8 tips for keeping calm and confident during labour.
1. Practice Relaxing.
Being able to get into a relaxed state is a skill and just like any other skill it’s learned and takes a lot of practice to perfect. The more you can practice relaxing during pregnancy the easier you’ll find it to relax during labour. Just ten minutes a day could make a huge difference on labour day. Slowing down your breathing by lengthening your exhalation is an easy and extremely effective way of getting into a relaxed state. Lie down, close your eyes and bring all your awareness to your breath; how your chest expands as you inhale, that tiny pause before you exhale and any sense of release as you exhale. Try counting: in for 5 counts and out for 7. At first you’re bound to get distracted but set a timer, stick with it and see how you start to melt and mellow. Try my 12 minute relaxation now.
2. Find your trigger.
If you always listen to the same tracks, light the same scented candle, picture the same image, or repeat the same mantras during your relaxation practice you can form strong associations that could condition your body to relax as soon as you hear, smell, say or visualise these things. It’s like Pavlov’s Dogs. Have these things packed and ready to use wherever you give birth. Also, be sure to share them with your birth partner so that they can help use them to get you in the zone on the day. Birth Preparation Classes, Pregnancy Yoga and Hypnobirthing are all great ways of finding out which triggers work best for you.
3. Just say ‘No Thanks’.
Everyone loves to share a negative birth story. Either because it’s cathartic for the mother or simply because it makes a great story. Every birth is different and whatever has happened to someone else is not going to be replicated with you. Peoples perceptions at the time of the birth and whilst telling the story can portray it as a wholly negative event but more often than not it is actually a very positive experience where both mother and baby have come through happy and healthy. Listening to negative birth stories serves no purpose during pregnancy so when anyone offers one up to you, interrupt them and say ‘No Thanks!’ you do not want to hear it right now. Reading positive birth stories can be far more inspiring.
4. Get a basic understanding of what happens during and after labour and all the possibilities for delivering the baby.
A little bit of knowledge goes a long way. When you understand for example how malleable the baby’s head is and how it cleverly twists and turns to move through the widest parts of the pelvis it’s much easier to feel confident about the possibility of a vaginal delivery. Understanding how the uterus contracts in the first stage of labour to draw open the cervix (not to squeeze the baby out) helps you to accept the sensations as a huge muscle working super hard rather than the pain of trying to force something out of your body (which is not what is happening at that point). Understanding the role of Oxytocin and the effects of adrenaline in labour are hugely motivating in helping mothers learn relaxation strategies that will support the birth and address fears or negative beliefs that might also inhibit it. There are so many ways a baby could be delivered; with or without medical assistance, on land, in the water, in an operating theatre, with just midwives present or with a whole team of medics… the list goes on. Being aware to all the possibilities that could precede a healthy, gentle birth could helps keep you calm and confident however your birth unfolds.
5. Wear blue light blocking sunglasses.
My sister recommended I do this and I felt like a right Prima Donna entering the labour ward but it worked and the science behind it completely makes sense. Animals know instinctively that birth should happen in a dark quiet place where they are hidden from predators and safe to nurture their offspring. Melatonin is the hormone that induces sleep so levels in the body rise as darkness falls. In the very late stages of pregnancy, melatonin is responsible for working with oxytocin to elicit strong uterine contractions that mark the onset of labour. Wearing dark glasses when you enter a brightly lit hospital tricks the body into thinking it’s night time so it’s a great way to keep your melatonin levels high and your contractions regular. Asking to keep the lights low will obviously help too but if this is not possible your glasses will give you a great sense of control over your environment.
6. Be flexible.
Some women write a birth plan, others don’t but it is important for all women to be flexible and accept that the needs of the mother and baby at the time of delivery will dictate exactly how you give birth on the day. If you are too attached to a birth plan and it can’t be achieved, you expose yourself to feelings of stress, guilty, panic or disappointed. None of which will support you or your baby during the delivery or the early stages of motherhood. Try to be kind to yourself and show gratitude for all you have achieved in growing and delivering a healthy baby.
7. Focus on what you can control.
If you commit to implementing strategies you can control like moving to help your baby through the birth canal, mantras or affirmations to remain confident and trusting in your body or relaxation strategies to stay calm, you can be confident that you are doing everything in your power to support yourself and your baby through the delivery. This can create a gentle birthing experience for you, your baby and your birthing team however it unfolds. Pregnancy Yoga, Birth Preparation, Mindfulness and Hypnobirthing books or courses will all offer strategies you can implement to assist any type of birth.
8. Prepare your birthing partner.
A calm and confident birth partner will really influence your state of mind on the day so all the points above apply to them too. Being prepared, by gaining knowledge about the process of birth, practicing relaxation techniques and understanding the various possibilities of how the baby will be birthed will really help your birth partner stay calm, confident and present throughout all eventualities. Practicing relaxing together will teach your birth partner which ‘triggers’ help you relax quickly so that they can help you use them throughout the birth. Writing down mantras or affirmations that your birthing partners can remind you of during the labour could help give you strength and encourage a positive mindset at challenging times.