Irrational fears

What if something is wrong with my baby? This is a universal fear among expectant parents. As they head toward the birth experience, all women and men have some fears, especially about the health and condition of the baby. You may also have fears about labor — such as not making it to the hospital in time, having a Caesarean delivery or being exposed in front of strangers.

It's normal to feel a moderate amount of worry that doesn't respond to reassurance. But fears that are all-consuming and interfere with your day-to-day functioning may need attention.

True, some babies are born with problems, and sometimes babies die. But serious problems and death occur in only a small percentage of cases. The numbers are in your favor.

■ Prevention and self-care for irrational fears

Sit down and make a list of your fears. Share them with your partner or labor companion. Talking about your fears can lighten an unnecessarily heavy emotional load. You might also want to talk with your practitioner and with other expectant mothers, perhaps in a pregnancy class or online chat room. When you voice your fears, they have less power over you.

Childbirth preparation classes offer a unique opportunity to talk with other couples who have the same worries. The instructor also can help address fears about giving birth.

■ When to seek medical help for irrational fears

If your fears are interfering with your functioning, especially if they're keeping you from eating or sleeping, talk to your health care provider. If you're extremely anxious, particularly if you have a specific reason to fear for your baby's health, your health care provider may do an ultrasound evaluation of the fetus or other prenatal tests. Although the tests can't detect every potential problem, they can tell you a great deal about the health of the fetus. The tests, along with your health care provider's reassurance, can help you let go of some of your fears and get on with caring for yourself and your developing baby.

If nothing seems to reduce your anxiety, your health care provider may recommend professional counseling.

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