Pregnancy is marketed as sunshine, glowing skin and freestyle dieting, which is all fine and dandy, but as anyone who has ever been pregnant can tell us — pregnancy is way more than that. It involves months of feeling sick to our stomachs, tons of body changes like stretch marks and joints loosening up, and then, of course, the impending arrival of a small person who will completely run our lives for several years and then some. Pregnancy is amazing and such an incredible experience.
But it can also be scary. Some of us have high-risk pregnancies and spend the entire nine months stressed out about losing the tiny life we're trying to cultivate. Others don't even get the full nine months.
And some of us are sailing along just fine when our world is derailed a few weeks or months early, and we find ourselves the sudden parents of an extra itty-bitty baby. At any rate, we can all agree that the last month is both the longest and scariest in the entire pregnancy.
Fears that we've put off for eight months have to be faced before that baby arrives and other new fears that we weren't aware of start popping up to make a last-ditch effort at freaking us out. Here are 15 things that suddenly become scary when we're on the home stretch.
15 The Obvious Fear
Right off the bat one of the biggest fears pregnant women have in the last month of pregnancy is of labor itself. It might sound like an odd thing to be afraid of to those of us who might not be pregnant or haven't reached that stage in our pregnancy yet, but it's a legit fear and keeps a lot of us up at night. We're up anyway at this point, but we'll ignore that fact for now.
As Scary Mommy states,
"It doesn’t matter what kind of birth you plan for, childbirth is the great unknown. You can research it, watch the videos, and go to Lamaze classes, but you won’t know what it will be like for you until it starts."
This is precisely why we're afraid of labor—especially for first-time mamas. We fear the unknown and the new experience awaiting us because we have no gauge to fall back on. We've spent months doing the research, attending the birth classes, hearing the horror stories of others (which is a trend that needs to stop) and now we're all psyched up to go but still don't know fully what to expect, and we end up scared silly.
14 I'm Gonna Be A Mom!
Some women start to freak out in the last month of pregnancy over the reality that they are about to become moms for real. Until then, a part of our brain knows that our lives are going to change and that we're going to become moms. But that reality usually doesn't sink in until the last month, and it definitely doesn't fully hit us till we bring our new baby home and find ourselves fully responsible for everything this tiny helpless person needs.
According to Parents, this is the scientific reason for why this sudden fear of motherhood occurs. At least, post-partum. "New moms have more oxytocin in their system, which serves to heighten their response to hearing their baby cry or seeing her in distress. But it also causes 'the fight or flight' response to kick in more easily, triggering the release of stress hormones—which can make you feel even more anxious."
If we're going from care-free woman to responsible mom, the real change can be very scary but this one fear that we can easily be reassured about. We're going to pull through, and we'll be great at this mom thing (give or take a backward diaper and a few sleepless nights here and there).
13 The Hospital Stay
Some women, believe it or not, are deathly scared of having their baby in a hospital and then of staying in the hospital post-birth. It can be hard to tell which fears are grounded in reality and which are a product of too many horror stories from friends (seriously, stop telling pregnant women horror stories) and from too much late-night television when we can't sleep—ya know, cause we're so pregnant at this point.
Some women have grounded fears due to a previous bad hospital stay or a relative who had a bad hospital experience.
As All About Baby's World puts it, "Some might enjoy being in a hospital, I am not one of them. It was difficult to get comfortable on the bed; the room was not huge, so the family had a hard time visiting all at once. I wanted to wear my own clean clothes. I wanted to be home in my bed where I would not be disturbed every hour. Yes, my hospital stay was not terrible, but it was not great either." The obvious solution is a nice hospital tour to get familiar with the staff and hospital policies or a home birth.
12 The C Word
As our anticipated due date edges closer, one of our many last-minute fears is the possibility of a cesarean section or c-section as it's more commonly known. This is a legitimate fear for many women who want a vaginal birth more than anything else and have probably heard too many horror stories to really see the few instances when c-sections are beneficial and life-saving for both mom and baby.
The rate of c-sections is high but natural births are still holding out strongly in the statistics war and will likely win out over c-sections in the long run.
In the meantime, here's some advice from The Bump, "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."
In all likelihood, we will fret and prepare for something that doesn't occur. As the saying goes, "Hope for the best, plan for the worst."
11 A Tight Squeeze
We're told throughout the pregnancy to eat right, gain between 25-35 pounds (give or take a few) and eat a build-a-baby diet that helps small babies grow bigger. This will hopefully reduce junk food consumption, which just makes mama grow bigger. Some women have gestational diabetics which can result in a large baby, and others have large babies in their family genetics.
At some point, most of these new moms will fear having a big baby, and the baby getting stuck halfway out during birth.
As Belly Belly tells us, "While there are certain situations where babies are unable to navigate the pelvis and do get stuck, this occurrence is actually very rare. If you’re concerned about your baby getting stuck during labor, rest assured that it’s very unlikely to happen." If for some reason the baby does get stuck, there is a lot that can be done to help un-stick baby before a c-section is required.
