Top 10 Labor & Delivery Fears (and if They're Worth the Worry)

From pooping to tearing, we go inside the delivery room to find out whether or not your labor fears are worth the worry.
ByKaitlin Stanford|Updated May 2, 2017
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Hey, nobody ever said giving birth was easy. And with so many different possible scenarios that could take place, chances are you’ll be in for a few surprises no matter how much you plan for the big day. So it’s only natural to be a little scared-whether this baby’s your first or your third. But don’t worry; we’re here to help you breathe a little more easily. Read on as real moms (and some of our favorite bloggers) share what had them totally freaked out about giving birth. Then we give you the lowdown on whether or not they’re really worth panicking over.

Making it to the hospital in time

Real mom fear: “I was scheduled to deliver at a hospital that was already 45 minutes away from my home, so that certainly added to my anxiety about ‘making it there’ on time in the midst of terrible pain.” - Heather, of

Reality check: The good news is, the average span of active labor lasts about eight hours. And while technically that may not sound like good news, statistically that means your chances of delivering baby on the side of a highway somewhere are pretty slim. That’s because well before baby starts to make his or her way down the birth canal, there will be plenty of warning signs that it’s time to head to the hospital-like intense cramping, back pain, steady contractions and your water breaking. And even if you’re having a particularly speedy labor, timing your contractions will help you gauge roughly how long you have until baby arrives. (Once they get down to five-minute intervals or less, it could be game time.) But there’s nothing wrong with being prepared for the unexpected, so if you want to ease your fears, make sure to ask your OB questions or read up on what you can do in the event baby comes sooner than expected.

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Not being able to handle the pain

Real mom fear: “I’m not a fan of pain and the idea of actually giving birth terrified me. When I was pregnant with my first child I remember whimpering to my husband ‘I can’t go through with this!’ But of course there was no turning back!” - Melisa, of

Reality check: We know imagining all that pain is definitely pretty scary. But remember: Your body was made to do this, pain and all. Once labor is in full-swing, your endorphins will kick into high gear and for the most part, your body will take over like you’ve probably never seen before. (It’s actually kind of awesome.) Of course, in the event the pain does get to be too much and labor drags on for hours longer than expected, by all means scream for that epidural if you need to. But even if you want to skip the meds altogether and go natural, there are alternative pain management techniques you can practice to help make delivery more bearable-like meditation and even hypnosis. Some hospitals and most birthing centers even have hot water tubs for laboring and giving birth, which can also help ease the pain intensity. No matter what birthing method you choose, just make sure you explore all of your options first.

Having a c-section

Real mom fear: “I was terrified at the thought of a c-section and was determined that I would not have one. I didn’t even pay attention to the c-section videos in birthing class. I was so certain I had taken all of the precautions to avoid any medical reasons for a c-section. I soon found out there are circumstances that you can’t avoid or take precautions for.” — Kim, of

Reality check: Whether or not it’s in your birth plan to begin with, you should brace yourself that a c-section is always a possibility. And while there are some downsides you can’t ignore-like the longer recovery time, abdominal pain and soreness and even a higher hospital bill—having a c-section isn’t the end of the world. In fact, recent studies have shown that up to 32 percent of American births are done this way. So even if you’ve got your heart set on delivering vaginally, don’t keep yourself in the dark about the realities of c-sections, just in case. After all, you’ll want to know what to expect from the procedure and your recovery if you do end up having to go for one. Just be clear that you’re on the same page with your doctor if you want a c-section to be the absolute last-resort.


Real mom fear: “I was deathly afraid of dying. I know how crazy that sounds but I really, really was. During my pregnancy I read two books, saw one TV show and one movie that all included a woman dying in childbirth. It was only mentioned in passing, but I became obsessed with thinking about it.” - EdnaR

Reality check: While it may seem like dying during childbirth is something that no longer happens nowadays, it sadly does-even right here in the US. But to calm your fears you should keep in mind that it’s still relatively rare in most developed countries. Even if you’ve read the recent studies citing the national maternal death rate is on the rise in America, don’t let yourself be too freaked out-this number still hangs out at a low rate of 11 deaths per 100,000 births-and all of these are usually tied to specific prenatal complications and/or poor medical care. Fortunately, though, recent changes in health care reform aim to grant women without medical coverage (or very poor coverage) better prenatal care, which should significantly decrease these rates in the future.

Pooping on the floor

Real mom fear: “I’m so scared to poop on the table. I don’t care how many times I’m told ‘doctors see it all the time and don’t care’… I CARE!” - mopsie

Reality check: Yep, pooping on the floor while you have about five different people looking between your legs pretty much sounds like a complete and total nightmare. But we’re not going to lie, it definitely happens. On the bright side, there’s going to be so much going on down there, a little poop will be the least of your worries. If you don’t believe us, you don’t have to-we polled your fellow Bumpies and 33 percent claim that not only did they poop mid-push, but guess what? They totally didn’t care. The truth is, between the pain, the pressure, the cheering squad of doctors and nurses and, oh, the fact that you’re passing a baby through your vagina, delivering a little more than just your new little bundle won’t really be at the forefront of your mind. So prep your partner early for what they may or may not see down there and arm yourself with a good sense of humor. The rest will take care of itself.

