I was a little apprehensive… ok terrified about giving birth. In between ‘anecdotes’ from my friends about their own scary experiences, and a few too many episodes of Call The Midwife, I was petrified of everything from what ‘might’ go wrong to whether we’d make it to the hospital in time. As it turned out my birth experience was wonderful. Of course, it’s natural to be scared though, which is why I’ve put together a list of eight common labour fears, and called on the help of respected Dubai-based Consultant OB/GYN Dr. Elsa de Menezes Fernandes to lay them to rest.
Childbirth fear #1: Having a late pregnancy loss (still birth)
I think all women have nightmares about what’s going to be, including the dread of losing a baby. However, it’s important to remember that it is quite rare for this to happen in a healthy pregnancy. For women who sadly suffer late pregnancy losses, there are often complications, such as the baby not growing satisfactorily, the occurrence of vasa previa, or there being issues with the placenta. Because we practice consultant-led care here in the UAE, patients see the same doctor regularly, so these issues are generally picked up early, which means they can usually be circumvented.
Childbirth fear #2: Experiencing accidental bodily functions
This is completely normal and not embarrassing at all. Should it happen, just try to remember that neither your doctor nor midwife would be fazed in the slightest as they have seen it all before – many times. However, if you are worried about it, you can have an enema beforehand, which will hopefully empty the lower gut before you deliver.
Childbirth fear #3: Needing an episiotomy
Episiotomies during childbirth are fairly common, particularly for first-time mothers. Your doctor is likely to recommend one if the perineum is very tight and looking as though it might tear. You may worry about this procedure, but it’s better to make this small incision, which reduces tension, rather than letting it rip through, which can result in a third-degree tear.
Childbirth fear #4: Loss of sexual enjoyment as a result of episiotomy or tearing
An episiotomy is a small incision and easily repairable, therefore it is not going to alter your marital function, nor is it going to increase any kind of risk to how you look or feel anatomically down below.
Childbirth fear #5: Being pushed into having caesarean
Being well informed about your pregnancy and having an open dialogue with your doctor is imperative, as is having the confidence in your own ability to give birth. Remember, our bodies are primed for it. Sadly, caesareans are incentivised by the system. They cost more to perform and the doctors get paid more for doing them, so it’s not surprising that the UAE has a high caesarean rate. Of course, some doctors may argue that caesareans give a level of control that doesn’t come with natural delivery, but that’s not the design. There is a lot to be said for labour contractions, which do a number of things, including helping to prepare the baby to breathe on their own, by expelling fluids out of their lungs.
Childbirth fear #6: Not being able to cope with the pain
Contractions can’t do our bodies any harm because we are designed to have them. I always tell my patients, ‘pregnancy is not a disease’. Women have been having babies down the ages and the only reason you see a doctor is to keep you and your baby safe, not because it’s an illness. That said, when it comes to pain relief, I think epidurals are a marvelous invention because they allow for a painless vaginal delivery, which is ultimately the way to go. We use scientific advances in everything else we do in life, be it air travel or keeping our food fresh in the refrigerator, so why not during childbirth?
Childbirth fear #7: Cord around the baby’s neck
A lot of babies are born with the cord around their necks and it rarely causes any problems. If it’s loose enough, the doctor can finger feel for it and simply slip it over the baby’s head, or, if it’s a bit tight, clamp it and cut it. On the rare occasion that it is so tight that the baby is clearly showing signs of distress, we would have to act on the merit of that and do a cesarean, for what we term ‘presumed fetal distress’. However, just seeing the cord around the neck on the ultrasound should not automatically indicate the need for a cesarean.
Childbirth fear #8: Not making it to the hospital on time
It’s most unlikely that you will deliver in the car or at home. We call it born before arrival (BBA), but it’s unusual, especially for a first baby. The reason for this is that it’s a lengthy process. Realistically you’re not going to be sitting at home and then, oops, five contractions later baby is out. The whole thing takes hours. That’s why it’s called labour!
Dr. Elsa de Menezes Fernandes is a UK-trained Consultant OB/GYN. Her practice, New Concept Clinic, is based at Healthcare City. For more information or to book an appointment call 04 5547273.