Top 10 Labor and Delivery Fears

Feeling apprehensive about your upcoming labor and delivery? Knowing what to worry about and what not to can help alleviate fears you may be experiencing.

            “The process of giving birth is different for all women. No two pregnancies are the same,” says Dr. Bret Gordon, OB-GYN, Saint Luke’s Physician’s Group—Women’s Health South. He says the more education or knowledge you obtain, the more you can alleviate common fears.

            Water breaking in public. Despite what movies portray, the American Pregnancy Association says only about 10 percent of women experience a gush of fluid when the amniotic fluid-filled sac surrounding your baby ruptures. Most women experience a trickle of fluid. Sometimes mistaken for urine, amniotic fluid is usually odorless and clear with a yellowish tinge.

            If you’re worried, wear a super-absorbent sanitary pad when you go out and pack a small towel and plastic bag in your car that you can place on your car seat just in case.

            Not making it to the hospital in time. We’ve all heard the stories of babies delivered in inconvenient places like cars, buses and parking lots. Chances are, time will be on your side. Usually, early labor can last anywhere from six to 12 hours as the cervix begins to thin and dilate. Active labor can last up to eight hours for a first-time mom.

            If you’ve delivered quickly in past pregnancies or if you live far away from your hospital, talk to your practitioner about when you should head to the hospital.

            Prolonged labor. Slow or prolonged labor lasts more than 20 hours with regular contractions. The baby may be large or in an abnormal position and unable to move through the birth canal.  Your health care provider might try oxytocin to speed up your contractions or to make them stronger.

            If labor continues to stall and your baby is in distress, your physician may need to perform a c-section.

            A c-section. Some expectant mothers are afraid of undergoing surgery, and others think they’ll feel like a failure if they don’t have a natural childbirth. Rest assured, the end goal is always a healthy baby and mama.

            C-sections are performed for a multitude of medical reasons, including the baby’s position in the uterus, the size of the baby, premature delivery, fetal heart rate changes or if there’s a medical complication with the mother, like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.

            The pain. Childbirth education classes led by an experienced instructor can help you learn relaxation and breathing techniques, labor positions and options available for pain relief during labor. Also try prenatal yoga.

            A 2017 study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that women who regularly practiced prenatal yoga for one hour, three times a week, experienced significantly lower levels of pain during labor, shorter duration of active labor, lower frequency of labor induction and a lower percentage of c-sections.

            The epidural. One of the most commonly used measures of pain relief during childbirth, the epidural is a medication injected into your lower back during active labor and when you are dilated to 4 to 5 centimeters. The medication will help numb your pain, but you’ll remain awake and able to feel your contractions.

            Review your birth plan with your health care provider and discuss the types of epidurals your hospital uses to help guide your decision.

            It will be embarrassing! You’re haunted by the mortifying labor and delivery stories you’ve heard from girlfriends. Birthing isn’t a pretty process. Modesty vanishes. You might yell obscenities. You may experience a bowel movement while pushing.

            Don’t worry! The labor and delivery team has seen and heard it all. Their focus is on helping you bring your beautiful baby into the world.

            Premature labor. The vast majority of infants born in the United States are delivered full-term. A baby may arrive preterm, or before 37 weeks, for a variety of reasons—some not always well understood. To reduce your risks of delivering a preemie, take good care of yourself throughout your pregnancy by maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and receiving regular prenatal care.

            Signs of preterm labor include low back pain, pelvic pressure, regular contractions, a change in vaginal discharge and cramps that are similar to menstrual cramps.

            Birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that birth defects affect just three percent of babies. And thanks to advances in medicine, some of the most common birth defects, including heart defects and cleft lip and cleft palate, are often treatable.

            To help prevent birth defects, the March of Dimes recommends a preconception checkup with your physician. Also, start taking a prenatal vitamin supplement containing 400 to 600 mcg of folic acid before and during pregnancy, which can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spine.

            What if I die? Your chances of dying during childbirth are relatively low, especially if you are healthy prior to conception and you have access to quality prenatal care throughout pregnancy. Still, it’s important to be aware of conditions like preeclampsia, which affects between five and eight percent of all births in the United States and is the leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death around the world.

            Although some women are at higher risk than others due to preexisting conditions ranging from autoimmune disorders, obesity, diabetes to chronic high blood pressure, any pregnant woman can experience the disease. Symptoms can come on suddenly and can include severe swelling, headaches, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, nausea and/or vomiting, and visual disturbances.

            Most of all, discuss any concerns with your health care provider and trust yourself and your body.

            “You are the expert of your pregnancy,” Dr. Gordon says. “And your body is engineered to handle these events.”


Did You Know?

  • 95 percent of women go into labor within 24 to 28 hours of their water’s breaking.
  • One in three U.S. women deliver their babies by c-section.
  • Nearly 130 million babies are born each year around the planet.


Christa Melnyk Hines is a nationally published freelance journalist and author who resides in Olathe. Her biggest pregnancy fear was delivering via c-section—which she ended up having with both of her children, who are now 13 and 11.


As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.


Sources: ACOG; United Nations

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