Top 10 Childbirth Fears (A Series): Losing Control in Labor

IMG_0118b.jpgIn this series, we are reviewing the top 10 childbirth fears that are discussed in childbirth classes. In our last post, we talked about the fear of pain in labor and how to cope. You can view the complete list here -- stay tuned for a discussion on each of these fears. Today, we talk about "losing control" in labor, which can mean many things to many people. In general, however, losing control refers to the loss of control over oneself (bodily control) or over the outcomes or events in a situation (inability to control circumstances).Read below to learn more about the different kinds of losing control, what they mean, why some are helpful, and what can be done to prevent or cope with them. As always, one of the best ways to learn how to cope with your fears is to take a quality childbirth class!


Losing Control in Labor - What It Means, What to Do

Bodily functions and sounds: The body goes through a tremendous process and transformation during birth. It can be expected that your body will do things you haven't experienced before -- and certainly not in front of other people. Included in this are vocalizing noises, which if you read this post, you'll know they are very helpful to progress labor; bodily noises, like burping and passing gas; and bodily functions, like vomiting and yes, pooping. While the latter two sound horrifying, they are very common and helpful in the process of labor. If you consider where baby passes through, you know that it squeezes up against the colon. Add to that your own efforts in pushing baby out -- which involves the same muscles as having a bowel movement -- and it's entirely likely that small amounts of excrement (poop) will also be pushed out. The good news is that it's easily and quickly removed and cleaned by nursing staff, all of whom are accustomed to and comfortable with this event. If you think of this process as "making room for the baby" so you can meet her sooner, it may help your frame of mind. If you're overly worried about this happening in labor, talk to your care provider, your partner, your doula and childbirth educator, and perhaps develop a comforting mantra like, "it's part of the process" or "my body is amazing." 


Emotions: The hormones of labor and birth are incredibly powerful. They are responsible for the entire process! They also can contribute to feelings of high emotion during labor. Fear, joy, sadness, overwhelm, and even anger are all possible during labor. While it's impossible to predict or control these emotions, it's helpful to have a good support team to see you through them, and provider comforting and non-judgemental support. Make sure your partner knows what kinds of things to expect during labor, hire a doula for emotional support, and make sure you've chosen a care provider who values your input and experience in labor and birth. 


Unexpected events in labor: As you probably know, it's impossible to predict just how your labor and birth will unfold. There are so many unknowns, and while you can increase your chances of having a great birth by having a healthy pregnancy, taking a childbirth class, hiring a doula, and finding a good care provider, there's still the "luck of the draw" factor. You cannot control whether or not you have back labor, nor can you control your water breaking before contractions begin (both of these events can impact the course of your labor). The most important things you can do if an unexpected event occurs that impacts your labor, is to educate and empower yourself with information and knowledge on choices well before your labor begins -- take a good childbirth class! And of course, the gold standard of support and prevention is always to hire an evidence-based care provider and doula. 


Triggers: For women who have a history of physical or mental abuse, or who have experienced a prior traumatic event or birth, triggers (events that resurface feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, or upset) are very real and should be handled carefully. If you have had previous experiences that you think may bring about a trigger in labor or birth, it's important to let everyone on your birth team know about your possible triggers and your history -- you don't need to go into specific details with everyone, but letting them know generally will help you find the support in labor and birth that you need. It's also very helpful -- if you aren't already doing so -- to see a counselor or therapist to help you address and work through fears and feelings. 


Unexpected outcomes in birth: This could be anything from getting an intervention (like an epidural or cesarean) you didn't want, to giving birth to a baby with a birth defect, or experiencing stillbirth. The most critical action to take with any of these is finding support after your birth. In the event of experiencing a disappointing or traumatic birth, it will help to be able to process that experience with someone -- a doula, childbirth educator, or another mom who understands and will allow you to grieve the loss of your birth experience. For issues concerning the health or loss of your child, find a support group -- either in person or online -- and consider also seeing a counselor or therapist for ongoing help. While not all unexpected outcomes can be prevented, it's important to have good prenatal care and hire a good support and care team for your birth. 

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