You’re not naïve. You know that childbirth isn’t going to be a walk in the park, and you want to arm yourself with as many natural labour coping techniques as possible. You like the sound of a natural birth, but you think you’re going to need a bit of help along the way.
As a Mama of three, let me tell you that the very best thing you can do in the lead up to the arrival of your little one is preparation. And a lot of it. While there’s some out there that believe relying on mother nature and a few deep breathing exercises is all you need to birth your baby, I’m of the belief that you’ll need a little more than that.
That’s because I’ve been there.
For my first baby, a basic yoga birthing course and the hospital’s rushed (and slightly terrifying!) information night was all I thought I needed. I was healthy, young and strong-minded – I can do this whole labour thing!
And then I had to be induced with a baby that was posterior, and all my ‘coping techniques’ were rendered useless as my labour suddenly turned into a very different experience than I had expected.
I had absolutely no coping skills.
So when the second, and then third, baby came round, I knew I needed to be prepared for everything. And I mean everything! What if I need a Caesarean for the safety of my baby – how do I want that to happen? What if the skills that got me through the second labour calmly and naturally didn’t work the third time? What if my baby is breech?
By being prepared and having a really thorough understanding of what was happening to my body and my baby during childbirth, I was able to feel empowered throughout the whole process – and that, Mamas, is the key.
Feeling empowered, no matter what is happening.
The minute you feel scared, things change. Fear blocks the natural endorphins during labour – and you want those hormones! The body’s natural pain relief – oxytocin – is much more powerful than morphine, and it’s produced on masse for you during labour… if you let it.
And the very best way to allow your body to create those wonderful pain-relief happy hormones is to feel in control and supported, understand what’s happening to you and your baby, and have different techniques to try throughout the different stages of labour.
Here are just a few of your options for management of contractions, and dealing with whatever comes your way.
- Water – Water can be wonderful in managing pain through the various stages of birth. If an actual water birth is not possible, even a warm shower can be really beneficial.
- Positions – Knowledge is power! While your birthing support person should be able to advice you on which positions to try, understanding why and how a position helps you and your baby can release that all-important fear.
- Massage – Studies have found that a loving massage by a partner during labour significantly reduces anxiety and fear in a labouring woman. And don’t worry about technique – just the comfort and touch can be all that’s needed.
- Visual aids, music, tools – Fit balls, stress balls, pictures of your other children, music, aromatherapy: all of these things can be pulled out of your ‘kit bag’ when required. Make sure your partner is clued up on everything. Work together, be a team, and allow your birthing support to guide you towards other options.
As you research and prepare for your labour, there are also a number of techniques that you can sign up to learn more about. Here’s my top three –
- Birth Skills by Juju Sundin. This book changed the way I thought about labour – and empowered me to feel totally in control throughout both my second and third births. Incorporating practical techniques to ‘match the pain’ and an indepth understanding of what it is your body is actually doing, this is a must-read for anyone wanting an active birth.
- CalmBirth. Using relaxation, breathing and visualisations, this technique is all about arming you and your partner with the tools necessary for a positive outcome. What I particularly like about Calmbirth is that it acknowledges that not all births will turn out the way you like – and that’s OK. The Calmbirth skills will still come in handy.
- Hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing uses deep relaxation, self-hypnosis, massage techniques and specific breathing techniques in preparation for birth. A very thorough approach to childbirth preparation, the audio tracks used at home are particularly wonderful to help you feel empowered.
In the end, how you feel about the birth of your baby can make all the difference to how you start your journey as a mother. Because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how your baby came into this world, what matters is that you feel empowered by the experience.
Amy Taylor-Kabbaz is the creator of the popular website for Mums ‘Seek Act Love’ , and author of ‘Happy Mama: A Spiritual Survival Guide to the Early Years of Motherhood’ You can follow her daily inspiration and join the growing tribe of Mamas putting their self-care first at her facebook page