Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pregnancy and Birth: The Fear Factor

Because I know sooner or later it will come up, I want to say now that this post is strictly from the standpoint of non-emergent situations. I could argue that even in dire emergencies, fear shouldn't be a motivator, but hormones run much higher in emergencies, heightening many emotions and senses.

Our culture as a whole uses fear as a weapon to keep a pregnant woman or laboring woman compliant. From the moment a woman decides to share her pregnancy with others the advise and horror stories pour in. Decide to share a plan alternate to that of the standard medical system and you are sure to be told what a risk you are taking, followed by scare tactics designed to scare women straight.

It all really does begin early. From the start, our trust in not only our bodies, but our decision making is undermined. Immediately a pregnant woman's world is a of world don't. Don't eat this, don't drink that. Don't run, jump, skip or play?  If she is wondering about sexual activity, the answer is often shrouded in ambivalence.  Our media plays up the fear factor even more with shows like One Born Every Minute and books like Participatory Care sounds Scary! Listen to your Doctor! Better known by it's formal title,  "What to Expect When You're Expecting".   What is rarely addressed in all this is damaging impact fear can have on pregnancy and birth. It can have a negative impact on outcomes, lead to stress that can be dangerous in and of itself and take an emotional toll on the pregnant and laboring woman.  Decisions being made out of fear aren't really decisions at all. Choice is eliminated when fear is the only motivating factor and so many women are left with feeling either cheated or denied the experiences and outcomes they wanted during their pregnancy and birth.  When faced with an onslaught of negativity in a culture of fear that promotes doubt and mistrust how can a woman balance respecting the often times unpredictable nature of birth with trusting her on instincts and ability to make decisions?

One of the first steps would be eliminating unchecked fears and putting them in perspective. Doing this can come in many forms. Taking childbirth classes, hiring a doula, hiring a care provider that is supportive, and professional and balanced in their approach to maternity care are all positive steps. Educating yourself on the process of birth is key, but so is asking yourself hard questions. How do you want to birth and why? What are your greatest fears and how do you check them? What are the risks and benefits to any choices you might make and how do you apply them to yourself?  Just as you try hard to feed yourself with good food and drink; you should be nurturing your pregnant soul with good information, positive reinforcement, and practicing how to achieve peace with your pregnancy and being at peace with the decisions you make for your upcoming birth. Surrounding yourself with people who will inspire, uplift, but also be honest with you. Birth can be many things and it's important to not only know this fact, but understand how and why it can be. Embrace the good with the bad, and not only own your choices but be at peace with them.

Lastly, I want to address the fact that fear has it's place. Fear can warn of us danger, heighten our instincts and motivate us to make prompt and decisive decisions. What is important is to address fears, especially before labor and birth and learn to check what I call, fear run amok.  Balance is the goal when it comes to fear.


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