F is for Fear in Childbirth, and why it's okay.

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by Jody Richards

There is a movement in the birthing world to “birth without fear”. This movement has many great merits, and I appreciate the well intentioned meaning behind the motto; after all, it aims to empower you to embrace the birthing process, and that is something I can always get behind.  So why do I suggest that birthing with fear is ok, and in some ways, actually quite useful? Through the many experiences supporting families through the birthing process I have come to recognize that fear happens, resistance to the birthing process is a natural response to this primal experience, and women can actually make fear work for them!  

Humans are hardwired to experience fear; it is a necessary reaction for survival.  Endorphin’s, the morphine-like pain relieving hormone which is utilized in labour, are activated in response to challenging circumstances, pain, and fear. There is this common idea that if we are fearful, we are weak; if we let our fear show, we are displaying our weakness.  So the idea of birthing without fear makes us strong and empowered birthers, right? Not necessarily.

Perhaps you are feeling confident going into your birth, and there are certainly those who go through the birth process without a fear reaction. We know, though, that there are almost always unknowns that are thrown our way due to the unpredictable nature of birth.  From one birth to the next, we can’t foresee the pattern labour will follow, the events that might arise, our emotional response, or the interventions and outcomes that will take place in the end. The goal, then, is to help bring fears into the light as they come (because it’s likely they will come), and because we know that it doesn’t matter to the nervous system if the fear is real or perceived danger, what really matters is facing it, working through it, and making it smaller.

Birth is one of the most raw, surrendered events in our life, which can leave us feeling  vulnerable and might bring up some really deep emotions in us. One of my most essential roles as a doula has been to help people with these emotions and fears that arise in childbirth. I feel very fortunate to have been supporting families through birth for almost 2 decades, and this has given me the invaluable gift of being able to recognize when someone is potentially staring at some inner turmoil or fears; sometimes we call this “Facing Your Tigers” (Birthing From Within).

How I help women work through their emotions and fear in labour differs, but it always involves the assurance that they are safe to be vulnerable and explore these fears, and it never ceases to be miraculous when a woman faces her fear in birth.  Often it is fear that is holding them back, exasperating the sensation and pain of labour, and perhaps even slowing or stalling labour. Once they let that fear come through, name it, and make it smaller, their labour almost always shifts into another gear.

Dealing with fear in labour isn’t always straightforward; a woman can feel safe and well cared for and managing her pain well, but still feeling a sense of fear knocking at the door.  I call this experience ‘transitional fear’, which is the fear of the unknown or what’s coming next. When you are birthing your child, you are passing through a window: you are on one side with your baby safely inside of you, and on the other side of that window is this new life. This new life is you as a parent; it is you getting to know an entirely new person, and with that comes all of the great mysteries that this new way of life entails.  

There are many examples of the kinds of fear that can poke its head during birth, and every experience is unique.

I truly believe that it not the avoidance or elimination of fear that is the goal in childbirth, but rather bringing fear to the light as it appears, and having the right kind of support to help you find it, face it, and let it go; this is what matters most.

As a doula, I witness, observe, and attune, and  using my experience and intuition, I can often see the subtleties of expressed fears.  I often use this experience to help people work through whatever fears arise, whether it be a simple check in, an explorative conversation, or a simple affirming touch and reminder that you are safe.  Whoever is in the birth space with you, use them to help you face your fears, should they arise.

One of the best parts of experiencing fear and facing it is the courageous feeling afterwards. In our postpartum follow up talks, I find that people who feel the most empowered about their births are the ones that acknowledged their fears and faced them. Conquering fears makes us stronger, and sometimes facing fear simply means accepting that it exists, and sharing it with someone you feel safe with.  Facing fear gives us the grit and confidence that we will draw on throughout our parenting journey.

Fear happens, fear is ok, and fear can get you through. So, if you need to, birth with fear, let yourself feel it, dig into it, and utilize the right support to help to tap into that courage and face it head on.

Jody Richards is a Certified Birth Doula and Postpartum and Infant Care Doula with nearly 20 years in the field, and the primary labour support doula for In Bloom Births.

E is for Eye Ointment after Birth

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The administration of eye ointment to infants after birth (Erythromycin, to be precise) is an antibiotic treatment which is offered for infants at birth. This is one of a number of options you will discuss with your care provider in advance of or immediately after the birth of your baby. 

During childbirth classes and prenatal visits with clients, this is a topic that comes up often, and one that most families feel a little bit confused on. 

Is erythromycin an outdated practice, or a necessary safety precaution?

