Friday, October 31, 2008

Fear & Birth

Since it is Halloween today, I wanted to post about fear and birth. I encounter a lot of women who are very scared of birth, particularly of the pain of birth. Grantly Dick-Read's Fear-Tension-Pain cycle has influenced the teachings of most natural birth educators and most people readily connect to the idea that fear leads to elevated tension in body which leads to increased pain.

One of my favorite birth books, Birthing from Within, has several sections about coping with fear. The author's idea is that by naming fears and looking them in the eye rather than denying they exist, you shift your thinking from frozen, fear-based, thoughts to more fluid, adaptable coping-mechanisms. There is a useful handout based on her ideas available at the Transition to Parenthood site.

I also thought of this quote from Jennifer Block:

"Why is it that the very things that cause birth related morbidity rates to rise are seen as the 'safe' way to go? Why aren’t women and their doctors terrified of the chemicals that are dripped into their spines and veins—the same substances that have been shown to lead to more c-sections?” Why aren’t they worried about the harm these drugs might be doing to the future health of their children, as some studies are indicating might be the case? Why aren’t they afraid of picking up drug-resistant staphylococcus infections in the hospital? And why, of all things, aren’t women terrified of being cut open?"

I was afraid of these things, which is part of why I didn't go to a hospital to have my babies!

I hope some day all women will be able to greet birth with confidence and joy, instead of fear and anxiety. This does NOT mean denying the possibility of interventions or that cesareans can save lives. Indeed, I just read a relevant quote in the textbook Childbirth Education: Research, Practice, & Theory: "...if women trust their ability to give birth, cesarean birth is not viewed as a failure but as a sophisticated intervention in response to their bodies' protection of the baby."

I have much more I could say on this topic, but it is time to put my little sugar-wild children to bed. Happy Halloween!


Anonymous said...

I am utterly terrified of modern hospital births. That is precisely why I am choosing to UC and looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

I am so turned off by birth that I never could do it. Now I am menopausal and I have no children. Education didn't help me; it just made the fear worse. Not every woman can get over the fear, and if you can't, you can live with it. It's sad but you get over it and get on with your life.