Fear of labor can be for multiple reasons: pain, lack of control, vulnerability, and one of the biggest would be the fear of the unknown, especially if it is your first baby. There is a lot of information out there in the world; from books to movies, childbirth classes, the internet, family, friends, and random strangers who suddenly become the expert on all things pregnancy and parenting.
Combat Fear with Education
First, educate yourself on pregnancy, birth, labor, postpartum, and breastfeeding during your pregnancy. Pick out some favorite books, select a good childbirth class, and even listen to some helpful podcasts to hear other mama's favorite and most helpful resources while they were preparing.
Even after doing your part to prepare, and having your husband/partner prepare as well, it can seem at times as if you have attended one sports practice (insert whatever sport or activity you may have partaken in during your life) and were then thrown into a professional game after that one practice. While some couples do just fine on their own, others desire extra support, especially from someone who knows what to expect during the process, has experienced it before, and who shares their view of birth.
Role of Nurses and Doctors
Nurses and doctors provide an amazing service of assisting women in labor, however, they cannot remain with the mama and her husband/partner for the entire birth. They have their own duties and protocols they need to follow, as well as having many other mamas in labor that they need to attend to as well. Usually, you will see the nurse every hour or so during labor, depending on the size of the hospital and how busy the maternity floor is that day. They will mainly check your vitals, check the vitals of the baby by fetal monitoring, and ask if you need anything medical, such as pain medications or even another blanket if you are cold. This doesn't mean the nurse doesn't want to continuously help you throughout labor, but this is his or her job. They are in charge of the medical side of birth and alerting the doctor when he or she needs to come into the room to check on your progress.
The doctor will check on you even less frequently. In addition to the other women who may be in labor on the maternity floor, the doctor also has office visits that they need to attend to as well. The doctor will mainly come in to check how far you are dilated, at what station is the baby (whether the baby is high in your pelvis, engaged, or very low in your pelvis), as well as to perform any procedures that need to be done, such as sweeping the membrane, breaking your water, or talking to you about using artificial hormones to help progress labor along quicker. Again, it is not that the doctor does not care about staying with you, but his or her presence is required of many mamas so you will only see your doctor briefly during labor and at the very end when it is time to push.
So doctors and nurses play very important roles in the birth world, but what do you do if you are still nervous about labor, your husband/partner is nervous about labor, and you want someone else to be with you continuously who knows what to expect?
Call the Doula!
Doulas are professional birth workers as well, but not on the medical side of things. Doulas provide continuous support, physically and emotionally throughout the labor, delivery, and initial postpartum period. A doula works solely for you, which means that they have no other duties to perform during your labor, only to provide the support you and your husband/partner needs.
How Can a Doula Help to Combat Fear
Working with a doula doesn't just occur during labor. There are several meetings that occur leading up to labor which can help you to better prepare for what to expect. These meetings will go over and can even help you to decide what type of birth you desire, what are the most important aspects of birth, what would you want in the case of an emergency c-section, what is most important for your husband/partner, and what are you most afraid of. These conversations assist with your planning and help to identify what is necessary verse unnecessary, what your husband/partner's involvement level will be, and most importantly what is your greatest fear and how to combat it.
Common Fears During Labor
Fear of losing control: We can talk about practical ways to still be in control even when nothing is going according to your birth plan
Fear of not being heard: We can talk about informed consent and good ways to ask questions to the nurses and doctors in the room while still respecting their judgment
Fear of pain: We will go over various comfort techniques in a hands-on meeting where I will show you and your husband/partner how to relieve different areas of pain and how to help ease the contractions
Fear of failing: We come up with a mantra, something that inspires you, a quote, a scripture passage, a prayer that will fill you with confidence that we can chant during contractions
Birth doesn't need to be something to fear. It is a very natural and beautiful part of life that women have been doing for ages. We don't have to be alone during this time, we don't need to grin and bear it, just get through it, or even resent it. As a doula, I am here to support, to love, to help you overcome those fears or anxieties of labor, and be by your side supporting you and your husband/partner every step of the way.
Let's combat fear in labor, let's doula this!