Health & Fitness

8 big fears about childbirth — and why you shouldn't worry

At least according to doulas, and really, they would know.

By Jenna Birch
childbirth fears

From the moment you get pregnant, there are a bazillion things to suddenly get settled. You have to get a nursery ready. You need a gift registry. There will be a shower. You will have to hit doctor's appointments. You'll want to attend a birthing class. And for nine months, you're probably grappling with more than few worries about what will happen in the delivery room.

Cosmopolitan.com talked to doulas who shared eight of women's most common fears about childbirth — and why you should rest easy when it comes to each one.

Fear No. 1: "I'm going to poop on the delivery room table."

Pooping during the second stage of labor, when the cervix is completely dilated, is super-common — and most docs are stoked to see this happen, says Alice Turner, CD(DONA), LCCE, a doula and Lamaze-certified childbirth educator. "When a bowel movement occurs, it means that the woman is pushing well and health-care providers see this as a positive thing," she insists.

Why you shouldn't worry: Most women don't even notice if they poop during labor, Turner says. But if you do, someone will handle it STAT. "The nurse is very quick to remove the bowel movement without mentioning it to the laboring woman," she says. "I often suggest that the birth partner spray something that smells good, like essential oils diluted with water, when this stage of labor begins, so that any unpleasant odors that may result from a bowel movement can be covered."

Fear No. 2: "My epidural will be ineffective or won't be administered in time."

"For women who would prefer not to deliver unmedicated, the thought of possibly having to do so can be terrifying," says Allie Sakowicz, CD(DONA), a certified birth doula. "I once had a patient request an epidural as soon as she found out she was pregnant, just to be extra-sure she wouldn't feel any contractions during labor."

Why you shouldn't worry: "At most hospitals, women can get an epidural at any point in labor, even when they are 10 centimeters [dilated]," Sakowicz says. "And no need to worry about getting an ineffective epidural." According to research published in Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology, only about 12 percent of epidurals fail to work as they're intended to.

But if you're still in pain or feel something is off, tell your nurse right away. And if you're worried about getting those meds in time, Sakowicz says you can feel free to request an epidural as soon as you're admitted to the hospital.

Fear No. 3: "I won't be able to deal with the pain."

If you've heard horror stories from friends or watched way too many rom-coms with scary birth scenes (Knocked Up, anyone?), and are freaked out about the potential pain of labor, you're not alone.

Why you shouldn't worry: The pain of childbirth is unlike any other you're likely to experience, but that's a good thing, Turner says. "Labor pain is not constant," she explains. "Contractions come in short intervals, which means that between the contractions there is a break to make labor pain is easier to manage. Labor pain also builds in intensity, allowing a woman to practice coping techniques when the pain is milder." So, by the time you're ready to push, you'll be prepared.

Fear No. 4: C-section recovery is going to suck.

Many women fear that a C-section could mean a recovery that's far longer and more arduous than natural birth, says Jennifer Mayer, doula and CEO of Baby Caravan. "A lot of women see surgery as terrifying, or feel like they've failed if they have to have an unplanned C-section," Mayer notes.

Why you shouldn't worry: Recovery takes approximately six weeks for both vaginal and Caesarean deliveries, but according to WebMD, it's possible to have pains for up to a year with a C-section. This is surgery, after all. In addition, you may bleed longer and experience more abdominal pain, especially along the incision. But according to Mayer, many moms say the aftermath of the surgery wasn't as bad as they had imagined, and caring for your baby will likely serve as a welcome distraction.

If you're scheduling a C-section or you're worried you'll end up with an unplanned one, zero in on finding a health-care provider you trust, Mayer suggests. "If the C-section is needed, you'll feel much better," she says. Post-op, just remember to enlist your partner for any heavy lifting the next few weeks.

Fear No. 5: "I'm never going to be the same down there!"

"My 5-foot-tall client was absolutely terrified that her 'watermelon baby' would tear her in half,"Ruth Castillo, a doula and childbirth educator says. "She seemed to spend the whole pregnancy agonized over choosing between tearing or having an episiotomy. Things got really bad after ultrasound predicted a 9-pound baby."

Why you shouldn't worry: Castillo's client gave birth to a 10-pound baby boy, but there were "no tears, no cuts, no stitches," Castillo says. "The human body is wonderfully elastic. During pregnancy, the hormones relaxin and estrogen prepare the joints and tissues in your pelvic floor for the stretch of birth." So, fear not: your vagina and perineum will heal — even faster if you add some Kegels and squats into your daily fitness routine post-birth.

If you do tear, the doc will sew you up with a few stitches, and the wound should heal within a week to 10 days.

Fear No. 6: "I'm not going to make it to the hospital in time."

A go-to plot for almost every TV medical drama: The pregnant woman can't make it to the hospital and winds up giving birth on the subway floor. Or in her car. Or on the side of the road. No wonder lots of moms-to-be are worried about this one.

Why you shouldn't worry: Castillo once worked with a woman who, by the time she hit 38 weeks, had visited her labor and delivery ward every other day. The moment she experienced Braxton-Hicks, or "false labor" uterine contractions that occur as the body preps for birth, she thought she needed to hit the hospital ASAP. Well, labor doesn't work so quickly — and she didn't end up delivering until well past 40 weeks. Lesson? Don't run yourself ragged, panicking that you won't make it to the hospital in time.

"Labor is a long, slowly-building process," says Castillo. "When it does come time to push, a first-time mom may need an hour or more to get the baby out. You're likely going to be a lot closer to your birth center than an hour's drive, and you'll likely have a good amount of warning." On top of that, many women spend hours at home during early labor, before it's time to enlist the help of a doctor or midwife for the big delivery.

Fear No. 7: "My partner is going to pass out during labor."

Many moms fear that their squeamish partners are going to abandon them in their hour of need, says Sakowicz, who admits to witnessing it firsthand. A new dad was trying to avoid the scene at his wife's feet when he encountered a misplaced overhead light. "Just as the baby was about to be born, he ended up walking right into the light and falling onto the floor," says Sakowicz. "Since everyone's attention in the room was on the mom and baby, poor Dad lay alone on the floor for a minute or two before being taken down to the ER!"

Why you shouldn't worry: Sakowicz says she sees her fair share of expectant fathers who are"absolutely terrified" about the blood and the bodily fluids. "But once they're in the delivery room and are waiting for their baby to be born, I find that most of them are able to settle in, take on an active role as a labor coach, and focus on meeting the mom-to-be's needs," she says.

Sakowicz suggests asking the nurse to give your partner a heads-up before the messy parts of the actual delivery. And for a more "PG-13 view of the birth," she says, he can stand up at the top of the bed by your head.

Fear No. 8: "I'm going to lose my identity..."

Mayer says the top fear she hears from new moms about childbirth is actually what will happen just after the birth. "I hear a lot of new moms worrying about a loss of identity," she says. "They're up late with the baby, and drifting around social media, looking at pictures of all their friends having fun. They're thinking, That used to be me!"

Why you shouldn't worry: Breathe. Relax. Maybe in the beginning, you won't go out as much as you used to, but this new mom moment won't last forever. You won't always be confined to your home. At some point, you'll be able to take your kid on a lunch date with your BFF, and you'll start to feel way more zen about leaving the little one with Grandma or a babysitter. "You will still be yourself, and you'll get a social life back," Mayer says. "You'll just have this incredibly new capacity, able to do so much more than you ever thought possible out of necessity — so you're you, just enhanced."

RELATED: Is it normal? Pregnancy symptoms explained RELATED VIDEO: Woman gives birth to a baby in the car whilst husband films... and drives!