How to Prepare for Birth—Physically and Mentally
This is a guest post written by Trish Ware, RN—aka Labor Nurse Mama.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a seasoned labor and delivery nurse, and as an online birth coach/educator is this: Trish, I am so scared of labor, what's the number one thing I can do to be prepared?
I love this question! This question tells me that you are not planning on winging your birth and leaving it up to your provider to make all the decisions. Because trust me, decisions will be made during your birth, whether you are prepared or not. The main passion behind my shift into becoming an educator is empowering women to own their birth. You should be the one deciding what, when, and how things are done in your birth. It's your story. You are the queen of the birth.
The problem is that you don’t know what you don’t know. For instance, how do you decide what's best if you are not prepared to make these decisions? You don't! This is why I wanted to offer mamas these five tips to guide them in their birth preparation efforts.
1. Education is the foundation.
One of the most powerful tools I teach is packing your labor tool bag. This is not a physical bag. This is a picture of your readiness for birth. Imagine a nice, solid, and pricey bag. Not a plastic grocery bag that you grab from under the sink. I am talking about a sturdy leather bag with a solid bottom.
The lining, the support, and the foundation of your labor tool bag is education.
An uneducated labor patient is the driving force of my passion in teaching women their rights and ownership of their birth story. Without education a mama may experience:
- A feeling of control being taken
- Decisions made that are not clearly communicated or understood
- Regret and what ifs (sometimes for years to come)
- Birth Trauma
The number one thing you can do to prepare for your birth is to educate yourself about how your body works, understand the interventions commonly used in birth when they should be used when they are simply used for convenience (my birth course students will tell you that my mantra is this: Nothing out of convenience or curiosity) and your rights in making birth decisions. Through birth education, you will begin to prepare yourself in the next most important way, which changes your perception of birth.
2. Change your perception of birth.
What do you believe about birth? Is it terrifying? Do you picture a mama screaming and out of control? Is she grabbing her partner and full of fear? If your answer is yes, then the media has done its job well. Picture Rachel in Friends or maybe the movie Knocked Up.
As a labor nurse for over 15 years and a mama of 7 (6 unmedicated births and one adoption), I can promise you that this is not what I see at work and in my personal births. Most women are withdrawn into their labor, quiet, and focused on the task at hand.
Your birth story does not have to be one that is scary.
Our body is designed to react to perceived threats with predictable reactions. Imagine being in labor and not understanding what is happening inside you or around you. Suddenly you are scared, and you feel threatened. This is not the way your birth should play out. You do not want to be surprised during your birth. You want to be prepared for all twists and turns. Once you begin to change your perception of birth, I want you to then set boundaries around your birth story. Who can share birth stories with you? What birth scenes will you allow in?
3. Replace your fears with truth.
Educating yourself and preparing both physically and mentally, allows you to replace the unknowns with truths. If you go into birth with unresolved fear, your body will work against your labor progression. When you are afraid your body releases adrenaline. Adrenaline works against our good friend oxytocin. Oxytocin is the driving force for labor!
Here are my steps for replacing fears:
- First, you must acknowledge your fear.
- Next, you must replace fear with truth. We tend to fear the unknown. The things we don’t understand about birth.
- Now, let go of the fear.
For instance, if you fear tearing, then you need to educate yourself on the truth of tearing. Tearing is a natural part of the natural process of birth. It is designed to happen to accommodate the baby your body made. Can you prevent it? There are certainly ways you can prepare your body to prevent tearing, but focus on releasing fears first.
4. Flip the script.
Our thoughts are powerful. I read a book recently that talked about the powerful effects our thoughts have on our actions. In other words, what we think we can almost manifest. One of the most powerful actions you can take right now to prepare for your birth is to start speaking positive thoughts over yourself. This is something I am reinforcing constantly on Instagram, where I teach more than 155,000 mamas daily.
What do you tell yourself about your upcoming birth? About yourself? Are you telling yourself you might not be able to cope with the pain? Or that you are a wimp and can’t even handle a stubbed toe? Here’s what I want you to begin to do daily. Change the script and flip it into powerful affirmations and mantras. No more negative thoughts! Deal?
Remind yourself that:
- You are incredibly strong.
- Your body is capable of birthing this baby.
- You are powerful.
- You are the center of this birth story.
- You can push your baby.
Use I am statements, like, I am made to do this. I am amazing. Print out your words of power and tape them all over the place. Who cares what other people think!
5. Prepare your body.
A prepared body can do its job more effectively. I don’t want you to start sweating this one by worrying about your physical fitness level. I am not talking about Cross Fit here. I simply mean taking care of your gorgeous pregnant body.
Get up and start moving. Take a daily walk. Walk the dog. Stroll at Target. Just move. I am all about movement during pregnancy. Not only for exercise—even though daily exercise is important. But, also for proper fetal alignment. A baby who is in the right alignment for birth makes your job so much easier. I love to teach my mamas the use of intentional movement throughout pregnancy, labor, and pushing, making their birth smoother.
Another way to prepare your body for birth is through a healthy diet. Good nutrition allows your body to prepare for labor and for your postpartum healing journey.
Being prepared for birth is never a wasted effort. A prepared mama is a powerful mama. Winging birth is a huge mistake and can lead to lasting regrets. I hope this has helped you see that you can take charge of your birth journey. You are incredible and I am so proud of you. If you have any questions, come hang out and ask them over on Instagram.
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.