Terrified of childbirth

I am 31 weeks and really starting to freak out. No matter how many times people tell me that my body is designed for it and millions of women do it, I am still really scared of having to have a vaginal birth, and something going wrong that prevents me from having pain relief. I am going to see the consultant in a few weeks to see if I need a c-section for medical reasons, but if he says no and I should go vaginal I think I will completely lose it!!! Can I demand a c-section anyway just because it is what I want?

28 Replies

  • Hi, don't freak out! Plenty of women feel like that!

    Being very close to labour myself (40 weeks and 1 day) and having pains which I'm trying to evaluate as I type this, I have an idea what you are feeling. 😊

    I am concentrating on the fact that I will have a baby to snuggle at the end, and from all the crap I've dealt with in life, (parents divorce, drug focused ex-boyfriend that stalked me, and a broken back from a horse riding accident to name a few), whats (worst case scenario) a few days of nasty in the grand scheme of things! Its positive pain, one contraction at a time!

    And at the very least you will have gas and air as pain relief, but the chances are you will be absolutely fine and be able to have whatever pain relief you want. Once you go into labour your natural instinct will kick in and do what is needed.

    Talk your worries over with your midwife, as stress is not good for you or baby, then she will be able to help you get what is best for you both.

    Hope that helps a little. Xx

  • I think I will have a chat to the midwife next week, although I don't have much hope in her being anything other than 'oh just get on with it'.

    I think partly my issue is that I took 4 years to conceive during which I had a whole host of very nasty surgeries, treatments, tests and IVF. For me pregnancy has not been a 9 month 'event' but a 4 year long ordeal, and I truly feel like I have just had enough and cannot do anymore. I also have zero faith in my body as it has failed me so much before.

    You're right though I need to focus on this baby that I have wanted for so long, and remember that it is just (hopefully) one unpleasant day more and she will be with me.

  • Hi Katrina, I started being scared of birth early in Pregnancy and attended some Hypnobirthing sessions (they require time so if you choose to do it you should start asap). I don't know if that helped but I was absolutely confident and wasn't worried at all. I was listening to relaxation cd's once a day and twice just before the birth. It didn't give me a painless birth and I asked for an epidural but after that I really enjoyed it. I had an episiotomy which didn't hurt or bothered me at all (is more our idea of an episiotomy that makes us freak out) and I recovered really well. if you can't have a c-section (I think you can choose anyway just because you want it) think that recovery from natural birth is muh faster, and your little one will need all the energy you have. We also moved houses the day after the birth so I got more traumatised about the after birth than the birth itself! Good luck!

  • Hi Katrina13,

    I had my baby almost 6 months ago, naturally with just a TENS machine. Admittedly this was not necessarily by choice (the lack of pain meds), but rather the lack of options where I gave birth (in a government hospital in South Africa)... Who would have thought a maternity hospital wouldn't even have gas and air!! Anyway, I'm telling you this because looking back now, in the end I managed just fine without. Ok yes, it was painful to push him out, I yelled loudly, I had a brief moment of panic where I felt I couldn't do it (when it was obviously far too late to turn back!) but I did it and I felt like a freaking warrior afterwards!

    My friend gave me a book called 'The good birth companion' by Nicole Croft when I was about 25 weeks along. I can not recommend this read highly enough. It helped me mentally prepare for what was to come and really allowed me to believe that I was capable of it too, that my body (like millions of women before me) biologically knows how to give birth. I read it again nearer the time just to reaffirm the positive vibes.

    In the end labour was easier than expected. The first stage (when your cervix is dilating) was manageable. The contractions eventually required lots of focus to breathe through; though I didn't learn any specific breathing techniques, I was telling myself 'breathe in deeply, breathe out slowly.' In between contractions you have a lovely few minutes to rest (the rests do get shorter but that is because you are getting closer) and during this rest time I felt normal, happy, chatty! Then ready to focus by the time the next contraction started.

