Delivery Anxiety: How to Manage the What-Ifs and Unknowns of Childbirth

Becoming a parent is exciting...and anxiety-inducing.

15.6% of women planning hospital births feel high anxiety.

Women under 25 years of age were at an increased risk of anxiety symptoms during early pregnancy.

There's also a high level of women reporting obsessive-compulsive disorders while pregnant.

My theory is that's because pregnancy can beget a sense of loss of control, power.

Things are happening within your body that you can not control. Things are happening within your body that are a little mystifying. It’s human nature to want to know these things and control these things.

So, if you're over-controlling something like how the silverware is arranged... it's understandable.

Exposure to chronic stress can also contribute significantly to prenatal anxiety. Things like being low-income, experiences with repeated racism, discrimination, or having infertility challenges.  When this happens, babies tend to have lower birth weights.

We are not pregnant in a silo. The context of your pregnancy matters. Your co-parenting plan matters. So does what’s happening amidst family, friends, neighborhood, and your larger community.

Only Plan For What You Can

It takes some planning and preparation to feel confident about your upcoming parenthood. Just like anticipating your education, profession, financial future, or vacation, or even next meal.

The trick is learning how to pace yourself. Keep energy, information, and intuition balanced. Prepare yourself to advocate for yourself and your baby without getting overwhelmed. Don't let what feels right to you get washed away from what other people are telling you “should happen”.

I mean you, never know what’s going to happen. And there are simply a lot of unexpected things in life. Things like miscarriage, unexpected C-sections, natural disasters, family members passing away, or health challenges. There is very little in life that you can truly prepare for. It can feel good to be proactive in realistic ways. This can cultivate a sense of confidence, awareness, and, somewhat paradoxically, adaptability.

Taking your stress and anxiety levels seriously is important. Not just for your health, but your baby’s as well. Maternal distress negatively influences long-term learning, motor development, and behavior in their offspring. Your nervous system affects your baby’s nervous system while in utero.

Tips To Reduce Prenatal Anxiety

1. Lean on the stable, trusting people in your world. There is no shame in living with friends or relatives for a while. Especially if it creates a more peaceful and less financially stressful environment. 

2. Don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor about your feelings/stressors. You might fear the doctor will brushing off your symptoms. You may tell yourself “all women feel different when pregnant” or “my doctor doesn’t have time to hear this”. But remember- taking care of you and addressing your mental and physical health needs is literally their job. Even if you don’t want to take medication. Even if you don't have the means to seek counseling. It’s immensely valuable to have people aware of your symptoms and worries. You never know what resources are available until you ask. 

3. Move your body. I love the line in Legally Blonde“ I don’t think that Brooke could've done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't kill their husbands, they just don't.” In that one line, the movie popularized the awareness of the mental and emotional benefits of exercise. The movement doesn’t have to be intense. What makes you happy and is realistic? Yoga? Swimming? Walking? What did you do as a kid? Dance? Soccer? Choir? I think. there’s something super comforting about tapping into the movements with muscle memory. It can generate a sense of confidence, especially during pregnancy. So much within your own body can feel foreign during this time. If you’d like suggestions on pregnancy-specific ways to prepare and are safe while pregnant feel free to check out our Train4Birth Fitness Birth Plan. We create fitness plans that are then customized for you!

4. Avoid internet research rabbit holes. It can be easy to keep on clicking. Especially in the name of “research”. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Even when the info is true... the sheer volume of information to be consumed can be just absolutely overwhelming. I remember having a conversation with myself. I told myself, I wasn’t ever going to know everything about having a baby. So I might as well just pick 1 or 2 really good resources to learn from. Then chalk the rest up to learning as I went and phoning friends. 

5. Listen to music. I often gravitate towards podcasts, audiobooks, or the news. It's such a great way to stay informed while multi-tasking. But sometimes when I’m in the car I tend to forget about listening to good music just for good vibration's sake. But, when I do remember to listen to music, I always feel better/uplifted. Here are some of my favorites:

6. Avoid highly dramatic television. Even if it isn’t classified technically as "scary". So much of what’s on the screen now is high conflict. Our bodies tend to embody what it’s exposed to, even subconsciously. 

7. Find a few things to be grateful for. Dwell on them for a moment each day. Practice gratitude. Do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return. These are sure-fire ways to prime your happiness pump. Gratitude can be for the tiniest of things. Like, you can be thankful that you didn’t lock your keys in the car today. 

8. Speaking of locking your keys in the car...One of the first things I did when I knew I was going to have a high-stress/sleep-deprived year was buy a tile. It’s a little tracker that essentially can geo-locate your wallet and keys (as long as you have your phone or iPad). I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me. That “holy-crap, I’ve lost my wallet moment. Someone must be hacking into my bank." This situation makes it easy to spiral. It's been great to avoid the 2 hour panic of looking everywhere for something that’s right under your nose. I’m serious. This is an aspect of technology I am so incredibly grateful for. 

Prenatal anxiety happens. But never forget there are small but powerful steps you can take to protect yourself from your inner self.

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