Public libraries have large (seriously, large) sections devoted to all things related to parenting. From books on how to deal with run-of-the-mill temper tantrums to more serious behavioral issues, there is a book on literally every parenting topic. A parent can learn how to make their own baby food, how to forge stronger bonds with their kids, and how to make 101 crafts on rainy days. There is no shortage of knowledge.
Perhaps one of the biggest subcategories in the parenting section is pregnancy. Of course, pregnancy is wild physical, emotional, and mental journey where weird, weird things happen to a woman’s body so it makes sense that there would be plenty of books to guide her on what’s normal and what to expect.
However, a vast majority of the pregnancy books exist to help quell an expectant mom’s fears. Fear of the unknown is a very real thing, and pregnancy and childbirth are filled with lots of unknowns. The more expectant moms read and educate themselves, some of those scary things are a little bit easier to handle. Still scary – but easier to accept. Besides the “unknowns” there are also concrete things moms are afraid of. Moms in labor have a lot going on in their heads, and here are 15 things they’re scared of.
15 Ring Of Fire
The name even sounds foreboding. The Ring of Fire. Geologically speaking, the Ring of Fire is an area/ ring around the Pacific Ocean; this “ring” is lined with some of the hottest spots for earthquakes and volcanoes. In regards to childbirth, the Ring of Fire refers to the part of labor when the baby’s head crowns. Seriously, fire? It’s like the name is promising to not just hurt – but burn.
When the baby’s head is crowning, it literally stretches the opening to the V. It doesn’t take a scientist to realize why the geological Ring of Fire is just as scary as the vaginal Ring of Fire.
The good news (yes, there’s good news): shortly after the burning ring of fire makes its presence known, the V goes numb. Thank goodness for small miracles.
14 Torn To Shreds
The Ring of Fire, as previously discussed, is scary in and of itself. However, a second fear stems from the Ring of Fire and that is tearing and episiotomies. Sometimes if the baby comes too fast or if the baby is just big, there can be ripping of delicate skin. Some tears are little, and some run from the V-hole to the B-hole. Tearing (and episiotomies) are scary because 1.) your skin just ripped and 2) now you need stitches which means more needles on your lady bits.
Luckily, everything hurts so you probably won’t notice the exact point at which you tore so there’s that. Yippee.
Midwives tend to encourage perineal massages during pregnancy to help reduce the risk of tears, but even if you go that route, keep in mind that it’s not a definite preventative.
13 All Stitched Up And Ready To Go
So the Ring of Fire (a fear) just torn your lady bits to shreds (another fear), and now you need stitches to put you back together (yet another fear). Can a mama catch a break?
Whether you are afraid of needles or not, getting stitched up down there isn’t exactly a thrilling prospect. I mean, needles! C’mon! I was terrified of tearing and getting stitches and unfortunately, I had to deal with both. If you’re sitting there reading this pregnant with your first baby, at least know that you won’t actually care about stitches once you’re getting them. Because getting stitches means labor is over, and that is the best feeling in the world. Or one of them anyway.
So stitches might be a fear, but at least if you need stitches, that means your labor is over.
12 She Did What In Labor?
Okay, this one is no secret: moms in labor (usually) poop right there on the delivery table. While this is more “gross” than “scary”, many moms really are fearful of pooping in front of a crowd. The fear stems from embarrassment. While this isn’t technically the scariest scenario to play out in a delivery room, moms have noted in forums after forum how they are so afraid of pooping that they will go to great lengths to try (key word: try) to avoid pooping. Like doing an enema at the onset of labor.
Sure, enemas used to be standard practice, but doctors are moving away from that as a standard procedure before birth.
Once moms accept the fact that poop is inevitable ( I mean, you are pushing after all), it’s just easier to accept. More importantly, I can promise you that when the time comes, poop will be the last thing on your mind. So cross this off your list of things to be scared of, because it’s no big deal. Really. I promise.
11 Unsuccessful Pushing
But moms in labor (especially once they’ve already been pushing for a while) begin to worry that all that pushing isn’t even enough. And this – unlike pooping in labor – is a fear that does come with serious consequences. If pushing is unsuccessful, doctors usually begin a cascade of interventions, all designed to help mom and baby out. Doctors might try to use a vacuum or forceps, but if all else fails, mom will need a C-section before baby gets too distressed.
While this situation can’t be avoided 100% of the time, you can give yourself a fighting chance by pushing when your nurse or doctor tells you to push, and pausing when they tell you to pause. If you’ve had an epi, you could ask for that to be turned down so you can better feel how to push.
10 Ouch, Ouch, And More Ouch
Maybe this should have been number one on the list, but that all depends on who you ask. A great majority of women fear the pain of childbirth. Some women are addicted to watching birth videos just to know that all those women made it through the pain and therefore they will be able to make it through as well.
Movie after movie depicts childbirth as the most intense, painful thing a human could endure. While childbirth certainly isn’t the most painful thing ever, it definitely ranks up there. However, women living today are lucky because a few decades ago, pain management wasn’t even half of what it is today.
Pain can be managed through drugs (IV drugs, epidural, and some hospitals even offer nitrous) and alternative pain management techniques (Lamaze, hypnobirthing, Bradley method). While pain is certainly not avoidable, it can be managed thankfully.
9 How Big Is That Thing?
Yet, the next fear of many women is being on the receiving end of one of those pain management options: the epidural. The epidural is scary – no doubt about that. A giant needle the size of Texas is inserted into your back, your epidural space to be precise. Speaking from experience, I was firmly in the “no way am I getting an epidural” camp thanks to a fear of needles. However, when faced with the wrath of Pitocin, I found the courage to face my fear of the epi, and I’m willing to bet that many other women do the same thing.
