Stop Scaring Pregnant Women

Stop Scaring Pregnant Women

What is it about pregnancy that turns off people’s filters? If someone you know is preparing for major surgery of some kind, would you proceed to tell them a horror story about that exact surgery going wrong? No? Then why would you do this to a pregnant woman? In this era of the internet, birth stories are EVERYWHERE. The more horrific, the further it travels, and the more likely it becomes that it will be shared with a pregnant woman. Why is it that this has become appropriate? Why is it that upon hearing of someone’s pregnancy, that our first instinct is to share the worst birth stories we’ve ever heard? It’s time to stop doing this, and I’m going to explain why. 

When I was pregnant with The Heir, something strange happened. At first, I couldn’t figure out why it was happening. Ready for it? Every time I saw a labour and delivery scene in a tv show or a movie, I’d cry. Every time. It didn’t matter if it was a scene in a comedy or the cheesiest scene from a soap opera, I’d still cry. Do you know why this was happening (aside from pregnancy hormones of course)? I had come to the realization that the baby was going to have to come out eventually, and that was just a little bit scary. You know what doesn’t help when a pregnant woman is already apprehensive about the whole birth experience they’ve signed up for? Telling her the worst horror stories about birth that you’ve ever heard.

Picture this. You’ve just announced your pregnancy to a friend. She’s thrilled for you, and then it happens. She takes this opportunity to tell you about a friend of a friend’s birth story and how CRAZY and SCARY it was because of complications X, Y, and Z. Followed by “Did you even know that was possible?!?!”. If you’ve ever been pregnant, I don’t doubt that this has happened to you, maybe even more than once. What’s the deal with people telling horror stories about birth to pregnant women? I mean, really? Stop it.

Stop Scaring Pregnant Women

Look, there’s a lot about birth that a woman can only experience for herself. In part because those of us who have had babies don’t always remember every single detail of the whole experience, but also because every birth (no matter how it happens) is different. The bottom line is, pregnant women are going to have to get the baby out. I’ve already talked about anxiety over birth, and the last thing any pregnant woman needs to hear is a birthing horror story that you recently read about on HuffPost. I could go into an explanation of which types of stories you should avoid sharing, but since I know I have some pregnant readers, I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that if the story includes a detail about birth that you didn’t think was even possible, you should not be telling that story to your pregnant friend.

For the record, mothers and mothers in law are not exempt from this rule. If the story you’re about to tell that very pregnant daughter or daughter in law of yours isn’t the happiest, calmest, most perfectly serene and simple birth story you’ve ever heard, zip it. This would include not only sharing these stories in person over a cup of tea, but also emailing links to these types of stories, tagging her on a Facebook post so she definitely sees the headline, phoning her just to ask if she’s read that one, and printing the stories and collecting them to hand over in a folder next time you see her. Just sayin’. I know you want her to be informed and prepared, and I agree that it’s important to be aware of and understand the possible interventions that can happen. HOWEVER, this is something that the mom to be can bring up with her care provider, and “click bait” headlines are NOT the place to educate oneself on birth interventions.

Stop Scaring Pregnant Women

I have to admit that the blame for the sharing of birth horror stories doesn’t fall entirely on the person telling the story. Yes, I’m talking to you moms to be! If you know someone is sharing a birth story, SAY SOMETHING. We shouldn’t just sit idly by while horror story after horror story is thrown at us over a much needed latte. If it happens to you (and I’m certain it will), tell the person to stop! Try a simple, “I’m going to stop you right there, I don’t want to hear it.” If the person persists, remind them that you’re pregnant and the last thing you need to hear are horror stories.

Now if you really want to share birth stories with a mom to be, why don’t you share some inspirational and empowering ones? There are lots of them out there! The Birth Without Fear blog is the perfect place to start.

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40 Comments on “Stop Scaring Pregnant Women

  1. I love this. I have had 6 children and I think every pregnancy someone has told me horror stories. The most recent was my mother in law telling me shes scared for me because she thinks my bladder is going to fall out. Like really??

    • Haha, wow! Now that’s a new one to me!! I think the craziest one my MIL ever told me is that I shouldn’t ever reach for things above my head because it’ll wrap the cord around the baby’s neck. O.o

  2. I know, right?! Just be encouraging to new mamas, they have enough they’re already worried about!

  3. I don’t know why, but I guess I was never scared by those stories. Maybe it’s because the people who told them to me were all relatives and friends, and they and their children had clearly already survived the ordeal. Maybe it’s my weird fascination with medical emergency things. Maybe it’s because I’m already a worst-case-scenario person and talking about things like that ahead of time helps me get it off my chest and feel more prepared…but whatever it was, I don’t know, it just didn’t bother me.

