From pooing to tearing, there are plenty of worries and fears you might have surrounding birth. But the more you know, the less scared you’ll be
Thanks to Hollywood and hospital dramas, you're probably expecting to scream through the 'agony' of birth. And there's no denying that delivering a baby could push you to the limits of your pain threshold.Broadly speaking, early contractions feel like intense period pains and you may also experience pain in your back or legs. The pain intensifies as labour goes on. But the experience does vary from woman to woman, so listening to someone else's story won't help. "If you're told something's going to be painful, you start to believe it," says Lorna Phelan, consultant obstetrician at Saint Mary's Hospital in London. "And a small percentage of women say they don't feel any pain at all."Beat your fear of pain
If you’re anxious and negative, it becomes harder to deal with. Try to stay positive and just go with it.
Tears are classed in 'degrees' of seriousness, from first (a small tear or graze on the vaginal wall or labia) to fourth degree (involving tearing of the perineum, anus and the rectum). "Third and fourth degree tears aren't common," says Lorna. "They can be caused by a big baby coming down the pelvis too quickly, or when forceps are used."Beat your fear of tearing when you give birth
Your whole body changes after pregnancy and labour, so you can't expect the major player to come off completely unscathed. "Your vagina will get stretched, but it will go more or less back to normal after a few months, and to the naked eye it won't look any different," says Lorna. "The most important thing is to look after your pelvic floor muscles to sort out inside your vagina. The extra weight of pregnancy puts them under strain."Beat your fear of vaginal damage
Sorry to disappoint you, but it's highly likely this will happen! But the good news is, you probably won't notice. "At nearly every birth I attend, the mum poos or passes wind, but we don't even bat an eyelid. Your midwife will discreetly wipe it away and it won't be there when you deliver your baby," says Lorna.Beat your fear of bowel motions in birth
You probably feel foolish and alone worrying about this one, but don't. If you can face a fact, for every 100,000 births in the UK, around 10 women die. The main causes are thrombosis, haemorrhaging, pre-eclampsia, infection and complications with general anaesthetic. "For the majority of healthy women, pregnancy and childbirth is safeand low risk," says Lorna.Beat your fear of dying in childbirth
Tokophobia is a condition when women suffer a morbid fear of labour. There are two types of tokophobia:
If you’re pregnant and think you’re affected, talk to your GP, or midwife as some hospitals have systems in place to deal with this. Or visit The Birth Trauma Association for advice and support.
Pelvic exercises rule
“One of my friends advised me how important it was to do your pelvic floor exercises correctly. So I found a continence adviser via the Bladder and Bowel Foundation helpline (0845 345 0165). They taught me exactly how to identify and work my muscles and I’ve never had any problems.”
Emma, 35, mum to Mia, 3, Ben, 18 months, and Kara, 3 months
Hypnobirthing calmed fears
“I’m terrible with pain so was really scared of giving birth, until I read an article about hypnobirthing and decided to give it a try. It was fantastic because not only did the classes calm me down before the birth (I’d been stressing out about the pain factor before I had them) I was also so much more relaxed during my labour and managed to get the natural birth I’d always wanted, but so dreaded.”
Carla, 27, mum to Leo, 3 months
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