Labour without fear! Are you afraid of giving birth? Be calm! In this blog post, I will give you good tips on how to think about your fear of giving birth! Starting at 36 weeks of pregnancy, I begin to help my pregnant patient’s focus on preparing the body and mind for labor.
I like to begin the conversation open ended as many women come with war stories about their friends’ or mother’s prolonged painful labors. Since we were little girls and boys, we’ve heard that nothing is a painful as labor. How do we overcome this cultural conditioning in order to prepare not just our bodies for pushing out a body but also our minds?
As an aside, did you know that in Japan, natural births are the norm. That epidurals are not generally considered as necessary due to the mind frame of labor not being seen as extremely painful?
So much of the fear around labor is over how much it is going to hurt. How can we prepare our minds to help us deal with intense physical sensations? Marathon runners train and condition but how do they get their minds ready to be in a state of constant encouragement?
Tips how to labour without fear!
I don’t gloss over the reality that pain and discomfort are part of labor. I’ve yet to meet a woman who says that it didn’t hurt at all. I think there is room in the conversation for consideration of how to mentally deal with the pain. If your head and mouth are screaming “OMG THIS HURTS, THIS SUCKS, MAKE IT STOP! I CAN’T DO THIS” it doesn’t help you to feel particularly relaxed. I found that in both my labors, the more relaxed I was, the less the pain affected me as intensely.
Think about it: the contraction is trying to dilate the cervix but if all your muscles are resisting the force, the less efficient the contraction and the more prolonged the labor. The more prolonged the labor, the less your body and mind can endure and exhaustion and weakness set in. And this is when we need to feel mentally and physically powerful!
Say yes to Labour!
I found a mantra that came to me in both my labors. It was a simple “Yes. Everytime, I had a contraction, I just kept repeating the word “Yes” over and over in my head. Yes to the contraction, yes to the sensations in my body, yes to the dilation of my cervix, yes to this baby coming out of my body and into my arms. I literally felt like I was relaxing into the pain. My mom shared with me that she visualized a rose bud and with every contraction, the rose bud unfolded its petals into a blossom to represent the cervix dilating. Other women like to create a vision board with pictures to focus on while having contractions.
Mindfullness meditation against fear!
Despite being a medical professional. I don’t particularly enjoy reading books about labor or parenting. But one book really spoke to me. I make sure to mention it to every patient when we have this discussion. The book is called The Mind in Labor by Nancy Bardacke and there is now a website called Mindful Birthing.
I also took a class that was based on the book where we did exercises by holding ice in our hands for intervals of time and explored the thoughts that went through our head. When the ice became uncomfortable to hold. Most of all, the book and class teachings are based on Mindfulness Meditation and how to apply this to labor.
The basic premise is that you focus on your breathing while in labor and don’t let yourself think about the contraction that came before this one or the ones in the future. Just stay in the moment with the current contraction and breath. And then do this over and over again until that baby is in your arms. When it came time to push. My husband told me after the birth that he was scared that I was fainting in between contractions, but I was actually so deeply relaxed until I had to push again.
Release the control and let the body do what it needs.
I find this to be a metaphor for parenting. You will one day, find yourself in the car with a screaming baby and you are unable to pull over and feeling very overwhelmed, distraught, exhausted and like screaming yourself. Just like with a contraction, take a breath and know that this moment will pass.
Labor can be empowering as we let go of control and let the body do what it needs to do. While we focus on our breathing and thoughts.
I come back to this over and over again in my life and it helps to get me through those difficult or uncomfortable times over and over.
My take home message for labor prep is trusting that your body knows what it needs to do. As women have been giving birth since the beginning of time. And you are stepping into sacred ground and aligning yourself with the birth of the universe. How powerful and empowering is that?
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