    The book explained that you body goes through a transition period from stage 1 to stage 2 of labour (stage 2 being fully dilated and ready to push). During this transition period she talks about the surge of adrenaline your body produces, and how that can make you feel scared, panicky, doubtful that you can do it anymore. So at 8cms dilated when I started to freak out, in the back of my mind I knew this was expected, normal and that I was almost there. So I was scared but still kind of rational... Also, I had coped perfectly with the TENS machine (which I put on right at the start of my labour) up until 8cms, then at this point I had asked for something more to help with the pain, I wanted to try gas and air. I was horrified when they said they didn't have this and had a mini internal meltdown at the realisation that I would have to do this alone (my husband hadn't been allowed on the ward because there were over labouring women in room - this is Africa hey!) But I soon got my shit together and I realised I had to suck it up and get on with it.

    My labour progressed quickly. I was given the greenlight to push with my next contraction. Unfortunately in South Africa it's a bad routine for them to give episiotomies, and after just two pushing contractions, despite my protests they went ahead anyway. To my surprise I didn't feel the cut. The pushing was painful, this was easily the hardest part. But again you don't push solidly until the baby is out, you push when you have a contraction, and then rest inbetween contractions. The contractions at this stage force your body to push, the way they feel urges you to push, it definitely helps you along.

    Stage 3 of labour is delivering the afterbirth. I don't remember this part. I just remember having my baby :-)

    They took my baby to show my husband in the corridor so I remember the stitches. They weren't nice but again you would normally have gas and air or something.

    After I had him, I realised I didn't give any consideration to how I'd need to heal afterwards. I felt very sore, a little bruised but mainly the pain was because of the stitches from the episiotomy. I was able to take paracetamol and salt water baths definitely helped. This soreness didn't last longer than a wekk. I'm told by so many people that they found healing from a c-section much harder because you are out of action for much longer.

    Basically, it wasn't exactly a breeze, it was a challenge at times. But it wasn't the horror story you so often here. People are very keen to share their experiences of what went wrong or how terrible it was (and oh the pain!) so I think there is a distorted perspective out there which has the habit of scaring the hell out of everyone else about to go through the process. Natural delivery goes right so much more than it goes wrong, but people aren't as vocal when things go smoothly. Try to ignore the horror stories and focus on the good birth stories that reinforce positivity. And read that book. It's really good. xxx

  • Honestly for me it was the best thing ever and I cannot wait to do it again! I had my son when I was 19.. the Labour is the worst part ... Water birth is good though... But literally as soon as u start pushing all the pain goes away.... I do t think pushing hurts at all really... I did tear but you don't feel that at all... And once it's all over you've got your beautiful amazing baby in ur arms.... I would give birth for everyone if I could... It's an amazing feeling n pushing feels pretty good .. I loved it anyway :) hope it all goes well for you and baby hun xx

  • Hi, you can elect to have a c section if you want. You'll be asked to decide by 36 wks if you do. You're also still a way off and have yet to get really bloody peed off with being pregnant. Once that emotion kicks in, you really won't care about how baby comes out, just that baby does and you get your body back and the ability to lie on your back if you want to. What you're experiecing is completely normal and all part of the "magical" experience of pregmancy, child birth and motherhood - PS don't waste too much energy worrying, baby WILL come out one way or another. Save yourself and your energy for motherhood - you'll need it ;) xxxx

  • My appointment with the consultant is not until 37.5 weeks which they say is the correct time to review mode of delivery. I think after this maybe I will feel calmer.

    I have been peed off with this pregnancy since day 1, but my story has been far from easy!.

    Knowing the baby will come out one way or another is exactly what is scaring me!

  • Silly really, because it's the first 4 weeks after they arrive that are really terrifying ;p Chin up. You're nearly there. Just strap yourself in and enjoy the ride xxx

  • I am not at all worried about after the birth and feel prepared. Just wish I could push the fast forward button.

