Being anxious about giving birth is very common. Childbirth is a major life event, so don’t be hard on yourself for having these feelings.
Remember that you’re not going to be facing this alone. You'll have a midwife who will be there to support you and look after you. They have lots of experience of helping women through labour and birth and can also offer you pain relief in small or larger doses, depending on how you feel.
You may find it helpful to:
- tell your midwife how you feel as they may be able to reassure you
- talk to someone you trust such as your partner, friend or family member
- start thinking about how you want to give birth and make a birth plan – this can help you feel more organised and in control
- find a local antenatal class – this will give you the opportunity to meet people in a similar situation and find out more about what happens in labour
- try hypnobirthing, which may help you relax
- try our tips for improving mental wellbeing in pregnancy to reduce stress
- ask people not to share their birth stories with you if you don’t find it helpful
- find out more about positive things to prepare for labour
- choose a birth partner who knows how to keep you calm and reassure you
- avoid reading women’s stories about dramatic deliveries online – remember that women are much less likely to share stories about straightforward labours.
It is rare, but some women are so afraid of giving birth that they don’t want to go through with it, even if they really want to have the baby. This is called tokophobia and it can happen in any pregnancy. A severe fear of childbirth may also affect their decision on how to give birth to their baby.
It can be difficult for other people to understand how someone can be so frightened about something they see as ‘so natural’. But tokophobia is a mental health condition and women who have it need treatment and support.
Some women have a severe fear of childbirth because they have had a traumatic birth experience. In this case, they may have post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a different condition to tokophobia and needs different treatment.
What should I do if I’m afraid of childbirth?
Tell your midwife or doctor how you feel, as early in your pregnancy as possible. They may be able to reassure you. Remember, anxiety is a mental health condition and not a sign of weakness, something that will go away on its own or that you should just ‘get over’. Your midwife or doctor will not judge you for having these feelings and will focus on getting the right care and support for you.
If your anxiety is severe, you should be referred to a mental health specialist for pregnant women. Ideally, this should be someone with experience of childbirth fears.
Find out more about fear of childbirth.
You should feel that your needs and wishes are being listened to during labour, particularly around pain relief. Every labour and birth is unique and care should be tailored to you.
This part of labour can sometimes last a long time. This page explains what the latent phase of labour is and how to get through it as comfortably as possible.
In the diary of a third pregnancy our diarist tries to capture the pain and magic of the birth of her son.
Hypnobirthing is a method of pain management that can be used during labour and birth. It involves using a mixture of visualisation, relaxation and deep breathing techniques.
You might like to consider giving birth at home for a more relaxed experience in familiar surroundings. Find out whether this is the right option for you.
Are you thinking about having a water birth? Find out about the advantages and disadvantages of giving birth in the water, what to wear and what the pain relief options are.
Cutting the cord immediately after the birth has been routine practice for 50-60 years but more recently research is showing that it is not good for the baby.
If your waters break naturally, you may feel a slow trickle or a sudden gush of fluid that you can’t stop. Your waters may break before you go to hospital but are more likely to break during labour.
Braxton Hicks contractions are the body’s way of preparing for labour, but if you have them it doesn’t mean your labour has started. Here, we explain more about Braxton Hicks.
If you’re feeling a bit anxious about giving birth, there are things you can do that may help. Here’s some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.
The ideal position for your baby to be in for labour and birth is head down, their back towards the front of your stomach.
At the end of your pregnancy, you may have some signs that your baby will arrive very soon, even though you may not go into labour for a little while yet.
ℹLast reviewed on June 12th, 2019. Next review date June 12th, 2022.
By Hannah (not verified) on 1 Jul 2019 - 22:27
I’m currently pregnant with baby no 4 my last son was 9lb 15 1/2 oz and it was a struggle 2 hours worth of pushing but my waters went and boom I was 10cm within 15 mins so this time round I’m really worried I won’t get there in time I have a consultant app soon as I have suffered a lot of blood loss after birth and therefore need a Canula inserted on arrival