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How do I cope with my fear of hospitals?
Q: I’m 24 weeks pregnant, and I’m very frightened of hospitals. I’m becoming more anxious as I approach my due date. Do you have any advice to help me calm down?
A: Having a fear of hospitals is a not uncommon. Most of us associate hospitals with illness or surgery. We may have visited loved ones with a serious illness, or we may recall a previous medical condition of our own. Anticipating a hospital admission can be troubling for some expectant mothers.

It can be useful to identify the greatest source of your fear. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Have you or has a loved one had a bad past experience in a hospital?
  • Are you worried about being in an unfamiliar place?
  • Do you have trouble advocating for your own needs? Are you worried about your ability to effectively communicate with hospital staff?
  • Are you worried about the experience of childbirth itself, or having adequate pain relief during labor?
Not having adequate information can exacerbate fears. It helps to learn what to expect during your hospitalization. To do so:

1) Tour the hospital in which you plan to deliver. Ask to see the triage room (where you’ll first be evaluated), the labor and delivery rooms and the postpartum recovery rooms.

2) Talk to your doctor about your specific fears. If pain is one of your worries, discuss your options for pain relief.

3) Enroll in childbirth preparation classes, preferably from someone who’s very familiar with your hospital.

Consider ways to make your hospital room more familiar. Some women bring in their own sheets and pillows, place a familiar picture or two next to their bed, play their favorite music during labor or bring other favorite items that provide comfort.

If you’re concerned about your ability to advocate for your needs during childbirth, talk with your health provider and partner ahead of time. You may find it reassuring to draw up a birth plan that reflects your labor and delivery preferences. (See my answer to the question “How do I create a birth plan?” on this website.) Some couples hire a labor coach or doula. This person provides support during labor and delivery and can serve as your advocate during labor.

If you continue to feel very apprehensive, consider meeting with a therapist to talk about your concerns in depth. You could also benefit from hypnotherapy. This has been particularly helpful for some of my patients who have had an unpleasant past birth experience or a past hospitalization.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help ease your anxiety and allow you to enter the hospital without the burden of unnecessary fear.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist