Many of us grow up with messages from relatives, have heard stories from friends and seen images on TV and movies that can give us the impression that childbirth is something to be feared or something that we need to be saved from with medical interventions.
Imagine if we could fill all women’s minds with a vision that labour and birth can be beautiful, positive and empowering?
Imagine if all women could say they LOVED their birth?
And what about the partners or dads-to-be? Why not fill them with confidence, so they walk away from birth feeling they played an integral role in the birth of their child?
Yes, childbirth is challenging and intense but a positive birth experience is possible, you just need to know the steps to take to make it happen.
What does a positive birth look like?
Home or hospital, obstetrician or midwife, natural or caesarean…it doesn’t matter which of these options you choose or end up with. Each one can be positive with the right elements in place.
· Feeling listened to and respected
· Feeling safe and supported
· Being at ease with the birth process
· Understanding what is happening physically, mentally and emotionally
· Having confidence to ask questions and make decisions
· Feeling in control
· An involved and effective birth partner
· Being empowered and enriched by the experience
So HOW can we optimise our chances of this happening?
The more you understand about the normal birth process and what is happening with your body, the easier it will be to manage each stage. Find out how to work with your hormones to enhance labour and help your uterus work more efficiently. Learn about the science of pain and reflect on how you naturally respond to it so you can prepare the right pain management techniques for you. Another essential element to being informed is knowing what factors can get in the way of a positive birth and how to overcome them. For example, hospital policies or outdated routine procedures.
Create the right support team
The people you want around you in labour should be those that don’t panic, that will support your choices and believe you can do it. Consider choosing someone who has had a birth like the one you want, as they will provide inspiration and understanding of what you are going through. Select people that are there for YOU, not just to see the baby- you want support not spectators.
Prepare your mind, body and baby
Explore the foundations of any fears around birth and find ways to release them or replace them with positive thoughts. Affirmations are very helpful and can give you an ‘I can do this’ mindset. Exercising and eating well during pregnancy can not only give you strength and stamina to face the physical challenges of labour but can also impact your birthing options and how your birth plays out. Spend time connecting with your baby during pregnancy so that you can work together and have a strong reminder of why you are going through it all in the first place! Educate yourself on optimal fetal positioning for an easier labour and visit a physio, chiro or osteopath to make sure your spine and pelvis is in the best alignment.
Write a birth plan or birth intentions
Some say you can’t plan birth, however this is not what you are doing. The true value of a birth plan is in the research it takes to put it together. It is a fantastic way to educate yourself about all your options and discover what is important to you in the birth of your baby. It also gives your Obstetrician and/or midwife a clear idea of your birth intentions so that you can all work together towards a shared goal.
Gain some skills
When it comes to skills for labour most of us just think of pain management skills like effective breathing patterns, positioning, movement, visualisation, heat therapy, massage etc. While it is crucial to have these techniques at the ready, there are other skills that can really optimise your chances of a positive experience. Practicing decision making and communication skills can mean if anything unexpected arises during labour you will know how to ask for unbiased information, find out ALL your options (not just the ones that suit your care provider) and be able to analyse the risks and benefits of each one. This will lead you to make informed choices, an essential element to a positive birth.
Surround yourself with positive messages about birth. This can be done through birth books, independent birth education courses, positive birth groups, Facebook and Instagram can provide some motivating tips, articles, stories and images of the magic of birth.
Give Dad-to-be a tool kit
Giving the birth partner or dad-to-be a role and some jobs to do in labour can really help give him confidence to be a great support. He can then lead the way in reminding you to change positions, try a new comfort technique or speak up on your behalf. Being a confident and reassuring presence will help you feel like you are not alone.
A positive birth experience can mean you start parenthood on the right foot and can even be something you look back and draw on in tough parenting moments. And not to forget that it allows baby to enter the world in a calm, gentle and joyful way.
Yvette Julian-Arndt is a mum to two gorgeous boys and with her husband, loves living on the Mornington Peninsula. As a childbirth educator and the owner of Project Birth, she is passionate about educating and inspiring couples for this life changing event. Find out more at www.projectbirth.com.au or join her on Facebook and Instagram for more great labour and birth tips.