  • that's the funny thing about it.....once they're born you forget all about the birth in an instance....I can't even remember any pain....but I can still remember those first 4 weeks ;) Go with your instincts and what you feel most comfortable doing. There is no right or wrong in this, just getting you and babe through safely....try some meditation and calming yoga techniques...that's all you can do...bring it back to basics and try and make the birth the smallest detail in what is about to happen, because it really is, once you're on the other side it's just a figment of your imagination and you'll realise you got your "prepared" emotions the wrong way around. I went for planned c section in end due to adhesions, keloid and myomectomy surgery scars - and don't regret it. Breastfeeding took 5-9 days to get going but the surgery was a breeze. I was the only one in my ante natal group to go planned and was poo poo'd at time. And in the end nobody elses birth plan went to their plan but every baby was born healthy and happy. This is just your first test of motherhood, putting your baby before anything else and keeping calm at same time, nothing more to worry about and very quickly over. Good luck sweetness, you'll make the right decision for you and you'll be absolutely brilliant. You CAN do this xxx

  • Hi Katrina13, have you started nct classes yet? I remember responding to your post several weeks ago about it. Although I didn't learn anything new, I did feel 'empowered' somewhat and got into the zone while I was in labour with breathing and gas and air. I actually felt upset at needing an emergency c-section because I felt I was coping so well. That said, you've been through a 4-year ordeal and your midwife should take your concerns into consideration. She should work with you to try and get you as close as possible to the birth you'd like to have xxx

  • Hi katrina13. I was like you very nervous of the pain and wanted to get it over and done with. I had my son a year ago with a TENS machine, my ever supportive hubby and only 20 mins of gas and air over a 3 day labour! Honestly I think the thought of labour is worse than doing it because lets face it you have no idea what to expect. Mine started as period pains but then the contraction would in my back go up my bump and end in my back again. Do anything you can to relax, the minute you tense up the pain will feel worse. I'd previously done meditation courses and found the deep breathing perfect for getting through the contractions. Distract yourself too and warm baths help. Its normal to be nervous, at no other point does someone give u a day to expect a painful event! But its a positive pain and you'll have a beautiful baby at the end. I know you'll b just fine, good luck xxxxx

  • Hi Katrina,

    I'm in the same boat as you and am starting to freak out, currently 35 +4 weeks. The difference is: I've done it all before, 18 months ago. Before my first birth I did the pregnancy yoga, did the hypnobirthing classes and felt quite confident approaching labour. I knew I wanted a natural, water birth with no pain relief and consider myself to have a high pain threshold, so I really wasn't too concerned.

    Before going on I'd just say it's worth pointing out that there is no standard birth, everyone tells you a different story, everyone's had a different experience. In my case it was one that left me traumatised. My labour was very quick (2.5 hours), which some say might be a blessing. But when I got there and was 2cm, I was in a lot of pain. I requested an epidural despite never having wanted one... and didn't want to be anywhere near a pool, despite having had that on my birth plan (there wasn't one free anyway). They told me it'd easily be another 12-18 hours, so far too early for an epidural. 20min later I was 10cm and it was far too late for one!! So all I had was gas and air which made me vomit and didn't help at all. Due to a back injury years ago I had horrendous back ache as well. My boy got stuck a bit too and came out all squashed and oddly shaped (then screamed for weeks as his skulls was changing shape..) and then Stage 3 didn't happen.. my placenta wouldn't come out. I won't go into details about this as it won't help you. I did tear, which I didn't feel though. The midwives and doctors looking after me were amazing, once they realised I was not being a drama queen but actually going through very fast labour. So remember that you won't be doing this on your own, you will have support and keep reminding yourself what the outcome of all of it is - having your little bundle in your arms is an amazing moment, despite the pain, the blood, the tearing or whatever may happen. People say you forget - I personally don't think I will, which is why I'm now freaking out... but it's all worth it.

    As far as I know you can't just choose to have a C-Section because you want to first time round. Second time I know you can, but not sure about first time. And bear in mind that C-Sections do have risks as well. So despite my traumatic experience and all the pain I've had, I wouldn't go for a C-Section this time round - but that's my own choice. Like I said, for me it was a horrendous experience, and having had the chats with doctors and midwives already this time round I have been told that I'm most likely only going to be able to have gas & air again due to the speed of my last labour (and therefore most likely this labour as well), it really is making me panicky now. But despite it having been an incredibly painful experience, it is only a short period of time and then you have your baby :-)

    I'm back again with the midwife later on today - they want to discuss a homebirth, simply because of the speed of last time, but there's no way I want that, just in case something goes wrong again.

