I recently ran a survey to my newsletter and social media followers about what they were nervous about for birth. Today I want to share the results for you.
Also, don’t miss my post on Birth Statistics that compiles a LOT of really cool statistics about pregnancy & birth!
Why Did I Do This Survey?
I think we THINK we know what pregnant women are nervous about — but do we REALLY? When they’re alone in a survey what will they tell us about the fears that swirl in their head about delivery day.
Before we get started, let me tell you a bit about myself:
Hi, I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have talked about a LOT of birth fears with tens of thousands of couples and I know there is a lot on your mind about this unpredictable thing called birth.
If you’re pregnant, I’d love to join you on this journey (and probably soothe a lot of fears) in my week by week pregnancy series:
I also did a podcast episode on labor fears:
I surveyed people initially about what they were nervous for, and then put the top things I heard into the study. I invited site users, newsletter readers, and social media followers to come to do the study.
A total of 149 people took the survey. I didn’t ask any questions about their socioeconomic status or race.
Fears About Delivery During Pregnancy
Fears About Cesarean Sections:
68.2% of respondents were worried about having a cesarean section.
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 3.14.
This means that pregnant people are concerned about having a caesarean section, and likely need more education on why that might happen, and how to communicate with their healthcare team to make the best choice for them.
Fears About Having a Bowel Movement at Delivery
61.2% of respondents were concerned about having a BM at delivery.
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 2.25
This means that pregnant people need to have more information about how they can’t effectively NOT have a BM, and that their healthcare team isn’t bothered if they do have one at delivery.
As a note: there is no way to stop having a BM while effectively pushing a baby out, and nurses are trained to wipe up BM early on, and aren’t bothered by it at all. I do have a whole post on pooping at delivery.
Fears About Communicating With Their Healthcare Team
48% of respondents were worried about communicating with their healthcare team.
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 2.58
This means that just about half of people don’t feel like they are able to communicate effectively with their providers. Looking for ways to make communication easier amongst all members of the team (both the patient and staff) can help ease this fear!
Fears About Something Going Wrong With The Baby
81.1% of respondents were worried about something going wrong with the baby.
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 3.59
This shows that patients need more information about what preparation the healthcare team has made for monitoring the baby during labor and after delivery. This is clearly a very large fear for the pregnant population
Fears About Something Going Wrong With Mom
72.3% of respondents said they were worried about something going wrong with them.
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 3.29
This shows that the majority of women are concerned about something happening to them at delivery. We can educate moms about all the interventions we have to be able to help them at delivery (and how prepared we are for common issues like hemorrhaging).
Fears About Partners Not Being Very Supportive
17.6% of people are worried that their partner won’t be very supportive.
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 1.61
While not very many people are concerned about partners being supportive, it is still an area that we could work on. Partners may actually be more worried about not being supportive than the pregnant respondents are.
Fears about Tearing at Delivery
77% of respondents said they were worried about tearing at delivery
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 3.39
This shows that people worry about that part of their body at delivery. Education on pushing positions, relaxation techniques, and recovery from a possible tear might help ease minds about this.
Fears about Pain in Childbirth
83.1% of respondents said they were worried about how much pain they would feel during childbirth
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 3.56
Information about pain management and control during labor could help ease concerns in this population. Also, natural pain management techniques they can use might also help ease their minds over this issue.
Fears About The Length of Labor
70.1% of respondents said they were worried about labor taking a long time.
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 3.22
Information on the natural duration of labor and ways people can stay comfortable and feel supported during it might help ease these fears. Also, reminders that natural labor vs induced labor may take less time, might help ease these concerns as well.
Fears About Getting the Epidural
56.1% of respondents said they were concerned about getting the epidural
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 2.84
Although over half of the participants were concerned about getting the epidural, it is a lower number than most of the other questions. Appropriate teaching about how an epidural is placed and what to expect during the process might alleviate some of these fears in the future as well.
Fears About Life After Baby
83.1% of respondents said they were worried for their postpartum period (including life after baby, postpartum depression, etc).
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 3.56
As this is one of the larger fears. It would be important to teach expecting families ways they can cope after baby is born, as well as find ways to get support after baby is here. By having support systems in place before baby is born, parents might feel like they have a bit more control in this area.
Amount of Fear About Labor in General
The average amount of fear (on a scale from 1-5) was 3.31
This shows that the resopndents were more scared than they were not scared, and shows that childbirth and postpartum preparation is key for these families.
Will a Prenatal Class Help Delivery/Postpartum Fears?
66% of respondents felt that a prenatal class could/would/has already helped with these fears.
Hard to say if any of these respondents had already taken a class and perhaps felt more at ease already about any of these fears.
Things that Came Up In a Free-Write About Birth Fears:
Things that came-up frequently in the free-write section:
- Covid (this study was performed in early 2022) — getting it from hospital staff (either themselves or the baby)
- Bleeding or Hemorrhaging
- The staff not abiding by their wishes due to policies / not being able to clearly advocate for themselves — communicating with the team was mentioned several times.
- Still birth
- Aftercare with a cesarean section
Although most participants responses in this free write varied, it still shows that we have work to do with education, and most especially helping our patients communicate their wishes clearly.
Labor/Delivery Fears Ranked by Amount of Fear:
Ranked from Least fearful vs Most Fearful on a scale of 1-5 (with 1 being not afraid, and 5 being VERY afraid)
|How worried are you worried that you partner won’t be very supportive?
|How worried are you about having a BM at delivery?
|How you worried about communicating with your healthcare team?
|How worried are you about getting the epidural
|How worried are you about a possible c-section?
|How worried are you about labor taking a long time?
|How worried are you that something will go wrong with you?
|How scared of labor are you in general?
|How worried are you about tearing at delivery?
|How worried are you for your postpartum period?
|How worried are you about the pain you’ll feel in childbirth?
|How worried that something will go wrong with the baby?
You can see that the last 3 are very close in how concerned people are about them.
Comparing The Percent Of Respondents Afraid of Certain Things in Childbirth
|Worried that you partner won’t be very supportive?
|Worried about having a BM at delivery?
|Worried about communicating with your healthcare team?
|Worried about getting the epidural
|Worried about having a cesarean section?
|Worried about labor taking a long time?
|Worried that something will go wrong with you?
|Worried about tearing at delivery?
|Worried that something will go wrong with the baby?
|Worried about the pain you’ll feel in childbirth?
|Worried for your postpartum period (life after baby, depression etc)?
And, once again the last 3 are very close in how concerned people are about them.
The highest majority of people were worried about pain in childbirth, and what life will be like afterwards. These are things that can be helped with education.
The thing people had the most worry about is that something will go wrong with the baby. In the free write it sounded like they were worried that something was wrong that they didn’t find on the ultrasound or the possibility of stillbirth. The good news is that new technology is finding more and more about babies, and by doing kick counts and going to prenatal appointments families can do all they can for a healthy delivery
If you, like these pregnant women are worried about pain or your postpartum life — come join me in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. We have 1 full chapter on pain management, and an extra bonus video on natural pain management. We also have 2 chapters about what to expect after baby (one for what to expect in the hospital, and one about going home). The reviews are great, and with 3 price points and only taking 3 hours I know this is the class for you!
But… if you’re not quite sure yet — check out my free birth prep kit — with lots of resources to get you started:
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice. She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
As an evidence-based prenatal educator Hilary has delivered thousands of babies and has educated hundreds of thousands of parents from a diverse patient population to help them have a confident birth.