A pregnant woman in Helsinki. LEHTIKUVA

Health & wellbeing

Many expectant mothers experience fear and anxiety about childbirth. However, there is a range of help available to alleviate these concerns and promote a positive birthing experience.

Childbirth anxiety is a common phenomenon: one in ten expectant mothers grapples with severe fears surrounding childbirth, while one in five experiences milder forms of anxiety.

Expectant mothers experiencing childbirth fears often struggle with self-doubt about their mental and physical capabilities. Additionally, many find it challenging to trust healthcare professionals due to heightened fears influenced by personal anecdotes and stories read on social media platforms.

Childbirth anxiety casts a shadow over pregnancy, leading to both psychological and physical symptoms. Left untreated, it can negatively impact the progress of labor and influence early interactions between parents and the child.

"At its worst, worries and fears can burden the mind so much that there's not enough space left for preparing for childbirth and parenthood," emphasizes Dr. Hanna Rouhe, Chief Physician at Helsinki University Hospital (HUS).

Thankfully, effective treatments exist for managing childbirth anxiety, with healthcare facilities like HUS offering comprehensive support. For first-time mothers, various support groups are available, and both first-time and experienced mothers can access the expertise of specialized midwives, doctors, and perinatal psychologists. Additionally, a digital treatment pathway tailored for managing childbirth anxiety is accessible for first-time mothers.

Childbirth education classes and relaxation exercises are also valuable tools to prepare for delivery. Dr. Rouhe encourages individuals suffering from childbirth anxiety to attend these classes despite their preferred method of childbirth. If the idea of childbirth provokes significant distress and makes attending classes difficult, seeking help from a fear of childbirth clinic (pelkopoliklinikka) is advised. These clinics operate under a principle of respect, ensuring that no one feels coerced into a particular birthing method.

Dr. Rouhe underscores the importance of openly discussing personal fears and potential traumatic experiences with healthcare providers during early prenatal visits. Neuvola, the Finnish maternity and child health clinic, can refer expectant mothers to childbirth anxiety clinics based on their needs and preferences.

"No one is forced into vaginal delivery. Healthcare professionals have undergone extensive training in managing childbirth anxiety, and the approach should always be supportive, never coercive," assures Dr. Rouhe. The pelkopoliklinikka team is there to provide much-needed support.

After receiving appropriate care for childbirth anxiety, mothers often find a sense of calm during pregnancy, leading to a more positive birthing experience, regardless of the method chosen. With understanding, support, and tailored care, the journey to parenthood can be a more reassuring and empowering one.