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Fearing childbirth may prolong labor
June 27th, 2012
04:19 PM ET

Fearing childbirth may prolong labor

Dr. Stuart Fischbein chuckled when he read the title of the press release: "Women with a fear of childbirth endure a longer labor."

The release was promoting a study published this week in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  Researchers at Akershus University Hospital in Norway found women who feared giving birth were in labor for 1 hour and 32 minutes longer, on average, than those who had no fear.

"I'm glad there's now evidence to say that," Fischbein said, "but it's obvious."

For those of us who aren't OB/GYNs, it may seem more like a cruel joke. Women who are afraid of the pain and the possible medical complications associated with giving birth have to suffer through it longer?

Study author Dr. Samantha Salvesen Adams initially thought her team would find the prolonged labor could be explained by other factors - women who feared birth the most were first time mothers, who are known to have longer labors anyway, or obstetric interventions like epidurals. But when those factors were taken into consideration, the difference in time between the fearless and the fearful was still 47 minutes.

"Mental stress is associated with physiological arousal and release of stress hormones," Adams wrote in an e-mail. "During labour, high levels of stress hormones may weaken uterine [contractions]."

In other words, the adrenaline released when a body is stressed stops the oxytocin hormone production that makes a woman's uterus contract, slowing labor. It's a natural, biological response to fear, Fischbein said.

Fischbein, who's also a co-author of "Fearless Pregnancy," said women today are afraid of giving birth because they're surrounded by horror stories.

"We have a society where sensationalism sells. They're pounded with information [about] things that can go wrong with childbirth. Of course you develop fears."

To understand Fischbein's lack of surprise at the study results, you have to take a look at the way other mammals give birth.  For example, when cats, dogs or horses are in labor, they find dark places to have their offspring in peace.  They eat when they're hungry, pace if they're in pain and run if something comes near them.

Compare that to a hospital setting, where a woman is given ice chips, strapped to machines while laying in bed and surrounded by people who are constantly interrupting. Though the machines and medical personnel are sometimes necessary, Fischbein says the stress comes from being in an unfamiliar environment.

He recommends women find a doctor or midwife who will take the time to talk through their fears and dispense honest advice about the birthing process.


soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. Jackie

    I had an epidural when my baby was born, and I was on top of the world. I highly recommend it 🙂

    June 27, 2012 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hmmm

      FYI: That means your newborn was "on top of the world" as well.

      June 27, 2012 at 21:40 | Report abuse |
    • doc

      To Hmmmmm: Epidurals do not cross the blood brain barrier and thus not the placenta and so the baby is not exposed to anything.

      June 27, 2012 at 22:11 | Report abuse |
    • nodoc

      americanpregnancy.org:

      How can an epidural affect my baby?

      As previously stated, research on the effects of epidurals on newborns is somewhat ambiguous, and many factors can affect the health of a newborn. How much of an effect these medications will have is difficult to predetermine and can vary based on dosage, the length of labor, and the characteristics of each individual baby. Since dosages and medications can vary, concrete information from research is currently unavailable. One possible side effect of an epidural with some babies is a struggle with "latching on" in breastfeeding. Another is that while in-utero, a baby might also become lethargic and have trouble getting into position for delivery. These medications have also been known to cause respiratory depression and decreased fetal heart rate in newborns. Though the medication might not harm these babies, they might experience some subtle effects like those mentioned above.

      June 27, 2012 at 23:07 | Report abuse |
    • summer

      @ Jackie – epidural might not reach the child, but there is a lower amount of good chemicals released in a women's body during labor because of epidural. So things like oxytocin that calm the body of a mother and the child, and also help them bond is not released at the same rate. The labor may be longer, the contractions may be weaker, the mother may need to be induced, the child is more likely to be in distress and c-section is more likely to happen, and that also creates more stressful environment (both chemically and physically) for the baby. Epidural is related to higher incidents of c-section and other things during birth. While it's good for some, it's not good for most.

      June 27, 2012 at 23:50 | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      I had an epidural with my second son, first not, I would say the experience was MUCH better on the epidural. I was quite afraid, at the time I was the only woman who was OLD (35) with my first, everyone kept saying you are an older mother complications, it was also a diabetic pregnancy (second son was not a diabetic pregnancy don't know why usually if one is the second is) I didn't even monitor my blood back in 87, they just told me to eat a 5 small meals day, no sugar.. my son was 5 days early and weighed 9lbs 3 oz.. I ended up having a cesarean birth (also with my second) diagnosis: cepho-pelvic disproportion (???), both my sons were 'sunnyside up' as opposed to the regular position.. maybe that is why.. dunno... I experienced exrutiating back labor with both sons.. I would advise all women to get educated and understand the whole birth process.. it is scary but joyous.. today 35 is just about on target for your first ... I hada nurse tell me that my baby could probably die because I was diabetic as if the gestational diabetes was all my fault ... at the time I weighed 135 and am 5'5" not a huge woman (size 10 then) the nurse scared me so much and was so mean that for the rest of my pregnancy I just froze.. I was SURE my son was going to die.. that nurse was mean to me.. compounded with the constant referral to me as a geriatric mother (I would bet they don't do THAT today) made the pregnancy one big fearful experience.

      June 28, 2012 at 07:34 | Report abuse |
    • Rinsewind

      Amen to that!

