Roughly one third of women admit to being fearful of childbirth with anxiety peaking in the last trimester.
Reasons for this fear and anxiety may include:
- Fear of pain and low pain tolerance
- Lack of social support
- Fear of injury to themselves or their unborn child
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of looking silly during birth
- Lack of trust in obstetrical staff
- History of abuse or traumatic childbirth
Anxiety can occur prenatally, during birth or your postnatal period and will present differently for everybody but some common symptoms are:
- feeling worried, stressed or being on edge most of the time
- tense muscles and difficulty staying calm
- high blood pressure or heart rate
- difficulty sleeping
- recurring, worrying thoughts that won't go away
- panic attacks
Most women can cope with some low levels of anxiety and stress during birth, our bodies will release beta-endorphins and other hormones (chemical messengers) to help us adapt and provide us with strength and energy if needed. Too much anxiety and stress however, is counterproductive to birth - your body will release adrenalin which can interfere with oxygen getting to your baby, cause your contractions to slow down or stop and may create a sense of panic and increased pain.
(See the resources below for a detailed guide to your birth hormones)
What Can A Doula Do
- Be a continuous companion during your pregnancy, labour and birth that you trust and feel safe around
- Help you understand what is triggering your fear or anxiety and support you to address them or link you up with someone in the community who is highly skilled in this area
- Provide you with resources and information prior to birth so that you know what to expect and to help answer any questions you might have
- Help you communicate your anxieties with your care providers and work together with them to support you
- Show you coping strategies to deal with different situations
- Teach you various decision-making tools so that you can make informed choices that are in line with your values around birth
- Help you set up and maintain a calm, peaceful and private birth environment that enhances your helpful birth hormones
- Provide comfort measures and positive words to help keep stress and adrenaline down
Research shows that mothers who are supported by Doulas demonstrate less anxiety.
If you are worried about how you will cope during your pregnancy, birth or in the early days with your baby, please get in touch with Kelly to see how you can work together.
Further Resources for you
Beyond Blue - Another Australian resource providing online information, chat service and helpline