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Tools for Birth: Understanding and Dealing with Fear

Fear is a huge part of childbirth in the modern world. Even though maternal and infant mortality dropped significantly in the early 20th century, interventive medical practices increased the rates of both as we’ve moved into the 21st century.

Fear isn’t simply something women feel about pain or their new role as a mother. Fear is something that plays through generations, from spouses and partners, from parents, from best friends. It stays with us, to teach us lessons in a healthy way or to hinder us when it’s allowed to become an obsession or when it’s misplaced. There are some great people who have come up with the following acronym for fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.

So, how does fear affect birth?

This study, Survey of the Factors Associated with a Woman’s Choice to Have an Epidural for Labor Analgesia, outlines how one of the important factors in choosing an epidural is family or spouse preference. In other words, women choose epidurals at least partly to keep their families comfortable. Just this information alone shows how fear becomes strong. A woman is more willing to put a needle in her spine to keep her mother, mother-in-law, husband or other person in her life happy and less uncomfortable. Fear of birth has become so unrealistic women are being dosed to keep others happy. This is not an appropriate use of medications in a birth but it does show how much impact our emotional state has on what we are willing to do for others, even in the midst of giving birth.

Women also get epidurals or have cesareans based on their provdider’s fears as well. Epidurals are not a benign event, they have their own risks as well as the cascade that they can cause that results in more medications, more interventions and possibly a cesarean. These things need to be taken into account as a mom prepares for birth. What is she afraid of? How does she plan on coping with those fears?

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