In my work as a Hypnobirthing instructor and pregnancy yoga teacher, many of the women I meet have never heard birth talked about in a positive way. They have only heard horror stories or the births where everything goes wrong. It’s no surprise then that this breeds fear and anxiety about giving birth and this fear can undermine the beautiful process of birth unfolding as it should. It’s a vicious circle. But where to start then if you desire a positive birth experience?
A couple of weeks ago, I took part in a super special festival in London all about Mums wellbeing called Being Mum and I was very grateful to give a talk about my top tips for a positive birth.
Honestly, I could talk about this until the cows come home but I’ve pulled together the key messages from the day to share with you too in this epic new blog!
Calling it out
How are you feeling about giving birth? excited? anxious? Like you have a million questions and don’t know where to start?
Don’t worry. It’s totally normal to feel those things and a million other emotions on the rollercoaster of feelings and hormones that come part and parcel with being pregnant.
How do you WANT to feel when you give birth? Just think about that for a second and give me three words that describe how you want to feel on the day.
Have you got them?
Good. This is the first step. By deciding how you want to FEEL and then ask yourself what is going to help me feel that way?
I’ve got a question for you. What is the ONLY reason you can fail at birth?
The only way you can ‘Fail’ at birth is if you consider birth a pass-fail/event
If you THINK for one moment that an unplanned cesarean means ‘failure’.
If you BELIEVE that wanting a natural birth and then changing your mind at the last minute and asking for all the drugs means you’ve ‘failed’ .
If you for one second think that anything OTHER than your blue sky birth plan not playing out for you, means failure.
And I totally get it. We are measured by our performance from a very early age. Even preschool.
Tests, exams that dictate your opportunity for employment or further education, your driving test, sales performance bonuses…I could go on
Birth is unpredictable at best. Having a plan can be very helpful. But if you see it as a definitive way of how birth MUST play out, then anything other than the plan will be disappointing.
If you approach it with an open mindset about what a positive birth can be then you are more likely to experience it that way, however, it unfolds.
Positive is…. Unique to you
You are a unique individual. You have different values, different history, different circumstances in your pregnancy.
People can make suggestions, people can offer advice on how they did it, you can read inspirational stories of how other women birth.
But the danger comes when we start comparing ourselves, judging ourselves for not doing it a certain way.
Take everything other people say or do with a pinch of salt….including me!
Carve out your own unique path, There is no right or wrong way to give birth.
Positive is….Knowing your shit
Take good antenatal classes that align with your needs and values. Look at what other parents have to say about taking classes with that person to help you decide if its a good fit for you.
Research is the key to you making a truly informed decision about your care.
There’s a lot of information and opinions out on the ether of the internet. Seek evidence-based resources that present you with stats and information rather than an opinion about what’s best for you (only you know that)
If you feel the call to do so, You can also search for medical research papers at Cochrane.
Visit the places you are thinking of giving birth to help you decide and to get a feel for them or meet up with the homebirth team if that’s the route you want to go down.
Knowledge is power!
Positive is….Asking questions.
Research shows that when it comes to birth the more involved a woman is in the decision-making process, the more likely she is to be happy with the outcome of that decision EVEN if wasn’t what she initially planned.
When it comes to reclaiming your power and feeling more in control, learning how to ask questions is a really important part of the process.
Asking questions comes with confidence and confidence is something we build, it takes time and practice so asking questions is something that I encourage you to chip away at.
Start with the small questions at your midwife check-ups. Especially if you feel bamboozled by medical terms or want more info on something.
What does this mean?
What are the implications of this for me?
Where can I get more information about this?
Can you explain that for me, please?
When it comes to your care and more challenging decisions that may crop up, I always refer to the BRAINS model of questioning
I – nothing
N – instincts
S – smile
Time and time again I hear back from couples how useful this tool was for them when something unexpected happened during pregnancy or birth.
It helps you to feel more confident about the decisions you make.
Asking the right questions is all part of making an informed choice when it comes to your care and feeling empowered.
Positive is…Owning your power!
As the saying goes. If you don’t know what your rights are then you don’t have any.
“I’m not allowed to birth in the birth centre”
“They said they will let me go to 40 weeks because of my Gestational Diabetes
“They said I have to have an induction at 38 weeks because I have a big baby”
“They want to give me a sweep next week “
Do any of these sound familiar? They are all choices that may not feel like they are being presented as one at the time.