    Lastly, I think it's quite easy for people with straightforward labours and an epidural to say it was all fine and it's nothing to worry about. One of my work colleagues laughed at me when I told her how freaked out I am, and it's not helpful. In my case, an epidural just wasn't and won't be an option.

    Bear in mind though that you are most likely going to have a longer birthing experience and epidurals apparently are amazing things that make you relax and be painfree, so I'd discuss this in detail at your next midwife appointment. They can also have side effects but under normal circumstances you should be able to get the pain relief that is right for you and make the birth a memorable and not traumatising experience. More likely than my scenario ;-)

    Good luck!


  • Thanks, you are right about people laughing it off when you express that you are scared, it doesn't help and I find it really insulting. Everyone is different and the stories people have written on this post prove this. I think partly I have been so traumatised by repeated surgeries and IVF in the past that I am more scared of the pain. Unless they have been through it, noone can understand the emotional and physical pain of IVF (egg collection is really bad). I need to focus on this being very positive pain I think!

  • I think the most important thing to do is express your opinion with the midwives. This time round I have lovely midwives, last time (lived somewhere else) they couldn't have cared less and really weren't helpful. Depending on where you live you can choose from a range of clinics, so could see someone you feel takes you fears seriously. Or speak to the GP, depending on how you get on with them. Also make sure that whoever will be with you during birth knows exactly what you want/don't want (I for example really didn't want to be on my back with legs up in those metal things, and when they tried to get me into that position when things got a bit tricky, my husband stepped in and spoke for me which really helped and they listened and came up with a slightly altered version), be if for pain relief, positions, episiotomy, injections, cutting the cord etc etc. Also write your birth plan in your maternity notes, ideally in bullet points so they can go through them easily and quickly. I don't think there's any harm writing in there that you are scared of the pain and then list what exactly you would like for pain relief, if time and place allow it.

    IF your hospital does it, go for a tour as well! My second child will be born in a different hospital to my first, so I'm feeling apprehensive. Last week I was in a lot of pain and had to be admitted to the labour ward overnight. Our hospital doesn't do tours, but because I was admitted overnight, I was able to see how everything looked, what the procedures are (I went in at night and found out about how to get in then etc), met several really nice midwives... all that helped me feel a little bit better about it all. It still won't take all the fear away, or the pain on the day, but it is good to know!

    Who knows, you might come out of hospital with your baby and realise that the greatest pain was actually your IVF treatments! I think it's all about keeping as positive as you can but also acknowledge your fears and talk them through, I know I'll do it again this afternoon...

  • I'm also concerned pain relief will make me vom or nauseous. I'm planning a natural home water birth but I've packed a bag in case I freak out. Preparing for the worst pain of my life but not sure Id cope in an African hospital with an unconsented episiotomy. Look at where you are and are you able to get to the hospital... The rest is out of your hands. A C section is major surgery and will delay your enjoyment of motherhood. My own mother (i was a c section) still had pains in her scar 20years later. It isn't necessarily easier its just quicker if there are problems to get the baby out else they wouldn't be allowing all these ladies to spend hours in hospital if they could just book in a quick procedure.

    I'm 39 weeks, suffering with my sIze and moving around but baby can stay in there if it is safest. It is nice to know your efforts won't be wasted just get to the hospital and one way or another they will get the baby out. I just want her to have an easy time of it, my body has already been sacrificed.

  • What I didn't add to my birth story, because I didn't want to scare anyone, is that I had a rare-(ish) complication with the delivery, shoulder dystocia (it happens in 1 in 200 births). I had none of the risk factors for this so it was unexpected. They didn't know his shoulder was lodged at the time when they did the episiotomy but as soon as the problem was discovered I realise they would have cut me anyway to get him out quicker. Knowing that I would have ended up with one anyway is the only reason I'm not too bitter about it now.