Usually, getting up and into a different labor position is the go-to move though this is hampered by hospitals' policy of keeping women in bed on their backs to push. Sometimes baby just needs to wiggle around a bit on their own before sliding out.
10 Delivering En Route
This is admittedly a very legitimate fear for lots of pregnant women because it is grounded in reality. As Romper confirms, "Even if you live right around the corner from your hospital or birth center, every woman is afraid she'll deliver in the car. We've all heard the stories, so we know that it really does happen."
While the odds of giving birth in the car with a first baby are relatively low, follow-up babies are much more likely to run this possibility because each labor is faster than the first which is usually the longest labor for a pregnant woman. If this is our second, third, or fourth birth, then putting a game plan into place for the possibility of a car delivery is always a good idea and can help lower some of these fears because we'll know we're prepared if it does happen.
Doing some light research on how to deliver a baby in an emergency and keeping a go-bag in the car with extra towels and other childbirth supplies on hand is a must. There's also the alternative option which is to have a midwife who can come to our house as a back-up plan, even if we'd ideally prefer a hospital birth.
9 Doing It Alone
The majority of pregnant women plan on giving birth (at home or the hospital) with their husband, partner or someone else with them. But a few women have a different reality.
They're either single from the beginning, suddenly single during the pregnancy or the labor process proceeds so fast that they end up giving birth alone in the shower while their older kids watch Frozen and their husband races home.
A lot of women fear giving birth alone at this stage in the pregnancy whether it is part of the plan or not.
For fears such as this, planning, preparation and talking about it with close friends and family such as sisters-in-law or that sweet old lady can help relieve those fears.
As Baby Chick states, "if you are going through any of these, I want you to know that you don’t have to go through this alone. I’ve supported several women that have gone through pregnancy and birth without a partner, and you need to know that it’s normal to feel worried some days and confident other days — pregnancy has ups and downs. But you can do it!" Women's bodies are made to give birth; we've got this covered.
8 Karate Chop Stop
After week 28, pregnant women are told to start a kick counter and keep track of baby's vigorous little movements. This is mainly to make sure nothing is wrong with the baby and partly to get us to sit down for half an hour or so and relax. Third-trimester mamas need lots of rest. But we also have too much thinking time on our hands, and one of our fears is if baby stops moving or we lose a baby after all this work.
The odds of losing the baby at this stage are very low, but it doesn't stop us from being worried about it.
And this concern rises when baby decides to take an extra long deep nap when he or she is usually kicking up a storm.
According to Health and Parenting, "If you are up and moving around a lot, you may have lulled your baby to sleep inside you. Then suddenly, you realize that you cannot remember the last time you felt your baby move and begin to panic. Additionally, as your baby grows —there is less room for him or her to move around, which can cause a difference in the fetal movements you feel."
7 Being Sweaty And Bothered
Pregnancy brings lots of causes for concern in its own nice little bag known as "Weird Symptoms I Can't Pin-Point But Might Be Serious." Most of these turn out to be random but normal pregnancy things, and a few turn out to be serious concerns. Telling the difference becomes a fine art and we work hard at it with the assistance of our doctors and Google, but we can still never fully tell what all is going on. A high fever is one of those things.
As The Bump tells us, "When you're pregnant, your immune system is doing double duty trying to protect both you and baby, so you may be more susceptible to colds and fevers during pregnancy."
Not very reassuring but at least we know we should be on alert if we have a high fever at this stage. Taking medication or homeopathy can sometimes help and drinking a glass of water before attempting to take a nap might be a good idea just in general. Calling our doctor or midwife is always a good go-to move—especially if the fever is particularly high or accompanied by other symptoms. They might be able to figure out the cause of the fever faster than us since they have lots of experience.
6 Well This Is New
During pregnancy, our body changes a lot. We gain weight, our hips widen out, and we get stretch marks everywhere. But these are common pregnancy changes, and we likely know our body well enough to know that that is what's happening.
When we see a sudden new bulge in our abdomen, however, that is more cause for concern.
According to Today's Parent, this could be a hernia. "Because a woman’s muscles and tendons become more elastic and are required to stretch, the pressure of the growing baby can lead to a hernia. Other, non-gestational causes include heavy lifting, fluid or increased pressure in the abdomen, excess weight, coughing or sneezing or straining while using the bathroom."
And men thought they were the only ones to have these. Depending on the size of a hernia and what exactly slipped through, this could be a mildly concerning event or an emergency requiring immediate surgery so if we notice a new bump next to the big one that kicks us; we should immediately call our doctor for advice. It's better to go to the hospital and have it turn out to be a false alarm than something actually serious.
5 I Can't Feel My Leg!
Or more likely, our leg hurts all the time. In the third trimester, we experience a lot of pain as our body swells, things shift and loosen up, and the baby gets bigger. It can be trickier to tell regular pregnancy pain from a more serious pain signal, but other times, it can be very obvious that something isn't quite right.
According to Healthline, one thing to watch out for is swollen painful legs. "Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that develops in the leg, thigh, or pelvis. It’s not common during pregnancy, but pregnant women are 5 to 10 times more likely to develop DVT than non-pregnant women. The level of blood-clotting proteins increases during pregnancy, while anti-clotting protein levels decrease. The enlarged uterus during pregnancy may also increase risk because it puts the veins of the lower body under additional pressure to return blood to the heart."
That doesn't exactly sound super fun, but at least our body has good intentions in that it's making us lots of scabs. It's just a bit too enthusiastic about carrying out those intentions which cause the trouble. Obvious this type of thing requires a doctor's professional assistance and not Google's.
4 Practice Makes Perfect
Women in the late second trimester and third all experience what's known as Braxton Hicks contractions or, more fondly titled, practice contractions. Normally these are harmless squeezes across our bellies at random intervals as our body literally practices for giving birth. It's when these practice sessions intensify or are accompanied by a few other concerning indicators that they become alarming.
As The Bump explains it,
"We all want pregnancy to go according to plan, and this includes hitting the full-term delivery window of about 40 weeks.
So, if signs of preterm labor, such as early-stage contractions, appear weeks in advance of your due date, confusion and panic may set in—and that’s absolutely understandable."
Preterm labor occurs anytime before week 37. After that, doctors consider us term because the baby can live outside our womb at that point, though cooking a little longer never hurts. Cramps and bleeding are also common pregnancy occurrences that can become concerning if they increase or suddenly divert from their established pattern. Most of these occurrences end up being false alarms, but it never hurts to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to pregnancy and baby's safety.
3 Breech, Baby
Lots of pregnant women have easy access to Google which can be a bad idea after awhile, and one thing we all end up Googling at least once is the possibility of a breech baby. If we've satisfied ourselves that we're not having one (ultrasounds can help a lot with this), then we move onto a different pregnancy fear.
But some of us have a strong enough suspicion that baby is breech and keep Googling.
When it's confirmed that baby is in fact breech, we get thrown for a loop.
Some of us have breech babies that run in the family and others can tell by feeling our bellies and doing some body-mapping.
At any rate, a breech birth can be a bit scary sounding and definitely throws a wrench into any home birth plans. But as Birth Without Fear tells us, "Don’t panic! It’s going to be OK. Your baby is breech for a reason. (S) He may or may not turn and can do so even right before birth. So, be patient." Babies who are breech do flip around. It's possible to give birth vaginally to a breech baby unless the baby is literally feet first. In that case, we'll probably need a C-section if our provider isn’t well-versed in this form of birth.
2 And Guess What Else Can Happen...
When discussing childbirth, there is one ominous word that can fill pregnant mamas with dread. "Complications." This is a very vague word that can cover all kinds of things easily. Some complications in labor are minor while others are considerably more concerning and serious. There's a difference between doing research to prepare for an emergency and looking up stuff at 3 AM when we can't sleep.
According to Huffington Post,
"Estimates suggest that 13 percent of women postpone pregnancy, or avoid it altogether, a condition known as 'tokophobia'—a pathological fear of pregnancy and giving birth, first introduced into medical literature in 2000."
Reminding ourselves that we likely won't have as many complications as we, Google or our doctors think we will is a good step toward overcoming pregnancy fears. A bit of a nice distraction like cake, a nap or reorganizing baby's sock drawer with no internet interaction can also help reduce pregnancy fears. While women do end up having complicated births, most of us don't, and that in and of itself is pretty reassuring. If we do end up with complications, we have our doctor or midwife on call to help us with these situations for that very reason.
1 Postpartum Paranoia
Once we've run through all of the things that could possibly go wrong with the remainder of our pregnancy and impending childbirth process, the obvious next thing to obsess over is the post-partum recovery period. There's not a lot to be scared of here, aside from concerns about bonding with baby (which will evaporate the instant we see and hold our tiny new person), whether or not we'll be a good parent (this will take a little more time to vanish, but for the most part we'll find our stride and be great parents before we know it), and post-baby canoodle time with our husbands.
This one is legitimately scary for those of us planning on a natural birth. How can we ever do the deed again once we've pushed a giant baby out of there?! Not to worry; our downstairs is made to stretch and once it's had time to recover, we'll be good to go. The thing to watch out for is that the first time or two will likely hurt, which shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. But as Scary Mommy hastens to reassure us, "It might take a while, and everybody’s different and all that, but at least it gets better. Just don’t wake up the baby."
References: Scary Mommy, Parents, All About Baby's World, The Bump, Belly Belly, Romper, Baby Chick, Birth Without Fear, Scary Mommy, Health and Parenting Times, The Bump, Today's Parent, Healthline, The Bump, Huffington Post