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Health & Pregnancy

Calming Your Labor and Delivery Fears

Experts provide the calming and reassuring advice you need for a successful labor and delivery.
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WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

"What if I don't get to the hospital on time?"

"What if my doctor doesn't make my delivery?"

"What if the labor pain is more than I can handle?"

"And what if I ... poop on the labor table?

As labor and delivery day draws near, it can certainly seem as if the "what ifs" are raging out of control!

Experts say that most first-time moms -- and many experienced moms, too -- can get a major case of the jitters as their due date draws near.

"If your first pregnancy was easy, you worry that your second one will be hard; if your first one was hard, you're terrified that history will repeat itself. And if you've never done this before, well, your imagination can simply go wild as you begin to imagine every worst-case scenario possible," says high-risk obstetrician Laura Riley, MD, author of Pregnancy: You and Your Baby.

Riley says that even the calmest mother-to-be will likely experience some anxiety as labor and delivery turns from a chapter in that pregnancy book to an episode of real life.

"It's part excitement, part anticipation, and part pure fear of the unknown. But it's also a time when some realistic concerns come to the forefront. And it can begin to feel a bit overwhelming, even for the calmest women," says Riley, a professor at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

If you're thinking you'll control those fears with a detailed birthing plan, guess again. Surprisingly, doctors say this isn't the best approach to easing your fears. 

"The truth is, the only person controlling things on delivery day is your baby, with maybe a little help from Mother Nature," says Riley. So even if your birth plan is as detailed as War and Peace, she says chances are slim that things are going to go the way you planned.

A far more reassuring method is to jot down five or six points of concern about labor and delivery and discuss them with your doctor long before your due date.

"Knowing that you and your doctor share a similar birthing philosophy can go a long way in calming your fears," says obstetrician Isabel Blumberg, MD. "And if you find out you're not in agreement, it's better to find out early so you can both compromise on some issues, or if need be, you can find another doctor who is more in tune with how you want to deliver your baby."

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