It helps to be physically prepared and as fit as possible, but if you’re not mentally prepared for the reality of labour, it may prove to be so much harder than it really is. “When you change the way you see birth, the way you birth will change.” So said Marie Mongan, author of the book Hypnobirthing.
After having my own babies and preparing thousands of women for the birth experience, it’s my impression that 90 percent of getting through labour is due to mental resilience and a confident state of mind.
Your belief in yourself and your ability to birth your baby will make an enormous difference in how you cope. If you want to give birth naturally, boosting your labour confidence is a sure way to kick fear out the room and be positively involved in the process.
- Also see: Labour explained
Mental relaxation and visualisation
Visualisation harnesses the enormous power of your mind and imagination and is an easy technique to learn. It works well with breathing and relaxation as it helps to still the chattering of the brain and give the brain an easy focus.
Visualise yourself giving birth. See yourself as confident, in control, calm, and powerful! And active! Visualising your baby moving down and your uterus opening helps labour progress more easily.
Images that can be helpful and relaxing include a peaceful scene in the country, watching a waterfall, being at the beach on a sunny day, a tree at a river, a favourite chair next to a fireplace, or any place real or imaginary that makes you fell at peace, safe and secure.
Should you stumble along the way, look at the positive affirmations or chant out your mantras to get you through the tough surges. Be sure to tell your partner or doula when you’re feeling vulnerable and afraid, so that they can remind you of the magnificent job you’re doing!
- Also see: 10 tips for an easy labour
Surround yourself with positive people
Many women scare other expectant mothers about the birth experience, especially if it turned out to be a difficult one for them. Avoid people who want to tell the horror stories and sap your confidence. Women need to pass down the wisdom and the joy of birth.
We used to do that from one generation to another. Birth is a “mother-making” experience; it’s hugely powerful in setting up how you will feel about yourself as a woman and a mother. Ask these confident mothers for guidance and tips on how they coped and what helped them get through labour.
It’s important to remember that you do not have to have a straightforward, uncomplicated birth to have a satisfying and powerful experience.
- Also see: Stages of labour
Seek out reliable, factual information
The internet is full of information – some of it not so correct and some of it very inflammatory! There’s so much information out there. Avoid movies and programmes that may scare you, or give you an unrealistic idea of what birth can be like.
Birth is not an emergency waiting to happen, and most of the time the drama that we see on TV is completely unrealistic. The less drama around birth, the better it goes. It’s highly advisable to attend childbirth classes.
Choose your childbirth classes carefully. One size does not fit all in this case and many hospital classes cater only for a hospital type birth.
Seldom are natural comfort measures taught and non-medicated ways of getting through labour shared. Hospitals cater for the masses and not the individual. That’s just how it is. Find a good childbirth class with a specially trained childbirth educator, and gain as much knowledge as you can. Knowledge builds confidence. We fear the unknown.
The more you understand about birth and about your options, the more secure you can be about the experience.
Put your dream team together
Choose your caregiver carefully. Do they have the same philosophy about birth as you do? Will they support you in your quest to have as uninterrupted labour as possible? Are they talking benefits about labour, or are they explaining only the risks to you? Trusting your caregiver is vital. If there’s suspicion or lack of interaction with that person, this could cause stress and fear for you, long before labour starts.
Don’t be afraid to make a change if you are mistrustful of your caregiver. If you use the services of a doula (professional labour support person) you are more likely to have a positive, empowered birth experience. These women know your vision and are trained to take you through the challenging times labour will bring. They will also be there to support your partner.
- Also see: 30 songs to listen to during labour
Find a good labour mantra
There are going to be moments when labour becomes extremely challenging and pain and fatigue start to eat away at your confidence. Be prepared for this! Find a mantra that will help you keep your resilience and your courage up. You are going to feel overwhelmed at times. You are going to want to give up and walk away from this.
Motherhood is going to be filled with many moments such as these; this is the training ground for what is coming. Ask those closest to you, your mother, birth educator, partner, best friend or a woman you trust, to write a positive affirmation on a post-it note.
Then place these notes in a place where you can look at them and be inspired by them. Write your own personal mantra to yourself and look at it daily, making that the first thought that comes into your mind when fear creeps in, during the pregnancy and labour.
Find a positive, confidence-building mantra that can replace the worn-out tape of self-doubt and fear.
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