If you’re asking yourself: “Is it normal to be worried about giving birth?” The answer is YES, a million times yes. Believe it or not, FOC (fear of childbirth) is a real phobia called tokophobia. According to a 2017 study conducted in the Electron Physician journal, 6–10 percent of women experience an intense fear of labor and birth. And many people have feelings of anxiety about labor and motherhood.
Why does this happen?
Experiencing anything new and unknown is scary — especially when it involves your body and your baby. You may be worried about the health of your baby, the pain of giving birth, being left alone in the delivery room, or the unknown delivery time.
Beyond the fear of childbirth, it’s common for pregnant women to also fear motherhood. “Will I be a good enough mother?” “Will I be able to provide my baby with everything they need?” “Will I still be able to juggle a career and social life with a child in tow?” These are just a few questions that might be popping up in your head before giving birth. Like childbirth, motherhood can be overwhelming. And also like childbirth, you will know what to do when the time comes. Talk to those who have been through it before. Establish a support network to help through the early days.
And if you’re feeling very anxious or anxious for prolonged periods of time, it’s time to speak with your provider about finding professional support too.
Can anxiety about childbirth affect childbirth?
Women who experience disturbed labor due to stress can limit the amount of oxytocin they produce during childbirth. With more oxytocin, contractions can increase in speed and strength. Other disturbances can lead to longer labor like bright lights, muscle tension, and pain.
Staying calm during labor is difficult but can improve your experience. Think about the things that make you feel calm in your day to day life: practicing breathing exercises and visualization, listening to music, looking to your partner or family members for support. You might also want to consider hiring a doula to help you feel calm and confident going into labor and supported throughout it.
Additionally, particularly for first time parents, having more information about what the process of giving birth is like can help decrease fear and anxiety.
Knowledge can mitigate fears
Learning about the process of giving birth and the techniques to ensure your labor goes as smoothly as possible are both key components to easing your anxiety. Here are ways to face your fears head-on.
- Speak to your provider about what to expect
- Pack a hospital bag filled with your essentials
- Hire a doula to support your throughout pregnancy and postpartum
- Talk to your friends who can positively speak about childbirth and motherhood
- Work through your fears with a therapist
- Attend Lamaze classes to learn breathing and relaxation techniques
- Find a support group for mothers-to-be
- Remember: Your baby doesn’t expect you to be a perfect mother and neither should you
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Arfaie, Katayoun, et al. “The Role of Fear of Childbirth in Pregnancy Related Anxiety in Iranian Women: A Qualitative Research.” Electronic Physician, Electronic Physician, 25 Feb. 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5410899/.
- Slade, P., et al. “Establishing a Valid Construct of Fear of Childbirth: Findings from in-Depth Interviews with Women and Midwives.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, BioMed Central, 18 Mar. 2019, https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-019-2241-7.
- “Can Fear Prolong Labour?” BellyBelly, 17 Feb. 2021, https://www.bellybelly.com.au/birth/can-fear-prolong-labour/.