      June 28, 2012 at 08:34 | Report abuse |
    • Skye

      @Summer – actually it's been shown that epidurals do not lead to more C sections. The studies that initially suggested the link were observational and biased by the fact that conditions that would increase the likelihood of a C section were also more likely to lead to epidural requests. The few studies that were well-controlled did not show any difference in the number of interventions needed between those with and without an epidural (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2012/01/the_truth_about_epidurals.html)

      June 28, 2012 at 09:01 | Report abuse |
    • Bradley Method Works

      Just because an epidural makes you feel good doesn't mean it's a good thing. Your body is working with the baby to help push the baby out. When you prevent your body from doing what it does, you're only asking for more intervention to get the baby out. I highly recommend the Bradley Method classes before giving birth. They will open your eyes to a lot of things and help you be more at peace with having a natural birth. Birth isn't likely to be a fun experience no matter what, why put you and your baby at risk for a bit of short-lived mild comfort?

      June 28, 2012 at 09:27 | Report abuse |
    • hannah

      If Hmmm is a man then you have no reason to express your opinion seeing that its stupid anyway, and if your a woman, then something is wrong with you. Epidurals are very calming and helpful to your sanity during a surreal event and my daughter was as healthy as you can get. Educate yourself.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
    • Tha Chikin

      Everybody is a **bleep**in doctor!

      Many, MANY women were given drugs in the 70's and 80's to ease the pain of childbirth with no harm done to the baby. Instead of telling others what to do, here is a thought: worry about yourself. If you want a natural childbirth, do it... if you don't then DON'T. It's very simple.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
    • Bridgette

      I went in wanting a natural birth but couldent handle the pain..my only regret is that i waited until 6cm dialated to get the epidural LOL..by the time I got the epdidural It was almost time to push so I went through 6-7 hours of pain and got little rest before pushing. If it wasnt for the epidural I would never have another child, the pain was just to much.I cant imagine giving birth without it..i would have passed out from the pain.

      June 29, 2012 at 02:37 | Report abuse |
  2. Katie

    I've been saying this for years. My first labor was 40 hours long! Yes, 4-0. My second labor – with twins no less – was four hours long. The difference? A. I knew what to expect B. I asked for pain medication as soon as possible. If you're in any kind of pain, don't you tense up? Would you have your teeth drilled without novacaine? My second L&D was so much more enjoyable. I was able to interact with family and friends, relax, took a small nap, concentrate on my delivery, maintain control and enjoy my babies immediately after their birth. My first L&D was pure hell, couldn't even talk through the pain, required a catheter, epidurals were too late and I passed out as soon as my daughter was born. I know there are those out there who are against meds during birth, but I just don't see the point of making it such a traumatic experience.

    June 27, 2012 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      Good for you! With my second I had contractions at least once an hour for a week, went to the hospital twice after contractions were consistently two minutes apart for an hour only to be sent home again. The third time I went in I said I wouldn't go home until the baby was born. They told me to "just relax" and recommended a warm soothing bath. When I told them I'd been practically living in the bathtub at home, they opted to give me a sleeping pill instead. I had the best night's sleep I'd ever had and had the baby the next day. Healthy baby boy, not a thing wrong with him. Sometimes you need a little help relaxing and if it's under medical supervision, it's ok.

      June 28, 2012 at 06:17 | Report abuse |
  3. Christina

    My first I was in labor for 30minutes–2 pushes he was out at a healthy 9lbs 2oz. My second was induced labor at 31 weeks, was in labor for 45 minutes, again all natural no drugs, but my second was only 3lbs 2oz and was born frank breach, labor was just a tad bit longer but he was harder at 6 pushes.

    June 27, 2012 at 17:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • P.J.

      Induced labour= all natural, no drugs? Since when?

      June 28, 2012 at 10:06 | Report abuse |
    • Christina

      By all natural I meant not one pain killer what so ever!!! No epidural no nothing just that pit drip!!

      June 28, 2012 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
  4. cbtx67

    My first kiddo was easy, epidural....oops bp went down, gave me epinephrine and poof she was out. Four years later, epidural, opps my bp went up....doc, give me epeniephrine and ill be fine, "nope, i dont do that, and stop whining its only pain" "do you have kids girlie doc?" "no i dont"...........6 hours later.and a cathether because I almost burst my bladder...I swear thats the reason I had post partem, i didn't remember it for years and I held a grudge against my kiddo on a low level till she was three. I had male obgyns for my other kids after that, THEY listened to me. Pain makes you constrict, making labor longer. Why is this news?

    June 27, 2012 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. CJEH

    And every doula, midwife and childbirth educator around the world just went "WELL DUH!" This is not new info- Dr. Grantly Dick-Reed wrote an entire *book* about it in the *40s*. CBE's have been teaching about how the fight-or-flight response inhibits oxytocin & endorphin production and slows labor for decades. Maybe if our culture hadn't built such an environment of fear, mistrust and danger around childbirth, researchers wouldn't be wasting money on reinventing the wheel.

    June 27, 2012 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gwen

      AMEN!

      (I'm a doula and CBE by the way. 😉 )

      June 28, 2012 at 02:26 | Report abuse |
    • Have we changed since 3,000 B.C.?

      Amen to that!

      June 28, 2012 at 09:24 | Report abuse |
  6. Sandy

    Try watching 'The Business of Being Born'. Netflix has it for free.

    June 27, 2012 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nicole

      Try reading the CDC data that shows increased infant mortality with home births when controlling for extraneous data.

