birth plan

How to cope with FEAR during birth

In being human, experiencing fear is normal and even beneficial to our survival. We have hormones, like the famous adrenaline, that trigger fear in us when there is a perception of danger, giving us a chance to respond accordingly and fast (fight or flight).

However, if we overreact to fear or are not able to manage it in order to navigate the situation at hand effectively, it can become debilitating. There can a reluctance to do what needs to be done or if there are sustained levels of stress hormones in our system, it can hinder other hormones that assist with our coping and wellbeing.

When it comes to birth, some fear is normal. It is normal for a mother to fear for her wellbeing and her baby as a basic survival instinct. In small doses, this is can be a healthy form of fear if it triggers an urge to prepare well for the anticipated process.


If a laboring mother experiences fear, adrenaline is released into the blood stream. If adrenaline levels continue to be sustained, then cortisol (the stress hormone) levels rise accordingly.


If adrenaline and cortisol are released, and the fear not addressed and resolved before the 2nd stage of labor, it hinders the production of oxytocin and endorphins.


This can be due to many reasons, for example:

- negative expectations or memories of birth (first time mother/ poor past birthing experience/ high risk)

- a lack of coping mechanisms or preparation

- a stressful environment (noise and distractions, lack of privacy, lack of inclusion in decision making, harsh lighting…)

- Some fear can be triggered as labor intensifies as a natural reaction to pain


The body needs to be relaxed, and the mind at peace during birth, for oxytocin production and release. 

1. Oxytocin causes contractions

2. Endorphins act as natures pain relief during labor.

3. The release of adrenaline and cortisol naturally counteracts oxytocin and endorphin release.


FEAR can slow down and even stall labor.

FEAR can make the whole experience itself unpleasant and lead to the use of unnecessary interventions.


How to work with FEAR:

Oxytocin is the 'FEEL GOOD' hormone.

Do things that make you feel good during labor, yes! Partners can be prepared to help with this.

Does your partner know how to boost your oxytocin? 

Loved ones can be guided to avoid 'stressing out' around you.

Is there someone that wants to be at your birth that is easily stressed out OR something that easily stresses you out? 

The high levels and fluctuating hormones of birth make you very sensitive to the environment and even the attitudes and feelings of those around you. Choose who to invite to the labor and delivery room and who will wait to meet the baby later. 

How will you ensure quiet and privacy and feelings of safety and respect in your birthing room?


Read on to learn HOW to plan ahead!


minimize stressors > feel safe


 1. One of the most important things is to take good Childbirth Education Classes so the birth process is not a complete mystery. No need to stress-out about the 'unknown' when you can educate yourself all about it. 

Knowledge is power, but too much knowledge can be overwhelming and confusing. Google can be a pregnant woman’s convenient friend at times but can also be a source of outdated, inaccurate or fear-based information.

Find a local, trained person, to consult with for evidence-based information.

Then from there, specific fears can turn into questions and questions into answers, suggestions and tips.


2. Another great way to ease fear is to be choosy about the books and media about birth that you are looking at.

Choose positive birth stories, read positive affirmations, write a journal of hopes and dreams for the birth.

How do you imagine your birth? Visualize the best-case scenario...

Take the parts in the movie where the woman's water breaks and suddenly she is in active labor and about to push the baby out in the car and everyone is STRESSED OUT and in a hysterical panic... with grain of salt!

Thankfully, that is hardly the way it happens. 

Find movies with a positive depiction of women giving birth WITHOUT FEAR, for example, Organic Birth (DVD) or The Business of Being Born (DVD). There are plenty on Youtube as well but the point again is, be very selective. 

(For ideas on good books to read, take a look at our Lending Library here)


3. Writing a Birth Plan <== click here to create one) can help organize a birthing environment you will feel safe in.

A Birth Plan is not just a piece of paper to hand to the Nurse. 

It serves YOU above all.

In a way, it helps you imagine and 'rehearse' for your birthing day.

Sure birth is unpredictable, but having a GOAL and a PLAN to achieve that goal, is over half the preparation for childbirth!


4. Choose people that will give comfort and support that does not feel 'judgmental' or like 'pressure' to you, even if some fear does arise. People that understand how to meet your fluctuating needs in childbirth, with understanding. Loved one's in the room can help make us feel safe. However, is ok to be selective if you have a feeling a particular person's presence could be a stressor or distraction! 

- Are you and your partner on the same page about Childbirth?

- Are you and your OB or Midwife on the same page about your options, wishes and fears?

- Are the people that will be with you in the room prepared to support you emotionally, hands-on and in good decision making?

- Will there be stressors or distractions? Can you avoid them? How will you cope?


These are just a few good questions to help you plan and prepare yourself and those who wish to be there for you.