    That said, having this complication in an African hospital was scary but mainly because the midwives switched to speaking in Zulu so apart from 'shoulder dystocia' (and I didn't know what that meant other than that it was bad) I couldn't work out what was going on. I just knew there was a problem and that the atmosphere had changed, all of a sudden their tones were serious and panicked, orders were being dished out, two midwives were pushing down on my uterus from my stomach and the other was frantically pulling at the end. This is was the worst part of my experience. I was being told I had to push but it was so hard to muster the energy without a contraction. I thought I was going to lose the baby. To their credit, they got him out very quickly once they knew there was a problem. I ended up with an episiotomy and a 2nd degree tear going up to my clitoris because the midwife had to stick her whole hand in to dislodge his shoulder - in addition to his head that was already out, so my poor vagina was stretched far beyond capacity!

    That episode was probably 3-4 minutes out of a 6 hour labour (although that trauma felt like it was going on for much longer in the moment). Sadly I do remember that part of the birth more visibly than any other part but that is understandable given that it was the only part of labour that was traumatising for me. If I didn't have any complications the birth of my son would have been 100% about power and happiness. And as someone else said, you forget the birth so quickly once you're dealing with a newborn. I don't fear doing it again if we have baby number 2.

  • Oh Katrina!! Have you told your midwife and obs how scared you are? They should offer you appointments with a psychologist to help as it sounds like you have true 'tokophobia' or fear of childbirth.

    I'm a midwife in the UK and I have never seen a woman who desperately wanted a c-section because of fear get refused one. So please don't worry if its what you really want you can have it.

    That said c-sections are not the easy option, they have more risks for you and for future pregnancies and they can take much longer to recover from.

    I would suggest to speak to your midwife about your fears asap and ask for a psychology referral. Also try some birth hypnotherapy (lots of vids on YouTube and also here natalhypnotherapy.co.uk/)

    However you decide to give birth (CS or natural) it sounds like you've had a traumatic time and would really benefit from some support. We need to get your stress hormones down and you feeling calm and positive before the birth otherwise you may go on to have problems bonding, feeding and with postnatal depression. It's about time this ordeal was over and for you start to enjoy being a mommy!!

    Whatever happens you will get through it and you and little munchkin will be fine, but this should be a nice experience not a horrible one, please ask for help.

    Much love


  • Hi Katrina! I am 2 weeks off my due date and like you have waited a long time for my baby! 7years we've been together and been trying for at least 6.... ectopic pregnancy, surgeries and eventually IVF. I too am pretty scared about giving birth, but if we can get through IVF we can get through this! I think about how scared i was at having to inject myself, about the egg collection, the implantation, the dreaded 2 week wait and the excitement at having that positive pregnancy test AT LAST!!!! its all been leading up to this! and even as i type i feel myself getting more excited and the nerves kind of slipping away. With it being my first i dont know what to expect.... theres no pain to kind of compare it to. But what i think about is the heart ache of being told my 1st pregnancy was ectopic and the emotional torment at being told i couldnt conceive naturally and i think that even though this may be more physically painful, it will be worth it!!!! there are all sorts of pain relief and options and ive just got to trust the midwives at the hospital to advise me of what i can have and what to do! just think.... you will probably be able to handle more pain than you think you can! good luck, you can do it!!! xx

  • I highly recommend the hypnobirthing CD, I started listening to it twice a day from 33 weeks onwards. Didn't think it was helping but looking back at my labour I realise that it did. Helped me to find inner strength to get through each contraction one at a time. My experience of laboir was that mentally and emotionally I zoned into 'another place' once the contractions were getting close togther. I counted through my contractions at this stage, counting up from the start of the contraction up until it reached its peak, then counting down again from the peak until it tailed off completely. It was like a game I played in my head to guess what number i would get to before the pain started to ease off. I didn't plan this technique in advance ... Your brain kind of improvises to find some coping strategy. Personally I found pushing not too painful at all. I planned to have all sorts of pain relief but actually only needed one dose of pethidine - 13 hours in. Didn't like putting the gas and air in my mouth so didn't bother. You might be surprised that you just get through it :) the part where you think it is too much to handle is over by the time you've decided that you can't handle it anymore !