      The business of being born will kill a baby, if it hasn't already,

      June 27, 2012 at 22:44 | Report abuse |
    • nodoc

      nicole – that's a strong statement. you seem biased against home birth based on your wording. are you in the birthing industry perhaps?

      please provide a link (or google search term) to find the CDC study you refer too. there are numerous studies including some from CDC that show otherwise but I keep an open mind and like to read everything.

      June 27, 2012 at 23:20 | Report abuse |
    • Sullivanthepoop

      Oh, yeah so we can lied to by another idiot celebrity? I prefer to live in the real world thanks.

      June 28, 2012 at 22:39 | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Oh, I didn't realize that when scientific data was presented by a celebrity it automatically rendered it invalid.

      June 29, 2012 at 11:08 | Report abuse |
  7. Julie

    With my 1st I did not fear childbirth because I didn't know how BAD it actually is... that was the longest labor and most painful of the 3. My last birth I fear the most because I knew it is one of the most horrific thing a person can go through yet that childbirth went fast and east.

    I dunno but I certainly did not fit into the statistics of this study. But then it isn't really childbirth itself that I feared but LABOR. Getting the baby out was the easy part. The hours of charlie horses in ones stomach is horrid.

    June 27, 2012 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jen

    Really, CNN, the best person you could find to give you an interview for this article was Stuart Fischbein? Whose medical license is currently suspended in California over several counts of sexual exploitation of his OB patients? That's the type of thing no laboring woman should have to fear – good thing he's no longer able to practice. Oh, and women aren't afraid of childbirth because of horror stories – they're usually afraid because it hurts! Quite a lot, most of the time.

    June 27, 2012 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hermanaemilia

      several accounts? once case of consensual sex following a divorce? get over yourself.
      http://www.vcstar.com/news/2007/sep/12/board-puts-doctor-on-7-years-of-probation-had-a/

      June 27, 2012 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
    • Dani

      Dr. Fischbein is actually on probation, not suspended, in the state of California. He delivered my son in April 2010 and is an absolutely phenomenal doctor. Kudos to CNN for including Dr. Fischbein in this article!

      June 27, 2012 at 22:34 | Report abuse |
    • BirthingInBothWorlds

      Jen, Be grateful the anonimity of the internet allows you to libel. You, your ilk and Dr, Amy (if you are not her) all know that what the good Dr. F has to say is true. And that what you spew is not. Truth to you is clearly not a virtue. Stick to the topic. Fear disrupts mammalian labor. End of story. Thats what is important to the readers of Ms. Wilson's article. Why would you be against educating women?

      June 27, 2012 at 22:41 | Report abuse |
  9. Johanna

    My labor was only 8 hours from start to finish. I changed positions the entire time and listened to my body for cues. I was in a calm room with no bright lights (birth center) and a lovely hot tub. No one could convince me that lying on my back with me feet in the air would actually help; I needed gravity! I wasn't afraid because no one was shooting me full of drugs or giving me a time table. But I classify every day since as a "pain-free day."

    June 27, 2012 at 21:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      Good for you, but for some of us, labor wasn't so sweet. My water broke around 4 am and I was in hard labor by 10 am. I had pre-eclampsia (VERY high blood pressure) so I had to be in the hospital. (I'd spent the previous month laying on my left side at home to avoid being in the hospital but the BP never went down.) Standing upright gave me nosebleeds and headaches, so I was confined to the bed, and I had to have a monitor to make sure the baby was ok. Around 5 pm I went into the last stage of labor and I pushed for three and a half hours. I pushed so hard blood vessels burst in my eyes. Nothing. The baby was stuck in the birth canal and no amount of massage, manipulation (hands, not forceps) or position changes (I was on hands and knees for long stretches of time) did anything. Then the baby's heart rate slowed way down and we had a C-section at eleven that night. He was born with an Apgar of 1. Ten minutes later he was a 9 and doing fine. I've had superior women look down their noses at me telling me I "took the easy way out", that because I'd accepted a tiny dose of demerol that morning it was my fault the baby was born with an apgar of 1, and that if I'd "paid more attention" to my body during pregnancy and early labor everything would have gone smoothly. Sometimes things don't go smoothly. Remember – lots of women DIED during childbirth not that long ago. I would have been one of them, and my son too.

      June 28, 2012 at 06:28 | Report abuse |
    • AllieGirlD

      Many women are so lucky as to have a picture perfect childbirth experience. My first was almost 17 hours long with 2 and a half of pushing. It was exhausting and painful and scary, and that wasn't the half of it once the post partum depression started. My second my placenta ruptured immediately after delivery, I would have bled to death were it not for the expert care of the doctor and nurses there with me. Childbirth is a scary proposition. I try very hard to tell my stories only to those women who ask, and to stress to them that in spite of the scary painful parts, I have two perfectly healthy and happy kids. But to imply that being scared of labor is making it worse just adds an extra layer of guilt down for the expecting mother. Maybe the data show that fear makes it take longer, but going through something that painful and potentially risky is going to be scary. . .

      June 28, 2012 at 08:05 | Report abuse |
    • Sullivanthepoop

      I never had a birth over 6 hours, in the hospital laughing and joking with my family, trusting medical professionals. Though no pain meds or epidural. Looks like anecdotally mine is the better way.