  4. im somewhat guilty of this lol but I always make sure to tell them that its different for everyone and that it really isn’t that bad it just seems bad in the moment.

  5. I couldn’t agree with this more. Even when pregnant people continue to tell you how your life will never be the same ect.

  6. Agree! This happened more than ever when I told family and friends I was attempting a v-bac. It’s definitely not okay. Me and baby ended up perfectly fine 🙂 labor and delivery is scary enough without extra stories.

  7. Omgosh seriously!! This driver me bonkers! I was already scared enough! Everything someone had a story I was like please stfu. Lol!! Thankfully I have a positive birth story to tell!! Now if I am asked I’m glad I have a positive tale to tell 😉

  8. I had a friend get fed up with this, especially the discouragement regarding the days following birth. “You’ll never sleep again”, “You’re marriage won’t be the same”, “You won’t be fun anymore”….ugh!!! So she wrote a blog post dedicated to all the ways birthing a baby (and the days to follow) are amazing. And life changing in ways that we would never turn back from. We need more blog posts like that! And we need to stop speaking to new moms/parents this way.

    • Thank you! People say this to me all the time, even before we became pregnant and were only trying. Things like this make me wonder if some people we know even like their kids, the way they say just you wait you’ll regret it!

  9. I haven’t given birth yet, only 34 weeks now but I’m doing a Hypnobabies home study and I’ve already decided if my labour goes as planned according to the Hypnobabies method, I’m going to be the crazy lady and preach the “deeper relaxed” and “hypno-anesthesia from head to toe”. Lol.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly. I decided to plan for my natural birth foremost by removing fear and anxiety from the equation. Every time someone tried to tell me their story, I stopped them in their tracks and explained my approach and lack of fear – and desire for them not to make it worse. My mother actually told me her natural births weren’t all that bad though 🙂

  11. With each of my four pregnancies I was told horrific stories! I hated it. I hated hearing about it with my first and was terrified for birth. With the following pregnancies people still felt the need to tell horror stories and by the last pregnancy I got up enough nerve to tell people to just stop and be supportive and tell me the happy part about birth or leave the comments silent and to themselves.

  12. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth is a great book full of inspiring and empowering birth stories. I read it while pregnant, and it actually made me feel excited to give birth!
    I had an unmedicated hospital birth, and it was not horrific in the least!

  13. I herd soooo many horror stories about birth from multiple people, my mom included!!! I feel like it made me believe birth was a scary thing and I couldn’t relax enough during mine. I ended up having a cesarean because my sons skull was too formed and couldn’t move down the birth canal.

  14. Horror stories don’t really bother me. I think it is good to hear about the difficult births and the easy ones. My mom always talks about how easy her births were, and it made me feel like a wimp when mine weren’t so easy and I was anxious even for my 6th baby.

  15. I agree with this. I was so nervous for my first. However, I was not prepared for the c section that I had. I never thought that would happen to me.

  16. I’ve always wanted children since I was young and used to ask ladies what it was like. One ladies horror story scared me so badly that I almost changed my mind about wanting them. I hate stories that start with “just you wait you’ll see”, and end with “but it was all worth it once I held our baby”. So not helpful!
    I wish stories about pregnancy, delivery, and patenting were more positive and encouraging unless a person asks.

  17. Love this! As mothers we need to empower other moms not scare them! Of course it’s going to be hard, but millions of women have done it!

  18. I totally agree with this! But also, I remember when I was pregnant and quite a few of my friends would show me these amazing birth stories, like water births or women who were so happy as they were pushing the baby out, as if pain didn’t exist. I felt as if it set the bar too high for me, especially since so many of them were judgemental about things like hospital births and anaesthesia. Almost as if having an epidural or a c-section makes you any less of a mum!

  19. You are so right! With my first I heard them, after that , for my next two, I stopped listening. All three of my pregnancies and birth experiences were so different from one another. The horror stories is another reason I enjoyed my midwife so much. They would tell you possibilities with medical infomation, not just folk lore and scare tactics, give you the information to look it up if you wish and ask you about it next time. I don’t know why people bother with horror stories…. it’s not like the pregnant woman can all of a sudden change her mind…. I don’t think I heard one “good story” throughout my pregnancies.

