies to see if there was an issue. In the end it became apparent that they don't really know and there is certainly no significant difference that is glaring.
Plus YOUR health - both mental and physical really is important to the long term health of your child too. Don't feel guilty for thinking about your own mental health in all this.
I went down the route of getting assessed BEFORE getting pregnant. Its not easy, and not every doctor will do it, but it IS possible. I got a CS in principle agreed because of the severity of my anxiety. That's not the end of it. Your anxiety is part of a bigger issue with anxiety that you have, so you should look at that as part of it all, because again that's in the interest of your child. Its not JUST about the birth.
Tokophobia is a recognised condition. In my NHS trust, if you explained at booking
: you would be referred to the perinatal team
: if you had any other mental health conditions eg depression, anxiety, these would be managed alongside, with medication if needed
: you would be referred to a psychologist to explore coping strategies and make recommendations to the obstetrician
: an elective cs would definitely be an option.
OP there is another thread in this section with the title like "Mix and match NHS and private care" talking about elective C-sections.
It's also worth having a read of the NICE guidelines on C-sections as it lists the criteria for having one. This you can find by googling.
Lastly if you have ever seen any HCP for anxiety in a horrible way it may actual work in your favour when you ask for one as at your booking appointment they do look into all parts of your health, and if you ever had mental health issues they talk to you about it.
Try reading “spiritual midwifery” by ina May gaskin.
It took me from someone who had horrors at the thought of giving birth, to a drug free hypnobirther who actually LOVED the experience.
Also recommend maybe some psychotherapy would be useful. It sounds like your DM has maybe had some impact here, and you say your anxiety is high generally... I recommend therapy to everyone- I’ve been intherapy on and off for 10 years. Now 1 year on this sting for post natal anxiety, and it’s been life changing this time.
I understand the fear to an extent.... I'm currently in the pre-labour ward, been having contractions since they induced me at 7pm last night.. but at this stage they're just like period pains. I'm sure it's going to get worse but hopefully it will be gradual enough that I can deal with it, and I want to get the epidural when I can't
I think things that helped me rationalise the pain versus the reward of having a baby were:
- wanting kids so much I blocked the actual thought of it the thought of what the actual birth would be like (ignorance is bliss and all that!)
- knowing that my mum & dh's mum both had 4 kids back years ago with no pain relief
- close friends being really honest with me about their experiences: some were more difficult than others but even the 'bad' ones went on to have more afterwards
I hope I feel the same the after
Good luck today. I hope your experience goes well and that you stay calm and positive.
You will meet your baby so very soon. Very exciting!!
@ MontyDog589 yes I went private, but I'm in Ireland. There's no NHS here.
I had no problems with the surgery, recovery went well luckily.
It is totally normal. I was putting myself through hell thinking I would absolutely have to have children one day and the thought of even having unprotected sex terrified me. I came to the conclusion that the pain and anguish was not worth it. Hubby and I had a lot of talks about it and we are firmly childfree now. It is a viable option
I was scared of birth... Until I was pregnant! Now (at only 33 weeks!) I can't wait to not be pregnant, to meet our baby and start life as a family
You'll be brill when it comes, don't let that put you off
I had an elective section for my second DC for this reason.
I was very scared before my first birth but decided to try. I had a forceps delivery and a 3 litre PPH.
I had no problems getting an elective section for fear of childbirth on the NHS.
It's not unusual. I had a lot of CBT prior to conception and early on in my pregnancy to help me deal with my fears around childbirth, and in time have moved from 'give me a C-section under general anaesthetic' to 'Ok, I'm up for trying a vaginal birth with all the drugs'. If I hadn't made that shift on my own I'd be having a serious conversation with the consultant about a C-section, and it is still an option if my MH declines in the last few weeks.
Some people get really salty about judging others' birth choices (or lack of choices). Sod them. It's your womb, and your choice.
It's also worth avoiding those people who feel the need to tell you about their 72 hours of labour hell. It's not helpful, and it won't make you feel better!
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