In our ongoing "Top 10 Childbirth Fears" series, we continue to talk about the most talked about fears families have about labor and birth, all of which are covered in a quality childbirth class. Today's topic is a big fear for most women -- the fear of having cesarean, whether it's unexpected or planned (even women who know in advance they need a cesarean can feel very frightened of the experience). With the following tips, we're sharing information on how to address a person's fear of cesarean, not how to avoid a cesarean (which we have covered in previous articles).
Learn about the procedure. Many women feel that if they learn about having a c-section they'll end up with one. It's not uncommon for a couple to go through an entire pregnancy knowing nothing about what happens during a c-section or why one might be needed. Whether or not you have fear about having a cesarean -- and especially if you do -- it's important to become educated about how cesareans are performed and why. The more you know, the more knowledgable and prepared you will be in the event you need to have a cesarean. You'll be better able to cope if most of the surprises about c-sections are uncovered before you have a baby. The book Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn is an excellent, comprehensive resource and covers what happens during a c-section.
Find out about a family centered cesarean. Whether you are having a planned cesarean or end up with one unexpectedly, knowing about your options during a c-section is important. Some hospitals and OBs have moved toward what is known as "family-centered" or "gentle" cesarean, wherein mom's hands are not restrained, a clear plastic drape is hung so that baby can be seen during birth, and mom can have skin to skin in the operating room. Learn more about this kind of gentle cesarean and discuss options with your care provider.
Read and listen others' stories -- selectively. When you're pregnant, everyone loves to tell you about their births. Most of the time, people love to share scary and "gory" details. Avoid these people, or at least, avoid their stories. However, do seek out empowering and positive stories, including powerful c-section stories (yes, they do exist!). You can Google "positive cesarean birth stories," or check out stories on the Birth Without Fear blog, including this piece with 15 helpful tips. The more positive birth stories you can hear and read, the more you will begin to feel more confident about your own birth.
Take a good childbirth class. You didn't think I'd leave this one off the list, did you? A good childbirth class will also talk about what to expect during a cesarean.
Talk to a therapist. If your fear is overwhelming, causing you to feel "frozen" in fear, or otherwise unmanageable, it will be helpful to talk to a counselor or therapist in order to work through your fear and shrink it to something more manageable.
Make peace with plan C. Having a c-section isn't likely your plan A, or even plan B. But knowing that birth is unpredictable, it's important to make peace with and welcome "plan C" if it needs to happen. Meditation, yoga, therapy, and even a nice long talk with a good friend can all help you come to terms with the need for flexibility and acceptance with what may happen during birth.