A simple guide to help you prepare for the best birth experience possible.
Isn’t it interesting how as a culture we spend more time and money preparing for a holiday, a wedding, or buying a car, than we do preparing for the birth of our baby (and ourselves as parents). We spend more on ‘stuff’ than emotional support and personal preparation, freeze in our fears rather than explore what they reflect, trust a medical system to show us how, when birthing is one of the most intimate embodied experiences in life.
Conscious birthing needs us to be willing to shift our way of thinking and feeling, from our current cultural high interventionist trends to working collaboratively for a woman-centred birth experience. We need to find a balance between the natural birth process and the use of medicine when it is necessary. The foundations of family lives are being born here. This is big stuff for all of us. It deserves our respect, attention, effort and willingness to learn and grow from our experience. Not only is this relevant to new parents, but also to the larger community who can help raise families to be strong, loving, and resilient.
Awareness of what influences a birth positively and negatively is important to explore, so you can make choices and do the mind, body, and practical preparation that is important to you. This will help to maximise a safe and satisfying outcome, and empower you to come through birth as a more confident and conscious parent and partner. Health providers will also serve you better.
A systematic review by Ellen D. Hodnett, RN, PhD: Pain and women’s satisfaction with the experience of childbirth illustrates four areas women need to focus on for better birth outcomes.
Quality support – continuity of care
Trust in the care providers – team work
Feeling in control – making an informed choice
Personal expectations – seeing the best in the situation
Remember, it’s the your body and your baby. You are the CEO, and it’s likely to be the biggest work you have ever done. It is your right to make an informed decision about how you journey into parenthood and feel control amidst all the changes you and your partner are facing.
Managing the system
Take responsibility to know what is possible – you are the one who lives with the outcome. And the health care system is a ‘system’. If you want to be seen as an individual in it, you need to communicate effectively and personally. Respond to what is important to you and your family. This process helps build your confidence, intuition, knowledge, life skills and your internal/external resources for life with your baby. It also bonds you with your partner when both parents step up and do this together.
Here are the five key birth preparation elements I explore with clients:
Boosting confidence and skills to enhance a woman’s natural birthing ability
Increasing awareness of the cultural influences around birth and parenting.
Knowing health care options and make informed choices
Preparing the woman (and partner) for an empowering birth experience as a team
Feeling resourced and ready for the ongoing journey of life as parents, in love.
Over the course of the pregnancy, it’s also important to find a balance between mental preparation and action. It is essential to determine what areas of the pregnancy are within the your influence and control. Bodywork is also very beneficial, to support you and your partner to relax, soften and open up to help the baby be born.
Ready for birth checklist
1. Exercise and nutrition – be as healthy as possible. Train as though for a marathon. As well as diet and exercise, consider posture, ambient exercise, water, rest, etc.
2. Do the inner work of trusting and believing in yourself. Listen, watch, and read positive birth stories. Connect to other empowering women. Remember your successes in life – big and small.
3. Deepen your ability to relax and know your body – meditation, breath work, bodywork, yoga, tai chi, massage etc. Get to know your body even more. Keep practising your ability to surrender. Let go. Breathe calmly. Focus the mind.
4. Choose a care provider who matches the values, practice, skills, and outcomes best suited for you. Communicate often with them to ensure you feel understood and supported. Practise making an informed choice during visits.
5. Create a supportive birth team and check whether they match your goals and expectations. They need strength to hold for you your birth intentions, if feelings of doubt, vulnerability, and fear arise within you or them. Consider using skilled labour support (doula, independent midwife).
6. Explore what fears or concerns may arise for you at birth and lovingly begin to work with them.
7. Be savvy about the birth culture we live in. Identify yours and your culture’s perspective on pain, effort, and self-sacrifice.
8. Find ways to let the mammalian instinct in you be expressed. Explore what makes you feel safe, secure, warm, uninhibited, and undisturbed. You will then be more able to let go of control and feel free to express yourself in labour, which is essential for natural birth. Your sexuality and body functions are instinctive processes. What can you explore, enjoy, and learn about yourself?
9. Make informed decisions. Research information and ask ‘BRAIN’ questions: Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition, or say ‘No’, or ‘Not now’ – to help you feel empowered about the choices and issues you are facing.
10. Learn about ‘optimal fetal positioning’. Use your correct posture, do bodywork and exercises during pregnancy, and learn tools to make space in your pelvis and help the baby rotate into a better position in labour.
11. Write a birth plan to clarify your birth intentions. Use it as a springboard for conversation with your whole birth team before and during the birth.
12. Apply what you learn to your every day and make changes now that will make your life better. Make positive responses your automatic responses, and labour will be something you have practised over and over again, just in a different way.