It’s not uncommon for pregnancy to bring with it new fears and anxieties. Sometimes though, our minds can run away with us and the worrying takes over our brain. I think when it comes to worrying, knowledge can be power. Knowing more about what you’re anxious about, facing those nerves head on, can actually make them a bit less overwhelming. So I’m breaking down some of the most common pregnancy fears!
I want to get this one out in the open first because I’m guessing it’s one of the fears at the forefront of your mind. Especially if you’re early on in your pregnancy. The majority of miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks (hence the early nerves). Many (up to about 75%) of these early losses happen even before someone knows they’re pregnant between weeks 3-5, usually called a chemical pregnancy. By week 6 however, most women have discovered their pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage has dropped significantly to about 5%. The risk continues to drop as the weeks go by. I understand that these statistics don’t make the fears go away but I hope they help you understand the reality of this risk as opposed to feeling like a miscarriage is imminent at any time. Something that most research agrees upon is that the vast, vast majority of miscarriages are not preventable or caused by something the mom has done. So don’t feel paralyzed in those early weeks, thinking any move you make is going to potentially harm your baby. If you’d like to read some more information about this topic, head over to this article.
Eating/Drinking the Wrong Thing
I don’t know about you but when I was pregnant I was constantly googling “eating ____ while pregnant”. I was always concerned I was going to eat the wrong thing or something that was “off limits” without realizing it. But here’s the thing…MOST things are ok when you’re pregnant, at least in moderation. Yes, there are a few foods/drinks you need to avoid while pregnant (eg. alcohol, high mercury fish, undercooked food, excessive caffeine etc). But there are so, so many things that are perfectly fine for a pregnant woman. Your doctor should give you a list or guidelines for the main things to avoid at an early prenatal appoint (if they don’t, you can ask!). So rather than obsessing over what you can and can’t eat, just focus on eating a healthy well-balanced diet to keep you and baby growing strong!
This one is tough. Perhaps you’re someone who is concerned about how your body will look as it changes throughout pregnancy. Or you’re concerned you’re gaining too much weight, or not enough as your pregnancy progresses. Or maybe you’ve struggled with disordered eating in the past and the change in your weight plus the doctors insistence on weighing you at each appointment is bringing added stress to your life. First things first, keep open communication with your provider about any concerns or struggles you have with your weight gain. They can help you be sure you’re on the right track! But also remember that there isn’t one right number that suits everyone and you shouldn’t compare yourself or pregnancy with others. Finally, if weighing yourself adds stress or anxiety- just don’t! You can stand backwards on the scale and ask your nurse not to share your weight with you at appointments.
Morning Sickness Will Hurt The Baby
Morning sickness is definitely one the more unpleasant symptoms associated with pregnancy. Luckily is usually clears up around the end of your first trimester. It doesn’t affect everyone but if you’re part of the unlucky majority you might be feeling like everything you’re putting down is coming back up. This leads a lot of mommas to worry that all of the sickness is going to have a negative impact on the growth of their baby. Rest assured that while it is an unpleasant symptom, it should not have any ill effect on your little one. In rarer cases, women can develop something called hyperemesis gravidarum which is a more extreme case of morning sickness which can lead to dehydration. This would not be something to ignore, so definitely speak to your doctor if your morning sickness feels more extreme.
This worry tends to start creeping in as you get closer and closer to your due date. And I’m not sure why but so many first time moms seem to get this inkling that they’re definitely going to go into labor early and there is just no way they are making it to their due date. And that can be scary since no one wants to give birth too early. For this discussion, I’m talking about early labor being labor that begins before 37 weeks. About 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. But research shows that the average pregnancy is closer to 40 weeks 5 days. Which means the odds favor you reaching your due date (or longer). That being said, it’s still a good idea to recognize the signs of early labor so you can take them seriously if they arise!
Water Breaking In Public
Are you really in your third trimester if you don’t start imagining ridiculous scenarios where your water bursts in a comical gush while you’re standing in the checkout line at the supermarket? I obviously can’t tell you exactly when or where your water will break. What I can tell you is that your water breaking before contractions start is actually pretty uncommon, despite what Hollywood movies would have you believe. It only happens for about 8-10% of all labors. So if you’re particularly concerned about where your water will break, staying home once contractions start should prevent any grocery store nightmares.
Labor Will Be Too Hard
I’m not sure there is a pregnant woman around who hasn’t had this thought at least cross their mind as the big day approaches. My biggest piece of advice for you is to be prepared but flexible. Don’t just wing it – take a class and get educated on birth! No matter the route you’re hoping your birth takes, you never quite know how things will go and it is best to be fully educated on all options so you’re not caught off guard. It will also help you and your partner make informed decisions during the labor process. You’ll want to prepare both your mental state as well as learning some physical coping strategies for contractions. Birth is a powerful experience, but just remember that countless women have done it and you can too!
Looking for some coping strategies for pain management during labor? Check out this great post!
Not Making it to Your Birth Plan
Worried you’re going to give birth on the side of the interstate? While I don’t have the exact statistics, I feel comfortable telling you that this is unlikely (especially if this is your first baby). The average length of labor for a first time mom is 12-24 hours so you should have plenty of time! But the most important aspect in avoiding this fear is going to be heading to your birth place at the right time. This can be a bit of a balancing act. You don’t want to head to the hospital (or birth center) too early because they may not admit you. But you also don’t want to wait too long and risk missing your window. My advice is to first, ask your provider for their guidelines. Several follow the 5-1-1 rule where you head in when contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute each for 1 hour. Others are looking at intensity of contractions or other symptoms that labor is progressing. These guidelines can give you a starting point but always listen to your mom intuition as well!
While some women plan a C-section for a variety of reasons, there are other women who end up with an unplanned one. About 30% of births are C-sections with about 10-12% being planned and the rest unplanned. But I want to be clear that unplanned does not mean emergency. Yes, there are emergency situations where there is maternal or fetal distress and a C-section must be performed immediately. But that is only one reason for an unplanned c-section. There are many other instances where it is unplanned but not as urgent as the situation described above. That could mean that labor just isn’t progressing, or the mother becomes too exhausted to continue pushing after a long labor and others. So while an emergency c-section is possible, it is not extremely likely. Focus on being prepared for any path your birth might take, trusting your body and having a provider you are comfortable with.
I saved a big one for last. Maybe pregnancy, labor and birth aren’t filling your head with fear. Your kicking pregnancy’s butt and taking names! But perhaps the idea of having to care for that baby, of being on your own after leaving the hospital is weighing heavily on you. Rest assured that you are not alone in these thoughts. Motherhood is full of a lot of unknowns. It’s an adventure you can’t be fully prepared for until you’re in it. So it’s ok to be scared. But what I’m here to tell you is this. You are the best mom for your baby. Even if you don’t know everything. Even if you’re scared. You and your baby will figure it out together and we’re here for you all along the way!