In recent Doula Cafe, we focused on the topic preparing mentally for labour. There are 2 aspects to this:
💫The practical side and ￼the physical side💫
With the practical side, knowing beforehand what policies and procedures are in place in your hospital/clinic can be very important. This can range from asking your doctor or midwives questions about flexibility with movement in labour/for pushing, what clinical aspects to expect (such as monitoring, IVs etc), rates of episiotomies so that you can be mentally prepared that they may suggest one (or not) and have your birth partner ready to help advocate for you if they do, to what happens in the event of an unplanned c-section (can you have support with you, what kind of cut do they do, can you spend time with baby immediately after), and post-partum policies – rooming-in vs baby staying in the nursery. Knowing what to potentially expect in different circumstances can relieve any potential anxieties and also gives you the chance to consider other hospital/clinic options if you find that your current place does things differently to what you hope for. The environment you’re in can make a huge difference in labour and feeling confident and relaxed with it can help labour go more smoothly in some cases.
With the physical side, understanding and embracing – one of my favourite words for labour – what your body is doing is crucial. Knowing that contractions are a normal and natural process and the increasing strength of them is a wonderful sign of labour progression and not a sign that your body is working against you is vital. Using certain breathing techniques can make a huge positive impact in keeping us mentally and physically more relaxed – not fighting the intensity but breathing through it and using your breathing and vocalisation also to breathe the contraction out. This stops us tensing up physically which, in turn, keeps us calmer and less panicked – keeping stress hormones out and leaving more room so to speak for our natural endorphins to help us and also letting oxytocin do its job more effectively.
Hypnobirthing and Mindful Birthing can be 2 useful books or “ways to prepare for birth” that can really help with mindset with all of this. Understand the natural birth process so that you can appreciate it rather than fear it and how to work with your mind, breathing and body to have a smoother and more positive experience. Also, Childbirth Without Fear by a British obstetrician called Grantly Dick-Read is a very worthwhile book to read. It was published in the 1940s originally and considered ground-breaking at the time with its focus on women-led natural childbirth (a revolution of sorts that is still going on to this day).
I love preparing couples for birth (and beyond), so please get in touch if you want a Birthing with Confidence preparation session (to fully understand the process and learn some tools and techniques to get you through both physically and mentally), or to take one of my separate classes on breathing.
We left the Doula Cafe today sharing some words that come to mind about labour and here are a selection of some that a few women come up with:
What words are in your mind when you think of labour?