Know your rights. Understand what you have a right to choose or decline. Research and investigate consent.
Where possible surround yourself with people who support your decision making.
This starts with your primary birth partner. Often this will mean you are also life partners but that is by no means a given. Perhaps you are separated or perhaps for one reason or another you just don’t feel like it’s the best choice. You don’t owe anyone else an explanation about this either! The most important thing is you feeling safe and comfortable with your chosen support.
Your primary birth partner can be your sibling, parent, friend, a Doula. Someone on the same page as you. Consider if one of your birth team has been very vocal in sharing their views about how birth ‘should’ be and it’s worlds apart from yours. How might that play out for you?
Whoever you choose, it’s wise to get them up to speed on your preferences for birth, perhaps even writing them together if that feels good to you.
You can choose an additional partner to accompany you on the day and it’s a great idea to have a back – up In case your labour is long and your primary birth partner needs a rest too.
Positive is…..Having a plan A, B and C
Plan, preference, goals. Call it what you like. It’s your primary way to communicate your wishes to your care providers.
The power of the plan is not in the plan itself but in recognising where you have a CHOICE and getting to know your options.
A plan is not a given that that’s how a birth will be but it is a catalyst for conversations with your birth partner and midwife about things that you might not have considered.
Plan A- blue sky birth
Plan B – need a bit of assistance birth
Plan C – best-case cesarean birth
Up to a quarter of births In the UK will be cesarean and recent research showed that the rate of induction has increased to around 1 in 3. Consider the ‘what ifs’ then it puts you in a stronger position if circumstances change on the day.
Positive is….Changing your mind
Now let’s talk about the power of changing your mind and why it’s just another way of taking back the power and totally owning your birth.
You have been preparing at length for your birth. It’s fairy lights, birth pools and breathing to get you through.
The big day comes and circumstances change or maybe it was not what you were expecting!
Nothing has gone ‘wrong’ but the intensity of the contractions is bowling you over and you haven’t had a break from them for hours.
So you start on the gas and air and perhaps you decide to request an epidural to ease the sensations in your body and give you a rest.
Does this mean you caved?
Does this mean you failed?
Does this mean your birth plan went out the window
NO, no and you guessed it NO!
You can change your mind at any point in the process whether it comes to vaginal exams, where you give birth or any number of things.
Changing YOUR mind for any reason can be empowering. It’s saying you know what, screw it, I know I said this but now I want THAT!
Positive is…Learning the art of relaxation
Don’t get me wrong, I love my phone but its a blessing and a curse. We’re so used to being connected 24/7 that we rarely switch off so getting totally relaxed is something we need to re-learn and practice!
It’s important to understand the impact of tension and stress in the body as you birth.
If you are able to stay calm and relaxed.
When you are calm and relaxed (AKA in the body’s parasympathetic nervous system)The hormones in your body that instigate regular contractions are able to flow freely and work uninterrupted to support your birth
With less physical tension in the muscles in the body, it’s going to help make the process of birth more comfortable for you and perhaps even less painful.
At worst too many stress hormones, in particular, adrenaline can slow down or press pause on your contractions.
The quickest and easiest way to relax and take things down a notch is to slow down and control your breathing. Which is why the breathing you learn at Hypnobirthing or pregnancy yoga are so important.
When preparing for birth consider coping strategies to help you relax as well as your preferences around medical pain relief.
Positive is…Possible second time around
To anyone reading who had a more challenging first time around birth, my heart goes out to you. Over and above the things in this blog which you can try. I do recommend spending some time working through feelings surrounding your previous birth before you prepare for number 2.
Here are some things you can investigate
Debrief with your previous care team at your place of birth
Debrief with a Doula
Therapy or counselling
The rewind technique for birth trauma
Check out Make birth better for some amazing resources
Once you feel in a better place, then surround yourself with all things positive. You might find comfort in reading birth stories from 2nd Mums who had a tough first-time experience and I definitely recommend working with a Hypnobirthing practitioner to help you 2nd time around!
If you would like to know more about how I can help you and your partner prepare for a positive birth experience then lets chat! Book a quick call with me to find out more about Birth and Beyond coaching for first-time parents or Hypnobirthing classes London locals.
Thanks for stopping by!