Treatment of fear of childbirth

Almost every woman is a bit nervous and even scared of labour. Being slightly nervous may actually be good for you – it raises the adrenaline level in your body, making you ready for labour and helping you to go through it. Fear of childbirth as a medical term refers to overpowering fear that makes normal life difficult and overshadows the joy of pregnancy. About five to six per cent of women experience such intense fear.
There is a special outpatient clinic for mothers suffering from fear of childbirth. They are given the opportunity to talk to a midwife or a doctor and discuss their worries and fears and the upcoming labour. The mothers receive information that helps to prepare for giving birth. Questions relating to getting prepared for labour are discussed with the mother, as well as the use of the mother’s own resources during labour. The different pain relief methods are introduced. A psychiatric consultation team is available when needed. You need a referral to get an appointment at the outpatient clinic for mothers with fear of childbirth. You may be referred by a public health nurse or a doctor from the prenatal clinic, for example.

What is
fear of childbirth?


Pain is one of the most common reasons for fear of labour. Labour pain is one of the most intensive pains one can experience. Both first-timers and women who have given birth before are afraid of it. Lack of self-confidence is another factor contributing to fear of childbirth. Many women worry about “knowing how to give birth”: am I physically fit enough, what if I’m no good at giving birth, what if I do something that complicates the delivery or I somehow hurt the baby?
Uncontrollability of labour may cause fear. The mother may think that she might not be able to control herself or the course of  labour, and this causes anxiety. Fear of death is not uncommon. The mother-to-be may fear for the lives of herself and her baby. Psychological problems and previous traumatic hospital experiences increase the risk of fear.
Untreated fear of childbirth concerns the entire family. After a traumatic childbirth experience it is difficult for the mother to establish a good relationship with her baby. The fear may also complicate her growth into motherhood. If the energy of the expectant mother is completely spent on fearing childbirth, she cannot properly prepare for the arrival of the baby and for motherhood.
Mothers who fear childbirth often ask for a Cesarean section instead of vaginal delivery. However, vaginal delivery is safer for the mother and the baby than a section. A Cesarean section is a major surgical operation that involves risks. Furthermore, it takes longer to recover after a Cesarean section than after a vaginal delivery. In addition, each subsequent pregnancy after a Cesarean is a high-risk pregnancy.

How is fear
of childbirth treated?

At the outpatient clinic for mothers with fear of childbirth, mothers can discuss their fears and ask any questions they may have about childbirth. These questions are answered by specialists who have accurate and up-to-date knowledge of the delivery practices at the hospital in question, including pain relief. The treatment includes writing a list with the mother of her wishes and drafting a delivery plan. Upon the mother’s consent, a summary of the discussion is sent to her prenatal clinic.
In addition to discussions at prenatal clinics and outpatient clinics, there are special support groups for mothers with fear of childbirth. The groups meet to discuss the expectations relating to pregnancy and parenthood. Mothers receive information about childbirth and learn how to relax. The support of the spouse or partner is essential in order to overcome fear of childbirth.
Labour is faster and easier, when you know how to relax. It can be learned by listening to relaxation recordings, for example. In a relaxed state you can also prepare for childbirth trough mental image exercises. The expectant mother can go through the labour in her mind, including pain and how to face it. Mothers who have trained relaxation in advance say that it helped them during labour: the pain was less disturbing, and relaxation helped them to rest between painful contractions.
Sometimes fear of labour passes during pregnancy if the mother receives correct information and help. Often the fear does not completely go away during pregnancy, but it can be relieved so that vaginal delivery feels natural despite the fear.
If the fear is so persistent that even after discussions and preparation the mother finds the idea of vaginal delivery impossible during the last month of pregnancy, the possibility of a Cesarean section can be discussed.