How do you want to feel when you give birth?
This is one of the first questions I ask when I meet expectant parents thinking about Hypnobirthing, and the answer that so often comes back is “I want to feel EMPOWERED“
But what is empowered birth? How can you start feeling empowered?
I‘ve put together my top tips to feel empowered during pregnancy and birth.
Empowered 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?
Can you tell me more about that, please?
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 to say 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.
I actively encourage your birth partner to become familiar with this technique as well. That way if it’s during labour then they are able to step in and help gather the information, Cos you know, you might be kinda busy!
Asking the right questions is all part of making an informed choice when it comes to your care and feeling empowered.
Empowered is – knowing your rights
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 center”
“I’m not allowed to have a homebirth when I’m classed as high risk”
“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.
Empowered is – Teamwork
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 on 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.
Empowered is – Working with your instincts.
Your instincts are heightened in pregnancy. Heightened to protect you and your baby.
Your instincts might make you reconsider your birth plan on the day
You might be faced with making a choice with what feels like a lack of information in a short space of time.
There might be some reason that you want to tell someone something or change your position.
Tune in, quieten your mind, take a few slow deep breaths.
What feels instinctive at this moment? Trust your gut, lean into it.
Empowered is – Researching your options
Research is the key to making a truly informed decision.
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.
If you feel the call to do so, You can also search for medical research papers at Cochrane.
Empowered is – Having a plan
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.
Plan, preference, goals. Call it what you like. It’s your primary way to communicate your wishes to your care providers.
A plan is not a given that that’s how the birth will be but it is a catalyst for conversation 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’ and it puts you in a stronger position if circumstances change on the day.
Empowered is – Keeping an open mind
If there’s one thing you can’t plan, it’s a birth….
But didn’t you just say that it’s a good idea to have one, I hear you cry!
We respond better to positive reinforcement so I would always encourage you to focus more of your energy on the birth you want (rather than the one you don’t)
Birth, however, is unpredictable at best. Having a plan can be 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 as such.
Empowered is – Changing your mind
Now let’s talk about the power of changing your mind and why it’s just another way of talking 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, fuck it, I know I said this but now I want THAT!
Empowered 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 if this advice given doesn’t help you to step into your power!
Carve out your own unique path, There is no right or wrong way to give birth.
I hope you found this blog useful. Please feel free to share with anyone you think may benefit from reading it. If you would like to know more about an empowered birth experience then get in touch. All this and so much more is covered on my East London Hypnobirthing course.