Many expectant mothers experience some level of anxiety around giving birth. But they don’t need to suffer in silence – there are ways to work through it!
It is perfectly normal to have anxious thoughts and feelings around giving birth. Childbirth is a significant life event (one we hear and see lots about), and it is natural for you to feel a range of emotions as you prepare for it, including excitement, anticipation, and, yes, anxiety.
The fear of the unknown, concerns about what birth might be like, how you will cope with your experience of it and general worries about the well-being of both your baby and yourself can contribute to these feelings.
Psychologist, Dr Tuesday Watts-Overall is a birth and postpartum coach and mum of 2 (with another on the way). In her work she uses a combination of elevated antenatal education and specialist coaching tools to help people prepare themselves mentally and practically for birth and life afterwards.
We spoke to Dr Tuesday about overcoming anxiety ahead of birth and here are her top tips:
Allow the fear
Often what people don’t realise is that by deliberately trying to suppress or ignore their fear, they can make the thoughts around their fear more intrusive. So the first step to overcoming your fear of birth is allowing the fear to surface. Ask yourself exactly what you’re worried about or what possibility your mind is trying to ‘warn’ you about. Say it to yourself, write it down or share it with someone you know. This will allow you to understand what it is that you are actually fearful of.
A person’s fear of birth can often be traced back to a particular source. Sometimes that’s a previous experience of it. Other times it’s a particular birth story, birth-related conversation or even a birth scene depicted in a film or tv show.
If you’re not entirely sure where your fear has come from, ask yourself these questions and see what comes up for you:
- How was birth talked about when I was growing up?
- What are some of the things that I have heard/watched/read about birth?
Fill in the gaps
So often we form an impression of birth based on the subjective experiences and opinions of others as well as our own assumptions about what that experience might look like. It’s important to acknowledge this where possible and to consider whether there are any gaps in your knowledge around birth.
- What are the facts around how birth happens?
- What does the evidence say about the possibility of a particular scenario or outcome?
- What are your birth-related options?
A great way of answering these questions and getting a more accurate picture of birth is by doing a birth preparation course.
Plan for the birth you want
Yes, birth can be unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still plan for the birth you want.
When you picture yourself giving birth consider the following;
- Where would you like to be?
- How would you like to be supported?
- What would you like to feel?
Having an understanding of what your options are will make answering these questions easier. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee any particular outcome, but it does help create and strengthen the neural networks in your brain which see that birth as a possibility (making it more likely).
Get your body on board
All of the above is important work for your mind. These steps are a big part of disrupting the automated fear responses that your brain has created when it comes to birth. But there is another vital piece to all of this – getting your body on board with your new perspective on birth.
By this I mean learning how to regulate your nervous system. Learn how to recognise your body’s reaction to the fear and equip yourself with tools and techniques that you can use to help move yourself back to a state of calm. This is a skill that most of us are unfamiliar with, but one that is incredibly vital, not just for birth, but for life.
Whatever you’re feeling ahead of birth is completely valid and it’s so important to recognise and address these feelings. As a birth and postpartum coach, Dr Tuesday can support you with these feelings and arm you with all of the tools and knowledge you need to move through them.
For more advice or to book a course visit Dr Tuesday’s website here.
Dr Tuesday Watts-Overall became a birth and postpartum coach in 2021 after the birth of her second child, with a mission to normalise birth and the realities of life afterwards in a way that helps people move through their experiences with more confidence and self-compassion. Dr Tuesday offers evidence-based birth preparation and nurturing postpartum support that enables people to navigate birth and life afterwards feeling held, understood and empowered.