Our first answer: Have an open discussion with your care provider; this their area of expertise, and out of our scope to offer advice. Like with any option or intervention that you’re unsure about, one of things we always share with our clients during prenatal visits and classes, is to pull B.R.A.I.N. out of your back pocket to help you formulate questions and make an informed decision. 

In the meantime, what IS Erythromycin, and what is it being used for? 

Erythromycin is a prophylactic (a fancy term for: ‘preventative’), antibiotic treatment used to treat neonatal conjunctivitis (newborn eye infection contracted during delivery).  Eye infections are common and usually harmless, unless the infant has been exposed to an active, sexually transmitted infection, Chlamydia being the most prevalent. 

There is a risk of blindness to infants who are exposed to Chlamydia, and routine administration of prophylactic eye treatment has been used to reduce the incidence of severe complications from this kind of infection since the early 1800’s. 

While Erythromycin treatment has proved to reduce the development of infection due to exposure, it is not 100% effective, and comes with it’s own set of risks. Research is increasingly seeming to suggest that the benefit of this routine medication does not outweigh the potential risks associated with routine use. 

STI’s like Chlamydia are routinely screened during your prenatal care blood work. If you are unsure if you may be a carrier, ask your care provider to check that your blood work is up to date and discuss the safest options. 

We like this thorough explanation on Erythromycin, written by Evidence Based Birth. The Canadian Paediatric Society also put out this research article in 2015 that explains their stance on this issue. 

What did you decide for you infant - did you opt in our out of eye ointment, and why? 




D is for Dad's - Adjusting to Fatherhood

Jace Pierson reflects on the wonderful + overwhelming adjustment into fatherhood, and his advice to other dads on how to survive, support, and savour each moment. 

When my wife was pregnant I forgot to imagine what it going to be like once this tiny human would join us. There was a lot of fun stuff like shopping, planning and pintrest-ing. Prepare yourself to spend some money! But as much as we planned, we found that we were heavily uninformed and unprepared. We had little in the way of friends with kids to ask, so making a birth plan became an intense few months of research. The first year has been a whirlwind of wonderful and overwhelming, so let me share a bit of my experience with you….

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Once our amazing baby girl was born, Meal planning quickly became the bane of our existence. It always seemed like we just ate but now we were h-angry at each other again. We ate a lot of take-out for the first while. (that's how I got this epic dad bod and mildly depleted savings). 

Sleep patterns were out the window and stress coping and memory becomes difficult when you're always tired and h-angry. And guess what? There are no more time outs, it's 1st down with 6 months to go!  It was overwhelming at times, but the amazing parts truly outweigh the hard times; like that first smile, and the pure joy of making your little one laugh for the first time. (I recommend tickles)! You start to see things in a whole new light: your kids light, and it’s almost as though you too are seeing it for the first time. 

For the year to follow the birth of my daughter I saw my wife more than the years she was not pregnant. Yet I found myself distanced and I missed her very much even though we were always together. As a husband, I found this to be one of the greatest challenges; I love my wife beyond belief and I live for time we spend together. 

As men when faced with difficult times, we tend to put our heads down focus elsewhere and push through until it’s over. Those first months of parenthood are no different.


If I could offer any advice to new dads its to stay present, and stay the course. 


Your child might not want that much to do with you for the first while and demand the attention of your partner, and that's okay. So what are you supposed to do? 

It’s your job to be there for mom; she needs you to be present, to be attentive, to fill in the gaps of what she no longer has the time or energy to do; this was the best advice I got from a good friend and I pass it unto you. 

Get your hands dirty! I have heard a few dads complain about changing their kids' diapers, how gross it is "I have a bad gag reflex and cant handle it". It’s time to MAN up friend (or should I say wo-man up, mom just birthed a human. If it comes down to who is tougher... She is). With the exception of breast feedings your roll and responsibilities are as equals.

Does this change when mom goes back to work? Sort of. 

Now that my wife is back at work, we are continually striving to find the balance between being a parent and maintaining our former life. Some days it works, and other days are a just a mess. It's constant growth, and as long as the communication stays open and you continue to have each other’s back, you will make it through in one piece.

Good luck & Have fun, it does go fast!

Jace is a father and husband, passionate about his family, friends, and the beautiful community of the Comox Valley that he calls home. Jace works as an advisor with Sunlife Financial, and is a warm and enthusiastic resource for individuals and families exploring their options for investments, education saving plans, and much more.

For more information you can visit his website, or contact him directly at jace.pierson@sunlife.com.