Birth Fear

“…if you want to know where a woman’s true power lies, look to those primal experiences we’ve been taught to fear…the very same experiences the culture has taught us to distance ourselves from as much as possible, often by medicalizing them so that we are barely conscious of them anymore. Labor and birth rank right up there as experiences that put women in touch with their feminine power…” -Christiane Northrup

Since it was just Halloween, I wanted to re-post some things about fear and birth that I shared on another blog a couple of years ago. I encounter a lot of women who are very scared of birth, particularly of the pain of birth. Grantly Dick-Read’s Fear-Tension-Pain cycle has influenced the teachings of most natural birth educators and most people readily connect to the idea that fear leads to elevated tension in body which leads to increased pain (more about fear-tension-pain in a linked post below).

One of my favorite birth books, Birthing from Within, has several sections about coping with fear. The author’s idea is that by naming fears and looking them in the eye rather than denying they exist, you shift your thinking from frozen, fear-based, thoughts to more fluid, adaptable coping-mechanisms. There is a useful handout based on her ideas available at the Transition to Parenthood site.

I also think of this quote from Jennifer Block:

Why is it that the very things that cause birth related morbidity rates to rise are seen as the ‘safe’ way to go? Why aren’t women and their doctors terrified of the chemicals that are dripped into their spines and veins—the same substances that have been shown to lead to more c-sections? Why aren’t they worried about the harm these drugs might be doing to the future health of their children, as some studies are indicating might be the case? Why aren’t they afraid of picking up drug-resistant staphylococcus infections in the hospital? And why, of all things, aren’t women terrified of being cut open?

I actually was afraid of these things, which is part of why I didn’t go to a hospital to have my babies!

I hope some day all women will be able to greet birth with confidence and joy, instead of fear and anxiety. This does NOT mean denying the possibility of interventions or that cesareans can save lives. And, it also doesn’t mean just encouraging women to “trust birth.” Indeed, I  read a relevant quote in the textbook Childbirth Education: Research, Practice, & Theory: “…if women trust their ability to give birth, cesarean birth is not viewed as a failure but as a sophisticated intervention in response to their bodies’ protection of the baby.”

Here are some more good quotes from Childbirth without Fear:

A well–prepared woman, not ignorant of the processes of birth, is still subject to all the common interventions of the hospital environment, much of which places her under unnecessary stress and disrupts the neuromuscular harmony of her labor.

It is for this reason that thousands of women across the country are staying home to give birth…Women are choosing midwives as attendants, and choosing birth centers and birthing rooms, in order to regain the peaceful freedom to ‘flow with’ their own labors without the stress of disruption and intervention. Pictures on the wall and drapes on the window do not mask the fact that a woman is less free to be completely herself in the hospital environment, even in a birthing room. The possibility of her being disturbed is still there.

The women in labor must have NO STRESS placed upon her. She must be free to move about, walk, rock, go to the bathroom by herself, lie on her side or back, squat or kneel, or anything she finds comfortable, without fear of being scolded or embarrassed. Nor is there any need for her to be either ‘quiet’ or ‘good.’ What is a ‘good’ patient? One who does whatever she is told—who masks all the stresses she is feeling? Why can she not cry, or laugh, or complain?

When a woman in labor knows that she will not be disturbed, that her questions will be answered honestly and every consideration given her, then she will be better able to relax and give birth with her body’s neuromuscular perfection intact. The presence of her loving husband and/or a supportive attendant will add to her feelings of security and peace, so she can center upon the task at hand.

Childbirth without Fear was originally written in the 1940′s. The quotes above are just as relevant and true today.

Related posts:
Fear & Birth
Fears about birth and losing control

Fathers, Fear, and Birth
Fear-Tension-Pain or Excitement-Power-Progress?
Cesarean Birth in a Culture of Fear Handout
Worry is the Work of Pregnancy

2 thoughts on “Birth Fear

  1. Pingback: Where are the women who know? | Talk Birth

  2. Pingback: Fears About Birth and Losing Control | Talk Birth

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