5. During labor, there are techniques that work very well to calm feelings of fear when they naturally arise: 

- proper breathing

- deep relaxation  

- visualization

- aromatherapy

- affirmations

- prayer/ meditation/ ritual


Pick, learn and practice the techniques that would work for you ahead of time so that during labor, you will find relief quickly when you need it.

Affirmations, prayers and meditations can be written down and brought to the labor room for you to read.

Comfort items from home are comforting to look at or hold. Consider packing some small sentiments in your birthing bag. 


6. A Doula can also be a perfect addition to a woman’s support system when it comes to coping with fear.

The extra prenatal support can help one

- explore fears 

- learn vital coping techniques

- help turn your childbirth wishes into plans you can count on

Most importantly, during LABOR AND BIRTH, a Doulas hands-on attendance and calming influence in the room can guide the birthing experience to the mother's best wishes.



I wish you a FEARLESS birthing day!



What has been your experience with Fear, Pain and Birth so far?

Did this article bring up any questions?

Please do share your story with us in comments below!


I AM AFRAID THAT________________________________________________?

WHEN I AM AFRAID, I _________________________________________________?





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Labor Day: weekend VS Labor Day: baby

Summertimes last big event is upon us. Labor day weekend is here and that means one of two things: Party! – or Boooo!

Goodbye sunshine, hello wind with leaves in it... means different things to different people. Adios vacation fun vs long-time-no-see-you Mr. homework…

Ah, but I bet you didn’t think about how similar Labor Day Weekend might be to the other Labor day. We’ll call it Labor Day: Baby.

Well, let’s explore.

Planning a Labor Day: weekend vs planning for Labor Day: baby

1. Is it gonna be Party! or Boooo...? (or even Boo! as in, Halloween is around the corner and who knows what else?)

As a mom myself, and a Doula, I say always go with Party! Could be life without babies is ending for you, and your family or you’re gonna have that one extra tush to clean now. But how about celebrate the arrival of a precious new mini human into your life by actually celebrating on their literal birthday? You, mom, deserve to celebrate yourself for 9 months worth of strength and patience and the incredible milestone of birthing your baby. Dads know babies are to be celebrated but, hey dads, mom’s deserve to be celebrated too!

2. Location, location, location.

Are you going to have a Labor day weekend party at your house, go to a friend’s house or forget houses and getaway? This choice determines a lot of things, a big one being, your budget.

As for Labor Day: baby, the options affect a lot of things! Hospital? Birthing Center? Home? How’s your budget? What’s more comfortable for you? Where do you feel safest? What matters most to you? Luckily for mom’s, babies give us 9 months to figure out where they are going to make their grand entrance. If this decision is making you feel clueless, Doula’s are a great resource on picking a birthing location and provider. At the end of the day, it’s your choice, we’re happy to stand by your side with information as you map it.

3. Invites:

How many people are invited to this party anyway? Are you a full house person or are you more private? Just like having a house party is different than going on a getaway, your birthing location of choice determines the number of faces you will encounter on your big day. Great news is that, you can decide some details of this in your birth plan. Even greater news: DOULAS DO NOT CHANGE SHIFTS! Nurses and Doctors at hospitals and Birthing Centers my change shifts, heck, even family in the room may need a breather. This means that no matter how much the faces change through your day, there is always one constant on your team.

4. Food and beverages:

Let’s admit it, when I say Labor Day weekend, you say food! Labor Day....

How about Labor Day: baby? This is one of the most commonly asked questions about labor. Can I eat? A lot of factors go into this. Your medical provider/ midwife will give the best answer. Most unmedicated birth professional actually encourage the laboring woman to snack and drink to keep up her energy and stay hydrated. Hey, it called labor for a reason. Hospitals have different policies about this and other things factor in, for example your chances of having a C-section. Eating too close to surgery poses a risk of aspiration. If allowed, Doulas always bring easy to consume snacks along for mom and other people in the room because, well, the munchies happen. What a great thing to bring up as you plan your birthing day though! Hey, what about food?

5. Entertainment and decorations:

Why red, white and blue of course! Labor Day: weekend is covered.

Labor Day: baby however is a lot more nuanced than that. Home births and Birthing Center allow a lot more flexibility on you decorating your room to feel special to you. Candles (never real ones), personal bedding and pillows, music (dance party anyone? No? How about relaxation music to set the mood) aromatherapy, birth affirmation cards, you name it. It is your space. Nothing to encourage you to keep going at your labor than your baby’s little first outfit hanging in sight.

A fellow Doula of mine once said to a client, 'we’ll set it up like a spa day in there.' I say a really intense spa day but, yes please! Also, did you know that you do not have to labor in a hospital gown in most hospitals? So go ahead, pack that pretty comfy gown from home.

And why not? It’s your baby’s birthday and your birthing day.

Happy Labor Day weekend to you all!

And to all the mom’s getting ready for Labor Day: baby, I wish you a Happy Birthing Day!