      June 28, 2012 at 22:43 | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      Yes, my son and I came close to death. I had cryptic tonsillitis when I fell pregnant. It wasn't a planned pregnancy. If it had been, I would have had my tonsils removed first...I nearly died of tonsillitis during labour. I told my doctor I was having an attack of tonsillitis but he ignored me. My fever kept increasing during labour and I became more and more ill. Labour failed to progress and the baby's head did not engage. I had an emergency caesarean and the anesthetic failed. That was an horrific experience.

      The baby had a high fever and so did I. Because of this we were kept separated, so forget bonding. No medication worked on the infection for 7 days, so for 7 days I didn't see my newborn. At last some new wonder drug finally began to knock back the infection. All this because the doctor didn't listen when I told him my throat was sore.

      June 29, 2012 at 23:26 | Report abuse |
  10. M.E.

    I've never given birth and even I could tell you that! Any time you're afraid, you obviously can't relax and logically birth would be easier if a woman is as relaxed as possible. Simple stuff really. That said, I'm sure when I go to have my first I'll be a ball of terror just like everyone else. Some things in life are inherently scary, pushing another human out of what is usually a pretty small hole is scary any way you look at it even though it's the most natural thing in the world.

    June 27, 2012 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. thinquer

    I have 5 sisters. Four had long labor ending in C-sections. The one who had natural delivery delivered two children in under 4 hrs. each. The difference? She was 3000 miles away from mother (coincidentally a psychiatrist) who had medical anxiety. I believe her anxiety affected the 4 sisters who remained closest to her.

    June 27, 2012 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. laureng823

    I kinda have to call BS here. With my first, I was deathly afraid. 12 hours start to finish from the time the contractions were steady. Second, not afraid at all, 13 hours start to finish. I think, more than anything, it depends on your body and how able you are to concentrate through the pain on getting the baby out.

    June 27, 2012 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David

      Well, you must be a scientist. Of course your one experience outweighs the large number of data points contradicting your theory. Tell me, do you just teach statistics or do you dabble in reproductive medicine as well?

      June 28, 2012 at 01:27 | Report abuse |
    • Shannon

      +1 for David!

      June 28, 2012 at 03:39 | Report abuse |
  13. Lila

    Figures...reason number 15, why I want to avoid pregnancy.

    June 27, 2012 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FiveLIters

      If I had to put a bowling ball through a gumball machine,I would be 'afraid' too! lol

      June 28, 2012 at 10:20 | Report abuse |
  14. sonia

    Not sure if I agree. I have had two boys, natural no meds and I was completely fearful with both!
    Labor for boy #1 4 hours Labor for boy #2 3 hours..pretty quick for someone who was scared as hell.

    June 27, 2012 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Eleda

    Interesting...Speaking of epidural, please avoid it. I wanted a natural birth, but was in so much pain, I asked to give me a medication. I was in labor for hours and could not feel my legs being damaged due to anesthesia. My nerves got trapped and my quads got shot. I couldn't walk after delivery. For months I was on the walker, doing physical therapy, learning to walk again and falling multiple times. It was a living nightmare, all while trying to take care of my newborn. I can walk again now, but probably will never be 100% again. CNN, why you never write articles about us moms who cannot walk after delivery due to nerves being damaged? This is such a common injury, yet it is being hush-hushed. If only future moms knew how to take control of their positioning during labor, much heartache would be avoided. I hope one day there will be more awareness about this issue. re. Johanna, this is a wonderul birth experience, one to strive for.

    June 27, 2012 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peacemaka

      I dont think your problem was necessarily the epidural itself but perhaps the person who administered the epidural. Not saying that was the case but I have had 2 with both my children and I was able to move around right after delivery. It seems your case is a rare one and not one brought on by the epie.

      June 28, 2012 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      You had a rare complication of an epidural anesthetic. I had another epidural for pain relief after abdominal surgery and it went well. Considering that my epidural for my caesarean failed, I was concerned but it worked very well.

      June 29, 2012 at 23:30 | Report abuse |
  16. Susanne

    What about all of the unnecessary medical interventions that seem to be more commonplace these days? I imagine that might have something to do with women being more afraid of childbirth.

    June 27, 2012 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David

      And that might have something to do with ob-gyns facing the most litigious environment in Western civilization. On average, nearly every single ob-gyn will be sued for malpractice at least one point in their careers. Do you think it's because they're all incompetent? You have to be pretty smart, passionate, and dedicated to go through 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 4 years residency to become an ob-gyn. I doubt they're honestly trying to hurt babies and mothers. They're more scared of getting sued than women are of childbirth.

      June 28, 2012 at 01:32 | Report abuse |
    • Sullivanthepoop

      Well, at least you are finally admitting that making up problems like unnecessary, forced interventions might be causing a real problem, like longer labor. I agree, people should not be exposed to that nonsense when they are pregnant.

      June 28, 2012 at 22:48 | Report abuse |
  17. luv2savr

    I am truly saddened that more emphasis has not been placed on the psychology of child birth. Women need to get to the bottom of their fears and doubts BEFORE labor. I've had many friends who stalled out during labor because they realized too late that they had unresolved issues. I was raised thinking it would be the best day of my life because my mother said so. I also had a painful miscarriage that gave me some warning of what the pain would be like. When the time finally came for me to labor, I was ready and determined. I also believed that my body and my baby could do it. It was certainly not a walk in the park, but with the natural breaks in between contractions I was able to deal. I also found that the more I tried to go with the flow (smiling, swaying back and forth, and encouraging what was happening), I was definitely able to tolerate the pain and had my first baby in less than 10 hours. I'm also happy to say that Dr. Fischbein was my doctor and that he delivered my frank breech baby perfectly. He's an amazing doc! Thank you Dr. F!