  • My daughters nearly too and I always thought I had a really bad pain threshold, I only had gas and air because I was terrified of needles and told them o didn't want any when I got there, I had her naturally and had 3rd degree tears which had to be stitched by the surgeon but I didn't care by that time, I'd just evicted a whole perfect person from my body! It was painful for a few weeks but a newborn takes your mind off that! I look back now and remember every second but it's more like remembering a dream, and I'd do it all again! You have to think of the recovery time etc for a section and what help ect you have afterwards as you don't know how quickly you'll heal. My friend had an emergency section the first time round and somehow feels robbed of the natural birth experience! But at the end of the day it's your body and your baby so surely your choice how you deliver, just stand your ground!

  • I had a planned c section with my first baby due to medical reasons (placenta previa) which was picked up at around 34 weeks and I was seen again at 36 weeks to make to decision on the section. I have to be honest though at the time I was more traumatised by the prospect of needing to have a section that I wasn't worried about a natural birth. I'd been listening to a hypnobirthing CD too, so don't know if that helped at all.

    I don't know the ins and outs of having an elective, but from everything I have read this time around it seems the nhs will do everything they can to steer you towards a natural birth and if you are adamant you are too scared they have to refer you for some form of counselling / psychological assessment, but it is definitely worth discussing this sooner rather than later so that any notes or info can also be passed to your consultant.

    I am seeing a consultant in a couple of weeks to discuss my wishes for birth second time around and my preferred choice is definitely another section due to the risks during natural birth.

  • My placenta is also low and I have a lot of adhesions due to past surgeries, so there is a chance I need a c-section anyway. The idea of that doesn't bother me at all as I have had major gynae surgery in the past and know what I would be in for.

    It is really the idea of a vaginal birth that scares me, and one particular fear is that I won't be able to have an epidural for some reason and have to do it 'au naturel'.

  • This article on our website might help you: nct.org.uk/pregnancy/tokoph...

  • I had IVF as well and was generally really uncomfortable being examined at all by the time I was pregnant. I started having full blown panic attacks about the birth around the same time as you. I actually woke up in the middle of the night trembling, heart racing and unable to breathe. It didn't help my mother had just been diagnosed with cancer and had major colorectal surgery during which I was in hospital with her in and out of ICU for over a week then she needed further surgery to start chemo so I didn't really have any time to do the things I wanted to do to prepare for the birth (courses, hypnobirthing, water birth etc.).

    In the end I asked for a c-sect, they weren't keen but eventually agreed to it. I had private health insurance but it shouldn't matter if you feel you really need one tell your doctor and don't take no for an answer.

    The only bad thing I will say about it was that I failed to breastfeed. When we have no.2 I will still opt for a c-sect but I will get more information on breastfeeding especially after c-sect. I have exclusively pumped for 10 months though (except for some formula at the beginning) and hopefully have enough milk to see my LO through to 12 months.

    Lastly don't if you have a c-sect don't feel like you've failed. There is a lot of anti c-sect sentiment especially on the internet. It doesn't matter how your baby arrives as long as mother and baby are both mentally and physically safe. You've grown a tiny human and it sounds like you've had to work harder than most to do that so you should feel proud however he or she arrives.

  • I breast fed after a section with no problems so don't worry it doesn't always mean that. I just wanted to say well done for pumping for so long! Dedication to your baby!

  • @can i demand for C-section anyways, hey hun when you find out the answer please let me know as i am having the same worry as you. I am now terrified of both c-section and vaginal..i got a thing against niddles so them pain reliefs are looking like a struggle smh but i know the baby has to come out one way or another...incase your wondering or if i haven't made it already obvious lol this is my first child (yikes). am excited but scared.

  • If you have a c section you will definitely need a needle anyways if that's your concern. It is an operation after all.

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