It’s weird how fear of one thing (like pain and contractions) can make you less afraid of another fear (like giant needles.)
8 Stalled Out And Nowhere To Go
Getting through the contractions is somewhat tolerable when you see the progress. Going from 3 to 6 centimeters makes the pain of contractions worth it. However, what happens when contraction after contraction does little to progress your dilation? Doctors call this a “stalled labor” and this too makes the list of scariest things in labor.
It’s scary because you don’t really know why it happens, but it also means that the light at the end of the tunnel is gone. Remember that whole fear of the unknown thing? The “what now?” panic sets in. Try not to worry too much because doctors do have a few tricks like pumping up the Pitocin, walking laps, breaking your water, etc. If you ever are worried about something, speak up! Knowing your options and what is happening helps to alleviate some of that fear.
Sometimes this tactics work and sometimes mama might need a C-section (hello, new fear!)
7 A Stay In The NICU
Humans – despite our fancy houses and proper hygiene habits – are still animals. We still have primal instincts and urges. Childbirth is one of those times in our live that really showcases the animalistic instincts – not in a bad way either. Some mothers instinctively know how to move to help baby make her descent into the birth canal. Some mothers just know how and when to push. With all of this instincts and natural processes, it makes sense that mothers focus on a lot her journey, her feelings, her pain, her needs during childbirth.
Putting asides mom’s fears about mom, there is a very scary thought about something happening to the baby. The baby heading to the NICU – away from mom – is scary for many reasons. Luckily, our medical and technological advances are able to equip NICU’s with lifesaving tools and technologies. IF a baby needs the NICU, at least be assured that they are in the best hands possible.
6 The Worst Of Both Worlds
My sister-in-law had the unfortunate experience of laboring naturally (and even pushing) before being taken for a C-section. I call this the Worst of Both Worlds. Not only did she have to do literally almost everything required of a vaginal birth, but she had to do everything required of a C-section as well.
It’s one thing to plan for an elective C-section, but it’s a whole other thing to have to do TWO labors on one day. This is a very real fear because it almost seems unfair. A woman should be required to only experience one type of birth at a time – not two! Unfortunately, this situation does play a lot more than I’d like to think. In the cases where the baby’s head is too big, the baby gets stressed during contractions, or a second twin flips breach, an emergency C-section does happen.
5 Too Late
Not getting to the hospital in time is a scary thought that plays out through many expectant mom’s heads – especially when she tries to picture how the actual “mad dash” to the hospital will go. Waiting to go into labor is like sitting in front of a Jack-in-the-Box; you don’t know when it will go off, and you start to get a little anxious around it.
When I was pregnant with my first, this was a huge fear of mine. I live by a train track and I was terrified that I would get stopped by a train while rushing to the hospital. For women in big cities, going into labor during rush hour can also spark the fear of not making it in time.
Luckily, most labors aren’t insanely speedy so you do have time to get the hospital – provided you leave before things get too intense. If you’re worried about it, leave when your contractions start. No biggie.
4 Blood Everywhere
Much to my surprise, a normal delivery is still a pretty intense blood bath. And all that blood can be scary for many reasons. One, if you’re squeamish, you might worry about passing out at the sight of any blood. Two, you may be worried about bleeding too much, which is obviously a very bad thing. It’s true some moms do need blood transfusions, but that is the exception not the rule.
Sometimes doctors give medications to help stop bleeding. Oxytocin, for instance, contracts the uterus which helps to slow the flow of blood. Some moms swear by drinking red raspberry leaf tea to help tone the uterus and get it ready to do its job and then contract back quickly. If you’re worried about bleeding, speak with your doctor.
3 Failed Attempt
Pain is scary, but the thought of an epidural can help us power through contractions, knowing that relief is on the way. But what happens when the epidural doesn’t work? THAT is scary, indeed! In fact, that’s a major Oh $#@! moment.
There are many reasons why an epidural might not work including the catheter not being placed properly. There are also reasons why an anesthesiologist would deny you an epidural and not even attempt to put one in. If you have a rod in your back or have an atypical anatomy in your back, you may not even get the chance for an epi.
A failed epidural (or the denial of an epidural is frightening to a mom in labor because many women hold on to the hope of an epidural to give sweet relief – physically and mentally. Having your pain meds not work feels like a personal theft, doesn’t it?
2 Upside Down, Rightside UP
During the last few weeks of pregnancy, an OB of midwife starts to check the position of the baby. Specifically, the doctor is looking to see if baby is in the head down position, which is the ideal position for a vaginal birth.
If a baby is feet first, which is known as breech, the OB may advise trying to turn the baby. If the baby can’t be turned a mom has two options: a C-section or a breech vaginal birth. While breech vaginal births can technically be done, they are viewed as risky so most mothers with breech babies are advised on the C-section.
During the few weeks while you wait for your baby to flip, you may feel anxious. Some women even swear by certain exercises for flipping babies. If you fall into the 3-5% of pregnant women with breech babies, try not to worry too much and address any fears with your doctor or midwife.
1 Change Of Heart
Women tend to think about all of things that they must endure during labor; all of the pain, all of the hard work, and all of the interventions and medications. However, while mama may doing some hard, hard labor, birth is experienced by two people: mama and baby. Baby must experience labor just as much as mama. However, unlike mama, baby can’t voice his concerns or let the doctor know if he’s not feeling so great. So doctors monitor baby’s heart rate as indicator of how the little one is doing.
Sometimes, baby’s heart rate can fluctuation. It can be as easy fix – like mom rolling onto her left side. Or, if rolling doesn’t do the trick, doctors can scrap the labor plans and head straight to the OR to get the little one out of distress. Of course, this is a scary scenario because no mom likes to see their little one in trouble. To keep fears at bay, just know that the fetal monitor can help doctors keep an eye on everything.