One of the most important things I learnt during my pre-birth preparations was this: when you are fearful/worried during labour, your entire body (insides included) tighten up. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. But it’s the exact opposite of what you want for a smooth, flowing, relatively quick birthing experience. When you are fearful, not only does it slow the process down, but fear = pain.
I love this section on ‘Fears and Concerns’ from the book BIRTH: Conceiving, Nurturing and Giving Birth to your Baby by Catherine Price & Sandra Robinson (used with permission):
“Some women approach their labour in a very open and accepting way, confident in their body’s ability to give birth and to deal with their pain. Others are not so sure, or are admittedly nervous, scared of even terrified of what may lie ahead. Fear of the unknown and concerns about the what-if’s are fairly normal during pregnancy. However, suppressing your fears may only make them resurface in some way, shape or form during labour, increasing the level of pain felt.
Some cultures believe that fear is the main cause of a labouring woman suffering in childbirth. This theory does have a physiological explanation. A woman’s underlying fears can make her body tense, often without realising it. Adrenaline is then released, inhibiting her endorphins, which are needed to help relieve pain. Adrenaline also inhibits contractions prolonging the labour. Increased pain and a prolonged labour can create anxiety, making her feel she is not coping or progressing, adding to her fears and increasing the pain. This ends up in a vicious cycle of:
- Increased perception of pain
Feeling fearful, anxious and in unmanageable pain can lead to requesting pain relief sooner and/or becoming exhausted prematurely, as more energy is used to fight the labour, rather than going with it. This type of experience also creates feelings of not being in control and seeing the whole labour process as negative, perhaps leading to feelings of failure if you expected to cope better.
Often by identifying and openly acknowledging your fears, you can devise some coping strategies. Sharing your fears can also help your caregiver and partner/support person work with you through this phase of the labour, to help calm and reassure you, and hopefully assist you.”
If you’ve read my birthing stories you’ll know that I claim both of my births to be pain-free. So, how did I do it? Well, for starters, my babies and I did it together. We were a great team. I also had an incredibly supportive partner. But more than anything, I drew from within and focused on what I had told myself over and over in my preparations.
Below I have prepared some bullet points that I truly hope will be embraced by you and, ultimately, assist you in your own wonderful birthing story:
- Embrace this experience with confidence. You are empowered.
- This is a privilege, an honour, and a unique experience.
- Fear = tension = pain & the body shuts down/closes up.
- You need to be relaxed for your body to work naturally & effectively.
- Relaxed woman = relaxed cervix.
- If you don’t know the gender of your baby use this as added motivation and choose excitement – will it be a girl or a boy??? Not long to go now!
- You are birthing your baby. It’s your baby’s birthday! What a cause for celebration!
- You’re about to meet your baby!!!
- Each wave/contraction is dilating you – making a pathway for bub!
- You feel pressure, not pain.
- The uterus is simply a muscle, working hard.
- It can help to picture your dilations opening you up like a flower, say a lotus. Bringing forth new life.
- Once each wave/contract is complete: you don’t need to go through that wave again! High five! Each one brings you closer to meeting your precious baby!
- You & baby are the perfect team – bub knows what to do too!
- Draw upon your inner resources, you have within you everything you need.
- No fear, no worry. Perfect love casts out all fear.
- This is all completely natural. You were made incredibly to be able to do this. Have faith in your body’s ability.
- Remain in control of your mind and let your body do it’s own work.
- What we repeatedly think about & where we focus our attention is what we become.
- Send love down to your baby.
This information was taken from the Huggies website and I used it myself (I especially love the first point and evidently that is what landed you here with me, great work!):
- Do your homework – become as familiar as you can with what’s involved in childbirth and educate yourself and your partner. Remember, we tend to be more fearful about situations we do not understand.
- Keep active – our bodies are designed to move. Unless you have a condition which is preventing you from moving when you are labouring, then being mobile generally helps labour to progress more quickly.
- Do some creative visualisation or mindful meditation – whatever helps you to focus. Many women find themselves in an almost primal state when labouring. Give into the forces which your body is dictating and have faith that it knows what to do.
- Take an iPod or a favourite CD, some aromatherapy oils or perfume into the labour ward with you. We labour with all of our senses and this is a time of acute sensitivity.
- Keep your partner close. Some women like to have more than onebirthing support person with them; invite whomever you feel most comfortable with. But first check the hospital policy on numbers of support people allowed.
- Aim to focus on your baby and visualise them going through the labour process with you. Try not to view the pain in an entirely negative way; it is a means to an end.
- Try to relax when you can between your contractions. Feeling tense will only add to your discomfort so take the opportunity to rest when possible.
- Keep focused on your contractions as they come, rather than thinking about how you’ll be coping with them later on. Deal with one contraction at a time. Remember, small steps.
- Don’t feel embarrassed – your midwife and/or obstetrician has seen and heard everything you could possibly do or say a thousand times before. If you need to grunt, scream, swear or pant, or a combination of all of these, then just go ahead and do it.
The birthing journey is a very special time in a woman’s life. Whatever path your birth takes, your ability to make decisions that are right for you and your baby depend on you being an active participant.
Should you be a woman of faith: let go and let God. Remember the author and creator of life. The designer of both you and your bub. The following scriptures were compiled by Mother Rising (gorgeous printables can be found on her page) and, if you let them, they will both comfort and empower you.
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV)
2 Chronicles 15:7 “Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (NIV)
Psalm 55:22 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (ESV)
Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (NIV)
Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (ESV)
Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (NKJV)
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) (My favourite!!!)
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (ESV) (My 2nd favourite!!!)
2 Timothy 4:17 “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” (ESV)
1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (ESV)
I’d also love to add in Psalm 139:14 “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful. My soul knows that very well.”
The 2nd stage of labour generally starts with a rest of 5 – 20mins. Take it! Don’t intervene. Recognise and appreciate it.
Don’t push till your body tells you to.
When pushing, remember the baby will move back up slightly after each push but that’s all part of preparing the pathway.