Don’t let fear take over as your due date closes in. Prepare yourself mentally for a stress-free birth
When it comes to labour, location, pain relief and birth partner come pretty high on your wish list – but how about positivity?
Research has shown that positive birth techniques can shorten labour and make you less likely to need intervention, too.
‘Mental preparation is as vital as physical,’ says clinical hypnotherapist Maggie Howell. ‘The mind controls how the body responds.’
Not everyone will have an intervention-free birth, but by taking out the fear factor and building your confidence, you’ll feel in control and have a positive experience, whatever happens.
1. Face your fears
It could be terrifying headlines or just switching on One Born Every Minute at an unfortunate moment – birth fears can be triggered by a number of things.
‘Acknowledging your fears and working out where they come from is the first step to overcoming them,’ says Maisie Villegas from Doula UK. If you're not sure what's spooking you, talk to your partner to see if you can pinpoint your stress triggers.
2. Learn to relax
Feeling calm is key to being confident and in control. ‘By practising a relaxation technique during pregnancy, you can make it kick in when you need it,’ says hypno-birthing trainer Rosie Goode (hypnobirthingworks.co.uk). For hypnobirthing, you’ll get the best results by attending a pregnancy hypnotherapy workshop, then listening to a CD or download at home.
3. Breathe right
‘Combining breathing with counting is very effective throughout labour – slower and deeper breaths increase the amount of oxygen getting to your muscles, which helps them relax,’ says Rosie. And counting will keep your mind off what's happening. Simple breathing techniques are the best.
Try 7:11 breathing – breathe in deeply to a count of seven, then breathe out to a count of 11.
4. Partner honesty
Facing up to birth fears is important for birth partners, too. If he's on edge on the maternity ward, it could pass on to you. Encourage him to be honest about his worries. Getting involved with antenatal classes will help, too.
Feeling calm is key to being confident and in control.
5. Stay in the moment
In labour it's all too easy for your mind to race ahead of itself. ‘Your brain’s evolved to alert you to possible danger ahead, so even if you’re OK, it could be generating panicky thoughts. That can trigger muscle tension and make labour slower,’ says Rosie. Keep those thoughts in check by focusing on the present – using a breathing technique will help, as will repeating an affirmation to yourself.
6. Relax with scent
Smell is a powerful sense and can conjure up both memories and emotions. ‘When you’re practising relaxation exercises during pregnancy, burn lavender oil,’ says doula Sophie Fletcher. ‘Have it with you during labour and it will trigger the association with relaxation.’
7. Keep it physical
Get your partner to rub your back and the backs of your legs. ‘This stimulates the metabolism, which helps your body process adrenaline and lactic acid so you feel calm again,’ says Maggie. And between contractions, light touch massage helps to stimulate the release of calming chemicals in the body.