    June 28, 2012 at 00:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Michele

    As a first time mom, my fear was quite simple: how were these two basketballs going to get out? It just seemed impossible. Turns out, they got out by causing a ton of damage in the process. Loved the epidural. Was completely able to feel the change in blood pressure that preceded the contractions with no pain, which allowed me to alert the doctor/nurses about impending contractions before the monitors could detect them. The entire process was pretty quick and easy. Took longer for them to repair me than it did for the babies to be born.

    June 28, 2012 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. bubbers

    why is there fear surrounding childbirth? wasn't a woman's body designed to give birth. 2 non-medicated births here... sure, it hurt, but it's NATURAL. we were built for this. we weren't built to endure cancer, get shot or stabbed, etc. that's the pain I fear, not childbirth!!! to each her own, though. best wishes to all mommas during L&D.

    June 28, 2012 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jane

      Wow, you win 50 mommy natural warrior points. I guess that just makes the rest of us sissies.

      June 28, 2012 at 01:34 | Report abuse |
    • Shannon

      Childbirth was the leading cause of death for women for thousands of years. It is only due to modern medicine that women usually survive now. So no, we were not "built" to give birth naturally with no intervention. Clearly.

      June 28, 2012 at 03:40 | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      Not everyone was born to give birth. My sister who is smaller than me, pushed out nine pounders. My pelvis wouldn't open for smaller babies. Without medical intervention I would have died in childbirth, and so would my son. It's great that many women have nice easy L & D's, at home, surrounded by loving friends and families and a knowledgable midwife. Not everyone is so lucky and it's inconsiderate and mean to take a judgment stand against those who give birth not so easily. I am very grateful to be alive, with living, healthy children and I not at all embarrassed to admit that I needed an OB-GYN and a hospital to do it.

      June 28, 2012 at 06:36 | Report abuse |
    • KellyMM

      I guess I get 100 warrior points, (you were rewarded 25 a piece, right? Just want to be clear Jane cause that is EXACTLY what mom's strive and hope for!!!) I delivered 4 babies without any medical interventions. People will always be strongly opinionated about birth and whether or not medical/natural is the best. Be informed and however you meet your baby, know that it will be the greatest day of your life!

      June 28, 2012 at 16:02 | Report abuse |
    • Jeanna

      Shannon: The problem was not that women's bodies aren't built for birthing (at the most basic physiological level, of course they are; can men do it? no. can women? yes.). The actual problem that caused so many childbirth deaths was things like lack of sanitation and nutrition. So yes, I completely agree that the opportunity for medical interventions is wonderful. But it wasn't "women's bodies" that were causing the problems in birth in the past. It was germs and dirt.

      June 28, 2012 at 21:42 | Report abuse |
    • Sullivanthepoop

      Nothing natural was designed. where would you get such an idea?

      June 28, 2012 at 22:52 | Report abuse |
    • peridot2

      My first child would have killed me dead. I would have been one of those dead women due to cephalic-pelvic disproportion (fetal head too large to fit through pelvis). So either the special doctor would have come and crushed my son's head and sucked out his brain through his son, saving my life, or we both would have died in the past because I would have laboured until I died from hemorrhage or exhaustion.

      Some women don't appreciate how fortunate they have been. My emergency caesarean saved my life and my child's life even though the epidural failed to work for pain control. It was a horrible experience. My son is autistic, perhaps because of the childbirth experience he suffered through. We're alive and we must be grateful.

      June 29, 2012 at 23:38 | Report abuse |
  20. Petrushka

    Breaking an ankle hurts worse than childbirth. Here's a hint; forget about the ridiculous Lamaze 'Lite' breathing thing they teach you in childbirth classes, and go read, and study Lamaze, then PRACTICE the deep relaxation exercises 20 minutes every day. That's right. Practice. Every day.
    Of course there can be complications in any birth, but knowing how to break the fear/pain cycle through deep relaxation will go a long way to put the mother in control of her labor, and make for a better, easier birth.

    June 28, 2012 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CJEH

      Realistically, childbirth education should begin when a woman finds out she's pregnant, not a crash course 6 weeks before labor. Can you see a marathon runner only reading books and surfing the internet for the year before the Boston Marathon, and only taking a jog or two once a week before? (We'll bypass the comparison of telling a marathon runner they can't drink liquid during a race...)

      June 28, 2012 at 01:09 | Report abuse |
    • Epidi

      You and CJEH are right – it's not something you learn to do in a few weeks. It takes prep time & practice. I was fortunate enough to have been practicing relaxation and meditation techniques before I ever got pregnant which helped so much when I had my children without pain blocking drugs.

      June 28, 2012 at 01:54 | Report abuse |
    • Sullivanthepoop

      Breaking an ankle only hurts more than childbirth if it is a horrible compound fracture and I would know.

      June 28, 2012 at 22:53 | Report abuse |
  21. TheLeftCoast

    UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine is conducting an interesting research study on fear during childbirth:
    http://www.osher.ucsf.edu/research/enroll-in-research-studie/2399-2/

    June 28, 2012 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Petrushka

    CJEH,
    Absolutely agree.

