When pregnant, your body is understandably going through hormonal changes. These hormones have a tendency to increase fear or anxiety creating or enhancing a pregnancy blood phobia.
The fear of blood (haemophobia) or needles often manifests as a rapid increase in heartbeat and blood pressure. This is followed by a sudden drop in both, which can lead to fainting. Other symptoms may include sweating, going pale, nausea and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
Many situations can be frightening if you have a blood or needle phobia. These might include:
- blood tests
- needles used for IV fluids, medication and pain relief during the labour
- blood present during the birth itself.
How To Cope With Your Phobia Of Blood In Pregnancy
Distract, distract, distract
As far as the blood work goes — whether it's during a routine prenatal appointment or during labor — distraction is key. Don’t watch the nurse put the needle in, and have the lab tech or your partner distract you with a funny story while it's happening. Who knows? Maybe you'll even find yourself laughing through your phobia of blood during delivery.
Ask for numbing gel
Numbing gel is just what it sounds like. It's a special gel with a numbing ingredient, such as lidocaine, that numbs the surface of your skin. When the needle goes in, it hurts a lot less. It's especially helpful if you're getting an IV in your hand. The top of your hand is very sensitive and those IVs can be more uncomfortable than, say, one in your lower arm. You could request this at the hospital.
Ask for a saline lock
Ask your nurse if you can have your IV saline locked when it's not being used. The tube will still be in your hand or arm (and you'll still have to deal with the needle going in), but you won't be hooked up to the IV unless you absolutely need to. It's a great option if you want to move around during labor, but the medical team may or may not agree to the request. Factors they will consider include whether or not you have a low-risk pregnancy, get an epidural, how well your baby is handling labor and if you need antibiotics.
Ask to skip the IV altogether
In more hospitals, routine IVs are no longer the routine. This is especially if an expectant mom specifies in her birth plan that she wants to avoid one. Instead, the practitioner will wait until there is a need for an IV — and oftentimes that need never materializes. Again, this is typically only an option if you're low-risk, not having a C-section and don't need any special medications during labour.
Don't be afraid of the epidural
Apart from your IV, there may be a variety of other pokes and prods during labour. This includes an epidural (if you opt for one) and, subsequently, a catheter. Many first-time pregnant women expend a lot of energy worrying about whether the epidural will hurt. Trust me, it isn't that bad. The epidural feels more like pressure in your back than a sharp pain, and the relief is so instant that it’s definitely worth it if you want to go that route.
If you're nervous about the needle, be sure to request it earlier rather than later in your labour. It’s much easier to get it when you're not having intense contractions.
Some Exercises That May Help You Overcome Your Phobia Of Blood And Needles
Applied tension is a simple technique to increase blood pressure back to normal levels so that you do not faint.
This is how you do it.
1. Sit down somewhere comfortable.
2. Tense the muscles in your arms, upper body and legs, and hold this tension for 10 to 15 seconds, or until you start to feel the warmth rising in your face.
3. Release the tension and go back to your normal sitting position.
4. After about 20 to 30 seconds, go through the tension procedure again until you feel the warmth in your face.
5. Repeat this sequence so that you have practiced the tension five times.
If you can, practice this sequence three times every day for about a week, before moving on to facing your fear. If you get headaches after doing this exercise, take care not to tense the muscles in your face and head. Also, be careful when tensing any part of your body where you have any health problems.
Breathing for relaxation
Sit in a comfortable position, with your back upright but not stiff. Let your shoulders and jaw relax. Put one hand low down on your belly. Take a long, slow, deep, gentle breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to breathe right down into your belly, but don’t force
it. Just let your body breathe as deeply as is comfortable for you. Do this for five breaths. If possible, practice this exercise three times every day for a week, before moving on facing your fear.
Resource: NHS UK
This article was first published on AfricaParent.com