As doulas, we spend a LOT of time talking to our clients about what they can expect to experience during their labour. During these discussions, we always talk about what their fears, worries, or anxieties about giving birth are, and how we can help them cope with these feelings while managing all the demands of labour.

Feeling nervous about what’s going to happen on your big day? You’re not alone. Even the most zen parents-to-be have a fear or two about what’s in store for them. Here are the top fears that we hear about, and what you can do to help work through them.

1. Pain

Most people have some fears about the sensations they’ll feel during birth. There’s no real way to sugar coat it: you’ll probably experience some pain, in one form or another. However, it’s a very different pain than the pain of an injury or broken bone.

What to do about it: Remember that the fear of pain is often worse than the actual pain, and knowing what to expect is a great way to alleviate that fear. Ask your care provider or your doula what your pain management options are before you’re in labour, so you can do your research with plenty of time to spare. You may wish to check out options like hypnobirthing, hydrotherapy, and breathing techniques, too.

2. Pooping while pushing

This is a pretty normal fear, and one we get a lot of questions about! Giving birth already feels so scary and vulnerable without adding public defecation to the mix. Most people do poop a bit, but rest assured: it’s usually a tiny bit (not an entire bowel movement!)

What to do about it: if you go into labour on your own, your body will most likely take care of things on it’s own (remember, diarrhea and loose bowels are a sign of early labour!). You can help things along by making sure your pre-labour diet contains plenty of fibre. Lastly, remember that it’s actually impossible to clench your bum muscles while trying to push a baby out- it’s like trying to walk through a closed door. At some point, you’ll need to let it go in order to meet your baby. We promise, your doctor, midwife, and nurse have seen it ALL before.

3. Unplanned cesarean birth

Here’s the big one. For most people that are planning a vaginal birth, the ideal of an unexpected cesarean can make their heart skip a beat and their stomach do a flop. With all of the scary c-section stories out there, it’s no wonder that it’s one of the top fears of pregnant people.

What to do about it: Keep yourself active and healthy during your pregnancy, which will help you be active during your labour. Talk to your care team about your feelings regarding a c-section, so that you can discuss a plan that respects your preferences. And lastly, remember that unless it’s a true emergency, you’ll almost always have time to discuss your options with your care team before you decide if a c-section is the right choice for you.

Our top anxiety-reducing tips:

1. Pick a care team that you trust. Giving birth may be one of the most vulnerable and scary times of your life. It’s important that everyone who’s with you that day is someone that makes you feel safe, respected, and understood. Make sure your care team encourages your questions, gives you answers that make sense, and that they give you options, rather than orders, when faced with a decision.

2. Take a prenatal class. It’s a fact: being aware of, and understanding, your options helps you to feel less anxiety when making decisions and helps you understand what’s going on. Taking a prenatal class can help you feel prepared for labour, birth, and postpartum by walking you through each phase of the process.

3. Talk it out. Stashing your worries in the deep, dark corners of your hormone-drenched brain is a great way to let them fester and grow into full-blown fears. Talking about what’s on your mind helps you make sense of your fears, and sharing your thoughts may make you feel closer and more connected to your care team- which helps you let go of some of your anxieties about the big day. Your doula is the perfect person for this, so don’t be afraid to give her a call and let it all out!