    June 28, 2012 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. sandy

    Any sensible person will feel some apprehension in advance of labor, and if they don't, they're in denial. The whole "women's bodies were made for this" argument conveniently ignores that labor was a leading cause of death before modern medicine intervened. As for the pain, it hurts. I've had severe back problems that made my back spasm, and I can honestly say that the back pains were every bit as painful as labor, but labor was still much worse. Why? Because you can control the back pain by not moving, but you have absolutely no control over labor at all. I think it's less stressful to stop pretending that you can control the pain and focus on the fact that the pain will pass and you'll have a baby. How wonderful is that? (I had two births, both induced. My first child was born 5 hours after my water was broken, and there were absolutely no breaks between pains once I hit transition. My second arrived even faster. I am glad I did not waste time practicing breathing, as I literally had no breaks in which to do it!)

    June 28, 2012 at 01:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Epidi

      I had both my kids without pain blocking drugs. Yes, it hurt. But, I was able to manage my pain through breathing & focusing techniques. Transition is indeed the most difficult stage when the waves of contractions seems to come one right after the other. Can you control the pain? No, but you can manage it if you are in what I call "the zone", or frame of mind. I was able to accomplish that by dealing with & controlling my fear knowing, as you state, that the pain will pass and a baby I already love will soon be in my arms. I'd be a liar if I said I was not apprehensive particularly with the first one. But they call it labor because it is hard work – physically, mentally, & emotionally. Natural childbirth isn't for everyone to be sure, and with the options available for pain managment, to each thier own. I'm proud of having mine all natural – but I don't look down on someone who uses the epidural either.

      June 28, 2012 at 01:50 | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense Mom

      Nobody teaches "breathing" anymore. That has long gone by the wayside. You are right, lamaze does not work and childbirth educators dumped that method long ago. Now doulas and midwives teach other pain coping mechanisms. I

      June 28, 2012 at 09:10 | Report abuse |
    • earthshoes44

      "Any sensible person will feel some apprehension in advance of labor, and if they don't, they're in denial. The whole "women's bodies were made for this" argument conveniently ignores that labor was a leading cause of death before modern medicine intervened."

      And yet the human population grew anyway and most women lived beyond their child-bearing years. Modern medicine had very little to do with the child birth associated mortality. Better nutrition and hygiene did (and, as countries develop, women a) have fewer children and b) wait until they're older–as in not teenagers). Our mortality rate in this country, even with all our advances remains shockingly high compared to other western countries with lower C-section rates and fewer medical interventions.

      July 1, 2012 at 09:04 | Report abuse |
  24. PainFreeMama

    My first child was an induction. Pitocin, Epidural, and ice chips for 13 hours with a stage four tear.
    I just had my second child and wanted an epidural. I went from 2cm to 8 cm in an hour. They couldn't get the epidural in fast enough. Once they did, I immediately had to push before the epidural could kick in. I had my second and felt every single move she made. I will tell you it sucked, but I cannot believe how incredible I felt after. The bad part is the pain in my back that won't go away from the frantic anesthesiologist. If my husband and I have a third, I will opt for natural.

    June 28, 2012 at 02:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Metoo

      I had a stage 4 tear as well...they had to use the vaccuum..wish I'd had a c-section!

      June 28, 2012 at 06:51 | Report abuse |
  25. jk

    I thought the stress came from being in godawful pain, but I'm just a normal person with a brain, so what do I know?

    June 28, 2012 at 03:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Tracie

    I was scared to death of the pain that I would feel during childbirth, but ended up at the last minute becoming preeclampsic and having to have an emergency c-section. My daughter was and still is healthy, but recovering from a c-section is extremely painful, so I guess in the end, i got that pain. I would do it again though. My daughter is worth it!! I would think any mother would feel this way. Right?

    June 28, 2012 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. same2cool

    Nice friend I like your post and your writing style.
    thanks for sharing nice information my last post Drink Coasters

    June 28, 2012 at 06:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. ladysal

    This article is disgusting. Child birth is very painful. Some people out there are still trying to make feel ashamed of who they are. Since childbirth is a 99% phyiscal thing I would be curious to know how this was measured. This guy who wrote this research is probably a woman want to be at heart. This also tells women everybody does not need to be in the room with you when you give birth. To the guy who wrote this research face you are a wanted to be. Want to be a woman.

    June 28, 2012 at 07:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • beadhead

      If you did more research in to childbirth and varied your sources, you would learn that you are very, very wrong. Childbirth is not purely physical, it is also a very emotional and mental thing and no, you do not need everyone in the world in the room with you. One person to catch the baby is really all you need.

      June 28, 2012 at 07:36 | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense Mom

      Your perspective is not accurate. You need to better educate yourself about labor and delivery. Have you read anything by Ina May Gaskins? She is a leading researcher on labor and delivery and she has decades and decades of peer reviewed professionally respected research to prove that your statement that labor and delivery is "99% physical" is 100% wrong.

      June 28, 2012 at 09:06 | Report abuse |
    • Sullivanthepoop

      I was more comfortable surround by people and bright lights. I had short, no-pain med labors, very short pushing phases, no tears, no internal damage, all in the hospital, all at least augmented with pit. Do not listen top these people that want to tell you that you can only have a good birth if it is like theirs. That is nonsense. I would have gone crazy at home, low lights, idiotic music, breathing techniques I never used, scented candles would have made me vomit. They do not want to empower you, they want to empower themselves.