The epidural

Real mom fear: “I was so afraid of having an epidural. I wasn’t afraid of the meds but the actual needle going into my back. I wanted to avoid it at all costs, but after 20 hours of back labor, I decided to go ahead and do it. Luckily I had the best doctor, he was very comforting and the epidural worked great.” — storybooklove

Reality check: You can probably take all those stories about the epidural being some giant, terrifying and painful needle with a grain of salt. While some moms recall it as being huge and menacing, others claim it’s not that crazy big after all. The good news: Since it goes in your back, you probably won’t see it anyway. So just make sure your partner doesn’t catch a glimpse and describe it in detail and you should be just fine. As for it hurting-most moms agree that you’ll barely feel it going in. Not only will the feeling of it going in pale in comparison to any labor pains you may be having, but your doctor will also apply some antiseptic to your skin first before it’s administered, which will help numb the area. And be sure to let your doctor know about your fears in advance so he or she can make you as comfortable and calm as possible when it happens.

Tearing like crazy

Real mom fear: “I’m scared of tearing and getting an episiotomy. I am horrified to think of my private parts being all mangled.” - carole&clark

Reality check: Some tearing is bound to happen if you deliver vaginally, but as for everything getting mangled down there? Not likely. If anything, you’ll probably wind up with one of the two more common kinds of tears: first-degree or second-degree. First-degree tears (or superficial tears) are considered pretty small and only require a few stitches, if any at all; whereas second-degree tears tend to go a little deeper, reaching the muscle beneath the skin. As for more intense third- and fourth-degree tearing, you can probably rest easy: they only happen in about 4 percent of all deliveries and are often the result of an episiotomy gone awry. If you’re trying to steer clear of an episiotomy too, though, voice your concerns early with your doctor. Our best advice in the meantime: Try practicing perineal massage.

The birth plan going out the window

Real mom fear: “I didn’t have a written birth plan and was delivering at a large hospital, so my biggest fear was that a doctor or nurse would give me an intervention I didn’t want without asking.” — elizabee12

Reality check: Written birth plan or not, chances are, it probably will go out the window. Birth plans are just that–plans. They’re not set in stone and since there’s an infinite number of scenarios that could come up on delivery day, you should pretty much prep yourself from the get-go that it probably won’t all go how you want it to (and if it does, consider yourself extremely lucky). If you’re scared of not being delivered by your own OB and having others make hasty calls against your birth plan, then it’s time to put pen to paper now. Even if nothing goes as planned, you won’t kick yourself later that you didn’t fight for what you wanted first. Just remember that in many cases, circumstances may take over that are completely out of your hands–like whether or not there’s an unforeseen complication with baby. No matter what, though, don’t beat yourself up if it all goes a bit haywire. If you’ve done your best to inform your doctor and the nursing staff of your wishes, you’ll have to trust their advice if they suggest a new course of action. In the end, all that matters is that both you and baby are safe and sound when it’s over.

Being in labor FOREVER

Real mom fear: “I was so afraid of being in labor forever! I would hear these horror stories of women laboring for hours upon hours… and some for almost a day! I just didn’t know how I could have handled that.” — krs15

Reality check: While it could definitely feel like forever, we can safely assure you that your labor won’t actually take forever. Like we said, the average length of active labor for most moms is eight hours, so the chances of you going beyond that point are already less likely. And remember: The pain will most likely not be constant the entire time. Barring any extreme circumstances, your pain will become a little less intense in between contractions, allowing you to get relief in intervals. Plus, techniques like Lamaze and the Bradley method could really help make the pain more bearable, so make sure you study up on each one several months before you deliver, if you’re interested in trying them.

Delivery complications

Real mom fear: “My biggest fear is that something will go wrong. I had a horrible labor and delivery with my first and my baby wound up in the NICU. My only fear is having another NICU baby.” – tarebear9891

Reality check: The fear of unforeseen delivery complications happening is definitely very real and definitely warranted. Tons of different variables could come into play and cause something to go wrong or even just off-course—like baby moving into a breech position or maybe your contractions not coming on strong enough to move baby along in the canal. But many of these factors may just result in a necessary c-section—not all of them will mean that baby (or you) is in grave danger. And most of these scenarios will also probably be detected while you’re still pregnant, so there will be less room for surprise (and panicking). For example, your doctor will be able to detect baby’s positioning in the weeks leading up to labor, so any sudden shifts in movement are far less likely. So while it’s pretty easy to keep batting around all the “what ifs” in your mind when you’re pregnant, do baby a favor and try to at least ease your worries for now. After all, baby feels a lot of the stress that you do, so try to keep it to a minimum as much as possible, anyway.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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