How to Control Anxiety During a C-Section

By Erica Loop
Practice relaxation techniques during your pregnancy in preparation for childbirth.

Whether you've already scheduled a cesarean-section delivery or you're planning ahead in case of an emergency, knowing how to relax can help to alleviate some of the anxiety that you may feel during child birth. A C-section is considered major surgery and comes with risks and concerns, according to Womenshealth.gov. Techniques to help you stay calm during the procedure controlling your breath and re-directing your focus.

Know What to Expect

Preparing for the possibility of having a C-section can help you to feel more comfortable with the surgery and reduce your anxiety. Knowing what the surgery involves can help you to feel a sense of control during the surgery. This doesn't mean that you should read every C-section horror story that you can find on the Internet. Ask your doctor or another medical professional to detail what the procedure includes. The idea isn't to fill your head with what could go wrong. Instead, learn the basics, such as what types of anesthesia are used and where the doctor will make the incisions.

Control Your Breathing

Several techniques of breath control will enable you to relax and reduce stress during a C-section. The specific method that you choose depends on your preferences and what your physician advises. A childbirth education class instructor may give you breathing techniques to use during labor. You can use these or choose another strategy that you feel more comfortable with. For example, Harvard mind-body expert Herbert Benson's "Relaxation Response" method is a well-known technique that involves breathing in through your nose and then silently saying a simple word to yourself as you breath out. You can also give yourself a pep talk as you breathe yourself to a calm state, according to the Hartford Hospital's Special Deliveries Childbirth Center. As your breathe in, tell yourself, "I can." When you exhale, think a word or phrase that explains how you want to feel, such as, "relax" or "keep calm."

Focus on a Point

Focusing on a specific point or space in the operating room can shift your attention away from your anxiety. This technique is often used to ease pain during labor, but it can come in handy during a C-section as well. As you feel your nervousness building, focus on something in the room that isn't moving. This may be a shelf on the wall across from you, a sign hanging on the door or anything else that is in your line of sight. You may also maintain eye contact with your partner or imagine a scene. For example, close your eyes and picture your cuddly puppy or the beach from your relaxing summer vacation. Focus on the image, moving your thoughts away from the anxious words that are creeping into your head.

Count Through It

Another focus-shifting relaxation technique is counting -- concentrating on the numbers instead of the C-section. Close your eyes and count backwards from a high number toward zero. If you get to zero before the C-section is finished, and you are sill anxious, start over and count down again. You can also infuse this activity with visualization. If you have trouble concentrating on the numbers that you're saying silently in your head, visualize each number as you think it.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.