      June 28, 2012 at 23:01 | Report abuse |
  29. sharibrat

    I was scared to death of giving birth. My labor was fast and easy – 2 hours start of water breaking to baby in my arms. Fear did not prolong my labor.

    June 28, 2012 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peridot2

      Wow. Congratulations. That's amazingly fortunate.

      June 29, 2012 at 23:41 | Report abuse |
  30. beadhead

    Thanks for the newsflash. Ina May Gaskin and midwives everywhere have been giving women this information for decades. It's not anything new but I guess since the doctors are catching on to this now, they have to take credit for it, right?

    June 28, 2012 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sullivanthepoop

      Wow! If Ina May Gaskin said it than it is probably not true.

      June 28, 2012 at 23:04 | Report abuse |
  31. JenSim

    Just, DUH. I mean really? I love CNN and all that but this is a dumb article because this won't change a damn thing as women will still be afraid of childbirth. I mean who wouldn't be, I sure was. You've got pain, possible complications, the occassional mean nurse, and all the medical folks around you are like "yeah yeah, we know" and not particularly helpful in the mental department. What a waste of cnn space, I never say that, but yeah.

    June 28, 2012 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MMM

      Jen, I'm a bit inclined to agree. I've had four kids, and run the gamut from an easy drug-free 2 hour start-to-finish birth to a 60+ hour labor (induced, and ultimately a c-section) to 8 weeks in bed with ruptured membranes and abrupted placenta leading to premature birth. One thing they all had in common....they hurt like a mother you-know-what. Of course women are going to be afraid. Most of us know we should "relax" and "breath" and all that; most don't choose to be scared, but it's totally normal to be afraid of the experience (especially the first time). My gut reaction to this article was that women who have the unfortunate experience of a long or difficult labor can now experience more guilt over their birth "failure"...if "I weren't so tense, this wouldn't have happened."

      June 29, 2012 at 20:13 | Report abuse |
  32. Scott Pilgrim

    Glad I'm a dude right now! >_>

    June 28, 2012 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. mamachat

    or you have a idiot ob/gyn who only allows you to labor in bed and not move around and your baby is trying her damnedest to come out but due to her mothers tilted pelvis that's not gonna happen unless mama can walk around!!!

    June 28, 2012 at 08:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Doulas are the BEST!!

      Totally agree with what you are saying but not how you are saying it. I like your message but please consider being more professional and more kind when you say things like this. When you use snarky smart-a tone like this nobody is going to listen to what you have to say. Some of us are trying hard to change the way women perceive labor and delivery and we are working hard to get mothers out of bed so they can "labor down" more naturally and with less complications. That message is received much better when it is delivered with respect.

      June 28, 2012 at 09:03 | Report abuse |
    • Sullivanthepoop

      Oh, so more made up problems to scare pregnant women with. I thought we were moving past that.

      June 28, 2012 at 23:05 | Report abuse |
  34. Common Sense Mom

    When we decided to start a family I knew my fear of labor and delivery would be a problem. Once I became pregnant I enrolled in a prenatal yoga class taught by a doula/yoga instructor and it was TREMENDOUSLY helpful. As a group, we practiced relaxation techniques, discussed normal labor and we openly shared our fears and concerns. When mothers in our group delivered they visited the class with their newborns and told their birth stories. It was so helpful to get the fears out in the open and deal with them. I was able to go on to have two natural deliveries without c-section, something I thought I would NEVER be able to do!! Also, the women in our group have stayed together and we now have weekly playdates, we have now been together 5 years and they are some of the best friends I have.

    If you are pregnant, get involved in a prenatal yoga class!!

    June 28, 2012 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Doulas are the BEST!!

    If you are fearing labor and delivery hire a doula. A good certified doula will meet with you before your due date to discuss your fears and will teach you relaxation techniques. She then will be available to support you during your entire labor and delivery. Studies have shown that women who use doulas have shorter labors, request less pain meds, have SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER c-section rates and overall feel more satisfied with their labor and delivery experience. I had a doula with both of my deliveries and it was the best thing I ever did! Worth every single penny!!

    June 28, 2012 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. independentlyowned

    Part of the problem is not only relaxing in a stuffy hospital setting, but the entire way that we treat giving birth here in the US. Women are just seen as vessels carrying a child, hence why we have one of the highest C-section rates in the world. Just rip the baby out and get home in time for dinner! Mothers' concerns are rarely taken seriously, because doctors just think we're being irrational and hormonal.

    June 28, 2012 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sullivanthepoop

      You never had birth in a hospital, did you? It is nothing like that.

      June 28, 2012 at 23:06 | Report abuse |
  37. IrishMama

    The sight of the mama in a hosptal gown with blood pressure cuff strapped on by a white coat is frightful enough! I was scared to go to the hospital for my third because I nearly died of the MRSA I contracted from the hospital with a previous birth. Had the third at home with loving midwives who treated me as a human being, not a patient. Fastest and best birth, with no pain until transition. It was glorious!

    June 28, 2012 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. buxxy

    I never wanted to go through childbirth thanks...the thought of all that pain 'down there' just turned me off. Not interested.

