Granted, almost nobody thinks about childbirth as some easy-peasy walk in the park. It's the very definition of a struggle, and every birth presents its own challenges. But for some people, there are signs childbirth will be difficult for you in particular. A person's medical conditions, emotional responses to childbirth, and even past history of trauma can affect the delivery process.
And it's totally understandable if you're nervous about giving birth, whether this is your first delivery or your fifth. For so many reasons, bringing a new child into the world can be so daunting and intimidating. Maybe you're afraid of the potential pain, or just the many unknown factors of the challenge ahead. It's a big deal.
That said, there are some things to keep in mind, because it's possible to ease these fears about a difficult delivery. " I would like to express to you all that it is scientifically proven that if you have a positive mindset and have prepared yourself in the best possible way for the birth of your child, then there is no reason why you can not experience a positive birth," says Dr. Hardik Soni, founder & medical director of the Ethos Spa, and former emergency medicine technician. Even if your childbirth experience is difficult, it isn't impossible. You will get through it.
1. Trauma History
It's important for a pregnant person to consider the impact of past traumas. "One thing that is often overlooked by both expectant mothers and doctors that is bound to make childbirth more challenging is if there is a trauma history," says Deborah J. Cohan, Ph.D., professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. "If someone has not had therapy to help recover and heal, childbirth can be more difficult because of how it opens women up, literally and figuratively, making them once again vulnerable in their own bodies." And people who have gotten help for their trauma will likely have better access to the resources that will help them get through childbirth.
If you have experienced trauma, then there are many options for assistance. Call the American Addiction Centers PTSD hotline at 1-866-299-4557, or use Psychology Today's search to find a qualified therapist in your area. For many, talking about it with a trained professional can make past trauma much easier to handle.
2. Gestational Diabetes
Health issues can also play a huge role in the delivery experience. "There may be a greater chance that a person will struggle with childbirth should they have health issues throughout their pregnancy such as gestational diabetes," says Dr. Soni. In general, the likelihood of an early delivery may be increased by gestational diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
That said, there are many ways to manage the condition. If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, then eating healthy foods, monitoring blood sugar, and taking insulin if needed may make your pregnancy and delivery a bit easier, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For more specific advice, don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor. Women with gestational diabetes deliver babies all the time, and OB-GYNs are prepped to handle such deliveries.
3. Negative Head Space
As the experts explained, so much of enduring childbirth is all about getting into the right head space. "Skipping over the mental preparation for birth can result in a huge emotional struggle for moms during childbirth," says Nicole Joy, mom of three, pregnancy coach, & digital doula. Rather than focusing solely on a birth plan, Joy recommends thinking about the upcoming birth in a more holistic way. "Instead of being fixated on a plan, it's important for moms to focus on how they want to feel, and to be supported, during birth," says Joy. A little mental prep beforehand, and open communication with your partner and support group (from parents to friends) is one way to ensure that you're going into childbirth feeling as prepared as you can be, both logistically and emotionally.
4. Large Baby
For (somewhat obvious) reasons, delivering a larger-than-average baby can present its own set of complications. In general, delivering a large baby vaginally increases the risk of perineal tearing, loss of blood, or even tailbone damage, as explained in Baby Center. Even after dilation, there's only so much room down there, so to speak.
If you are having a large baby, then your doctor may recommend an early delivery or schedule a Cesarean delivery, according to Stanford Children's Health. For people who do deliver a large baby vaginally, then postpartum care may need to address the potentially serious bleeding that can occur afterward, according to the Mayo Clinic. Discuss these options with your doctor, because there are many ways to manage the care of both mom and baby in this case. But think of it this way: larger-than-average babies are nothing new, and while it may not be super common, 10+ lb. babies have been delivered vaginally. Basically, doctors and other birthing professionals have many ways to make the delivery process as smooth as possible, and they'll likely be well-prepared if they're expecting to deliver a large newborn.
Although it might be easier said than done, trying to approach the birth process with a positive frame of mind may be a helpful approach. "All woman who have given birth have a strong opinion on their experience, and just through observational studies, with a positive mindset, there is a higher likelihood of a positive experience," says Dr. Soni. On the flip side, approaching childbirth with an intense sense of fear may be harmful. In general, people who had a fearful approach to birth did tend to have a more negative childbirth experience, according to a study in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.
Good thing you can take several steps to prepare for a positive birth experience. If you're feeling paranoid about the process, talk with your doctor, doula, or counselor and make sure you express all your fears and concerns during your many checkups. Reiterate these points to the doctor who is delivering your baby, if you can, because they may not be who you've been regularly meeting up with leading up to your delivery date. Basically, don't hesitate to be vocal about your concerns, especially when you're speaking to people who help deliver babies for a living. They should be able to provide you with some serious reassurance.
6. Uterine Fibroids
Noncancerous growths on the uterus, uterine fibroids are typically harmless, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, many people have them and never even know about it. When it comes to the delivery of a baby, however, they can cause some issues. People with uterine fibroids may be more likely to experience complications such as preterm birth, placenta previa, or serious postpartum hemorrhage, according to the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine. But most often, "fibroids won't cause a problem with the pregnancy", according to Today.
To avoid any surprises on delivery day, discuss the odds of having uterine fibroids with your doctor. They should be able asses whether you have them, and if there are any risks involved.
7. Breech Presentation
If your baby doesn't move into the right position for delivery, then this can complicate the whole process. For example, babies who present in the breech position might require forceps for delivery, and they may also present the risk of cord prolapse, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). Cord prolapse means the umbilical cord gets squeezed, slowing the baby's supply of oxygen and blood, as further explained by the APA. Because of these potential complications, babies in breech position sometimes require Cesarean delivery.
Whether it's an unusual presentation of the baby or some other issue, there are many potential factors that can complicate a baby's birth and delivery. However, with the help of medical professionals, counselors, or other support, you and your baby can get through even the most unexpectedly challenging deliveries.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.
Edit note: An earlier version of this post did not meet our editorial standards and has been updated.