In a previous post, we established what a positive birth is as far as the Hampshire Doulas are concerned. Now it’s time to get practical with some tips for enjoying your birth.
(Please note the book links in this post are affiliate links if you click through and choose to buy these wonderful books I will receive a small amount of commission but even if I didn’t I’d still recommend them).
I asked the Hampshire doulas for their top tips for planning and having a positive birth. They came up with some varied ideas but when it comes down to it we’re all saying the same thing, surround yourself with positive people, people who know about birth and how good it can be. Choose people you can trust to be honest with you not sugar coat things but focus on what’s under your control. How can you do that?
Here are our top 5 ideas.
- Join a Positive Birth Group. There are Positive Birth groups all over the world. These are a network of groups where pregnant women come together and support each other. There are no experts and no medical opinions it’s just women sharing their positive experiences with each other.
- Read and watch positive birth stories. There are lots of places to read positive birth stories online. The Birth Without Fear Blog is a very good place to start. There are lots of positive birth stories on youtube too. On the flip side avoid watching popular tv programs that feature birth, they’re edited for drama not education. If you prefer to read on paper this book is a good start.
- Get the negativity off your chest before the big day. If you have fears and worries about labour or birth and how you will cope talk them through with someone who knows about birth. If you had a previous negative birth experience consider having a birth debrief (ask your midwife to refer you to this service at your local hospital) or finding a counsellor who can help you move forward and work through any trauma you’re still carrying. You might also find this book helpful.
- Learn about birth. Most doulas will have a few good books they can lend you to read. These will help you start learning how our bodies work when it comes to birth and what the range of possibilities might be for working with your body and cope with your contractions. A good antenatal course such as a hypnobirth course will help with this too and of course your antenatal sessions with your doula. Here are some of the books we recommend and lend out most often.
- Make a really good birth plan. Writing a birth plan has a value of itself regardless of who reads it on the day. The most important thing about birth planning is the process of thinking through what might happen and working out what choices you would like to make in many different situations. Writing a birth plan together is a great opportunity to have a really good talk with your partner about your expectations and what they can do to best support you through all the stages of labour. Having a doula or a well-trained birth partner with you who knows your birth plan in their head (and has an easy to read short and sweet copy to refer to in their back pocket) might be the absolute top thing you can do for yourself. But it’s important they and you know what plan B and plan C are as well as being able to focus on plan A and all the things that will give you the best chance of plan A being the only one you need on the day.
Put it all in one sentence: how do I plan a positive birth? Learn about birth and surround yourself with loving supportive people.
As doulas, we’re very fond of saying we support positive birth -because we do! It’s our passion that women (and their partners) have the chance to feel positive about their pregnancy, their birth and having and caring for a new baby.
But we also find very often people expect that we support ‘natural’ birth, or ‘drug free’ birth or home birth. Maybe that’s because we’re also fond of saying we believe in women and their bodies.
So, let’s just get this straightened out. What do doulas really mean by positive birth?
I asked the Hampshire doulas “what do you mean when you say positive birth?” These are some of the answers they gave me:
The main theme is that a positive birth is one where you feel supported in your choices. Doulas don’t make choices for anyone or advise parents on the right choice to make. We find information when it’s needed and ask questions about the pros and cons of decisions so that the parents we work with can make informed choices and more than anything else, we listen. We listen to the whole story of how you feel, to what it’s like to be you and to why you make the choices you make and we support you to make the choices you want to make with all the information you need. Then we hold your hand and hold your space while you labour and parent in your own choices, we encourage you and we gently help you insist that the other people around you do the same.
What does that mean from a practical point of view?
As well as helping you trust your decisions we can help you find the things that work for you to work with your contractions in the early stages of labour. We also know that most of the time when the space around you is kept calm, quiet, dark and free from the feeling of being observed you have the best chance of feeling calm and having an uncomplicated birth experience. We often find that women who are supported experience labour and birth as not scary and even enjoyable.
But we also believe that you’re the one who knows best if it’s time for you to choose to have medical help dealing with the sensations of your contractions. We’re also there to support you if the situation arises where you need to make decisions that are different to your original birth plan that your informed decision on the day is the right one for you and we will support you to make that decision whatever it may be.
So any kind of birth can be a positive birth?
Yes, you can have a positive homebirth, a positive water birth, a positive birth centre birth, a positive birth on labour ward, a positive epidural birth, a positive assisted birth, a positive c-section. As long as each of these things happens in an atmosphere where you know you are supported and your decisions are yours alone and are the best ones for you made freely with all the information you need.
Now you know what we think a positive birth is you might want to set out and plan your positive birth. Check out our practical tips for planning a positive birth.