    June 28, 2012 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • snow

      Couldn't agree more. also my sister almost DIED during childbirth. it's bloody, extremely painful for most people, and dangerous (women and babies can die in the process due to unforseen complications). if you enjoy that or have some way to cope then great. too much of a risk for me thanks.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:48 | Report abuse |
  39. Dee

    This fear of birth is a instinctual fear separate from the effects of birthing advice and medical advice. When you are a woman that is nine-months pregnant the physics of the situation hits you at some point like a ton of bricks. Despite your previous birth experiences and despite education on the birth process, the physical reality is that an eight pound baby must make its way through a seemingly small area of your body. Of course, we know that the woman's body is supremely designed to handle birth, but your hormone filled mind cannot always fight off those fears that bubble up.

    June 28, 2012 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Diane

      Actually not all women's bodies are supremely geared for birth. It's called natural selection. That's why the earth's population took so long to reach 1 million.......because childbirth was the grim reaper of women and babies before modern medicine.

      June 28, 2012 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
    • Sullivanthepoop

      People are not designed, they evolved. When human women gained the ability for bipedal movement we lost the ability to birth safely. Please stop spreading this dangerous nonsense about being designed for childbirth.

      June 29, 2012 at 08:43 | Report abuse |
  40. Ingrid

    Thank you for writing this great issue that is under discussed in mainstream media. Great article!

    June 28, 2012 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Melissa

    One of the reasons I will probably never have children is the horror stories I keep hearing about giving birth. Absolutely terrifying. My aunt once told me that its like a chainsaw ripping through your stomach. My younger sister told me that its a pain like nothing you can imagine (she gave birth in her mid-20's. I'm in my late 30's now).

    That and the fact that your life gets seriously tied down after... I don't think I want to deal with it. Glad my husband agrees.

    June 28, 2012 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • snow

      I'm with ya Melissa! My sis almost died giving birth. love my niece's and nephews, but none of my own thanks.

      June 28, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      Yeah, I love being auntie. None of the pain, lots of fun, and they go home to mom after.

      June 28, 2012 at 12:09 | Report abuse |
  42. hypatia

    And whatever do the idiots in white plan on doing about that? Oh , wait, they haven't heard from their Pharm company uberlords yet.

    June 28, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sullivanthepoop

      I didn't know CPMs wore white and since when are they beholden to pharmaceutical companies? I thought they were against everything rational.

      June 29, 2012 at 08:45 | Report abuse |
  43. choosingcesarean

    I'd just like to respectfully add that some women choose to plan a cesarean birth because of their fear of labor and natural birth, and although birth preparation, counseling and/or pain relief provision helps some, others have better outcomes with surgery.

    An important study to keep in mind is this:

    Tokophobia: an unreasoning dread of childbirth. A series of 26 cases. Hofberg K, Brockington I. Br J Psychiatry. 2000 Jan;176:83-5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10789333

    Results: "Pregnant women with tokophobia who were refused their choice of delivery method suffered higher rates of psychological morbidity than those who achieved their desired delivery method."

    Conclusions: Tokophobia is a specific and harrowing condition that needs acknowledging. Close liaison between the obstetrician and the psychiatrist in order to assess the balance between surgical and psychiatric morbidity is imperative with tokophobia.

    June 28, 2012 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. D. Austin

    Hey, Ms. Wilson,

    Why do you post a link to Dr. Fischbein's book but no link the the actual study (or at least the abstract) this article is ostensibly about?

    June 28, 2012 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dana

    My first baby, active labor for 1 hr and 15 minutes. Epidural given 30 minutes before active labor started. I was not scared at all, I have a philosophy that stressing out about some things will not make them easier, so... I was not scared. I was relieved my baby would be born finally, no need to induce, no need to worry coz I can't see her being in my womb....

    June 28, 2012 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. momof3

    I had good success using Hypnobirthing and Hypnobabies. I know it isn't for everyone, but they do a lot of work on releasing fears surrounding childbirth, and "normalizing" the feeling of contractions (thinking in terms of tightening vs. pain). I found it worked very well for me with all three of my labors.

    June 28, 2012 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jill

    oh god...... I had kids in the 80s. Back then, for some reason, if you refused the epidural you were way cool. I did. Stupidest thing I ever did. This sounds like another "its the moms fault" things. Gag me. And have the frikkin epidural. Everyone is somewhat scared of labor. Because it hurts. Badly. And there are things to help with that. And ignore males who write such articles. They have never shot out a 9 pounder.

    June 28, 2012 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Sara

    I am an Ob/Gyn and I actually agree with this article. Sometimes it seems that people have a "pain dystocia," meaning that they are in such pain that the labor halts for a bit. This seems to happen most in the people who are scared about what happens in labor. I don't know how many times I've seen a terrified woman in a lot pain. Sometimes any little intervention to ease her fear or pain (whether that comfort, IV meds, or an epidural) is given, and suddenly the labor just takes off again. It's not a mom's "fault" or inadequacy. It's just a physical reaction to stress. Labor certainly does hurt for most women, and it is most certainly worse when you're scared.

    June 28, 2012 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Galadika

    I've had a natural birth and a c-section, and they were both equally horrible. Childbirth is scary no matter how it happens, but it was all worth once I got to hold my babies.

    June 28, 2012 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Bring on the epidural

    I had epidurals with both my children and had great deliveries. I delivered two beautiful healthy babies. I have no issue with the fact I requested drugs. What's the point of being in pain when I don't have to? I have nothing to prove and regret nothing. I applaud women who do it without drugs, but I knew from the beginning I wanted medication.

    June 28, 2012 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sullivanthepoop

      There is no point to being in pain and epidurals are very safe for laboring women.

      June 29, 2012 at 08:46 | Report abuse |
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