Bringing a baby into the world can be a joyous event, but for some women, the prospect of delivering a baby can produce anxiety or even intense fear. Importantly, anxious women can experience more discomfort during childbirth, and prenatal anxiety can increase the risk of postpartum distress.
Other times, women may experience distress or sadness after delivery if the birth experience did not go as they expected
Whether you are dealing with prenatal fears or concerns after a birth, I can help you explore your feelings and minimize your distress so that you can move forward, feel well, and form a strong connection with your baby.
Fear of Childbirth
Childbirth is a complex and life-changing event that can provoke fear in some women. While everyone would love to go through childbirth without fear, labor anxiety is actually very common. In the United States, studies suggest that as many as 50 percent of women experience fear about childbirth at some point during their pregnancy. Some women experience intense fear, also known as tokophobia, which can negatively impact their pregnancy and birth experience.
Notably, it is not just first-time moms who fear childbirth. Women who have previously given birth can also develop substantial anxiety about their upcoming delivery. Women who had difficulty becoming pregnant, or who had a previous complicated pregnancy or birth may be particularly susceptible to feeling anxious.
Common Fears About Childbirth
Worry about childbirth is not unusual, and each new mom may worry about something slightly different. Here are some of the common fears women have discussed in counseling related to childbirth:
- Physical pain
- Their personal well-being
- Losing control
- Health and safety of the baby
- Not knowing what to do and perhaps feeling foolish or embarrassed
- Concern about the changes to their body and the long terms effects childbirth could have on how they look
- Apprehension about future changes to their relationship. Specifically, will their partner still find them sexually attractive?
Anxiety Symptoms Related to Childbirth
Anxiety about childbirth looks a little different in every expectant mother, but mom’s who are anxious about labor & childbirth often report the following:
- Stomach aches
- Sleep difficulties
- Changes in appetite
- Not enjoying the pregnancy or feeling emotionally disconnected from the baby
- Frequent visits to L & D prior to labor
- Request for cesarean delivery
- Generally obsessing about the birth and not being able to think beyond it
It’s important to note that while fear of childbirth is fairly common, research shows that most women do not develop Tokophobia. Tokophobia is an extreme version of pregnancy and childbirth. Women who have developed Tokophobia dread giving birth to the point where they might be anxious about getting pregnant or want to schedule a caesarean in order to avoid a vaginal birth.
Counseling Can Help You Prepare for Labor & Birth
Although parts of pregnancy and childbirth can be out of your own control, there are many things you can do to influence your experience and to reduce your fears and anxiety. Therapy before or during the pregnancy can help you cope with fears about childbirth. Counseling can help you make your birth experience a positive one.
Common Goals of Therapy for Labor Anxiety
Ultimately, we’ll work on what you want to address in counseling. However, below are some of the common goals extant mothers have when they come to my office for counseling related to labor anxiety:
- Facing and working through specific fears
- Envisioning and planning the birth based on your intentions and wishes
- Relaxation techniques and other strategies to use before and during the birth
- Resolving issues related to a previous pregnancy or birth experience
Research indicates that twenty-five percent of mothers consider their childbirth to be traumatic or disempowering, and the psychological toll of a traumatic birth can lead to emotional distress, and a form of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that follows women into new motherhood. A traumatic birth experience may leave you feeling disappointed, angry, powerless or a range of other scary emotions. When childbirth doesn’t go the way you expect, you can begin to show signs of PTSD and your transition to motherhood may not go as smoothly as you had hoped.
Common signs and symptoms of PTSD after a traumatic birth
Not everyone who has experienced a traumatic birth develops signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but it’s important to know what signs to look for. Your birth story was a little bit different than anyone else’s, so the impact will be slightly different on your life. However, these are some signs that your traumatic birth has resulted in PTSD symptoms and you may benefit from counseling:
- Re-living aspects of the trauma (intrusive thoughts and images; nightmares; distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma)
- Feeling on edge or hyper-alert (being easily upset, angry, irritable; being easily startled; having difficulty concentrating)
- Suppressing feelings or memories (avoiding situations or people that remind you of the trauma; feeling detached/emotionally numb; keeping busy to distract yourself; being unable to remember aspects of the event; using alcohol or drugs to avoid memories)
- Physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling
- Sleep difficulties
Counseling Can Help You Heal After a Traumatic Birth
Fortunately, psychotherapy is an effective way to heal after a traumatic birth experience. Birth trauma is an intense, unique experience. It’s important that you see a therapist who understands both trauma & the experience of childbirth. Furthermore, you want a counselor who uses evidence-based approaches to treating birth trauma so you can move beyond your difficult birth as quickly as possible. As both experienced trauma therapist and a women’s wellness expert , I am uniquely qualified to help people recovery after a disappointing or difficult birth experience. With a little help, you can move through any emotions surrounding your childbirth experience. Whether you feel guilt, anger, sadness, or a range of other emotions, counseling can help. When you enter counseling with me, I can help you tell your birth story without shame. You’ll be able to find peace moving forward into motherhood.
My Approach to Counseling for Birth Trauma; EMDR
You don’t have to feel held back by your difficult childbirth experience. I use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to help mothers recover from childbirth trauma. EMDR is one of the most effective treatment methods for processing and resolving trauma. Having completed specialized EMDR training, I often use it in my counseling practice. I have seen the power of combining EMDR with other forms of therapy and believe this is the best way to help women heal from a traumatic birth experience. Please see my page on EMDR for more information.
Begin Counseling in Lafayette & Enter Motherhood Peacefully
You don’t have to spend your pregnancy feeling worried and anxious. Nor do you need to lay awake at night grieving the loss of the labor you dreamed of. If you’re struggling with your mental health during or after pregnancy, counseling can help. If you want to feel like yourself again and live in the Oakland, CA area, treatment is available. As a women’s mental health expert, I help women thrive at my Lafayette, CA counseling clinic. Please contact me today and start to experience freedom in a new way.
Other Women’s Mental Health Services
In addition to helping during pregnancy & after a traumatic birth, I offer a variety of other mental health services as well. I want to help every woman thrive. Other services available include wellness coaching, individual therapy, couples and marriage counseling for new parents, support groups for new moms & pregnant women. I offer individual counseling for women with Trauma using EMDR, counseling for infertility, pregnancy and postpartum health, perinatal loss, and Moms with NICU babies or other infant health concerns.