  20. I think sometimes people just want to find a topic of conversation that you will both relate to, but I agree that it gets rediculous and insensitive quickly. it almost becomes a competition of who can come up with the worst story!

  21. When women start feeling like they are decision makers in their birth experience, it’ll start getting a lot less scary. Of course unexpected and scary things can always happen, but when women feel tentative, not listened to and even overlooked during their child’s birth it’s much more frightening. We need to work towards more education and less intimidation for pregnant women and their partners.

  22. This is so true. I love telling pregnant women about my labor and deliveries though. Very easy and fast labors and deliveries. From my first contraction to having a baby in my arms- 1st baby 2.5 hours. 2nd baby 15 min and 3rd baby 12 min!!

  23. What a wonderful review/note for a Momma to be to read, I sure wish that this had been around with my first pregnancy, I was literally scared to go into labor, as I had heard a few different stories about how extremely painful giving birth would be..Whenever my friends or family members have shared that they were pregnant and ask me question’s I definitely keep it scare free, because giving birth isn’t suppose ot be a scary situation, it’s meant to be beautiful..Heck us women have been giving birth for generation’s 🙂 Thanks for sharing this.

  24. I never knew why people always felt the need to express all the bad things that could happen. I wish I knew what they were thinking. My Daughter is pregnant now and I don’t want to even say any thing even simple that could cause her stress. I wish people would think before they think. One more thing that I really don’t like is when I hear a Mother say to her child when the child is older, I suffered through 8 hours of labor with you, so you should appreciate me. The children don’t ask to be born so if you suffer during labor, you should think of that before becoming pregnant. It’s just so mean. Children are a gift from God and should be treated as such.

  25. Oh my, I totally agree! What makes those stories even worse is when I mention that I plan to have a home birth! Also, BirthWithoutFear is a great source and they have such beautiful pictures!

  26. Everyone got a story,i enjoy the good ones but some people tell horror stories…no no thats not good for an expecting Mom

  27. All of it is so true!!! I know that when I was pregnant all I could hope for was not to have to go through any of the horror stories I had heard of! I think it’s just so much better hearing about all the positive things in pregnancy and birth!!

  28. I so agree with this. New moms especially can get very nervous for fear of the unknown. Birthing and pregnancy should be a happy time. We need to encourage and lift up mommies during this time. Thank you so much for sharing

  29. Yeah, it seems almost like a cruel form of entertainment for women who have been through it to torture women who are about to go through it. Kinda weird if you ask me. I just try to tell myself that women have been doing this since the beginning so there’s nothing to worry about.

  30. Was great to see you wrote about this very important topic. I had a lot of mainstream friends my first pregnancy and I was scared and gave birth in a hospital and had to fight for my life. My second pregnancy I had made a lot of hippie mom’s who empower one another, offer knowledge but let you know YOU CAN do this and pregnancy and birth is beautiful and empowering, they helped me so much during my pregnancy and in the end I had an unassisted homebirth that went perfect! baby boy was 9 1/2 lbs born into daddys hands <3 He just turned a year old.

  31. What is it with people sharing their bad experiences? Maybe it’s a coping mechanism or relieves some leftover anxiety? It seems like as soon as I got pregnant I saw a never ending stream of horror stories about near death birth experiences and sad stories about not so lucky babies. How is that supposed to help me?

  32. With my first born I was working until 7 months I went to the hospital due to preeclampsia. My co workers would watch everything I eat especially seafood. That I shouldn’t eat seafood.

  33. thank you…. so appreciate this! It’s been a very hard pregnancy with several things out of my control-insanely stressful economy that is impacting our family in every which way, sickness throughout it all and a work related back injury-people with horror stories are NOT helping me when I am already limping towards the finish line of this season.

    My line has been, “Horror stories are politely declined. They don’t seem to help me to accept whatever comes my way.” Most people take the hint but I was at an event a few days ago where the lady kept on telling me how much I had no clue about how horrid my life was about to get. Seriously?

  34. I agree to this post. Every pregnancies are different. Those horrible stores may happen to this mom but not to the other mom. Why scare a mom to be .. I agree that its best to empower them with positive stuff to know about having a baby.

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