What are positive birth affirmations and how do I use them?
Doulas, above everything else, are positive about birth and about women and about new families. One of the most outstanding benefits of inviting a doula to your birth is the positive way she will talk to you and encourage you. Sometimes (especially as women and especially as British people) we’re not all that kind to ourselves and thinking positive thoughts about ourselves and our abilities doesn’t always come easily. This is one reason positive birth affirmations can be so helpful. Make your own or print ours if you like. Stick them around your house where you will see them when you’re going about your day and read them every time you pass. That repetition of thought will make those thoughts start to get into your brain. Then when you’re in labour you can choose the one that works for you and repeat it to yourself as you breathe through your contractions. If your baby has arrived already you might find the positive affirmations for life with a new baby more useful.
I love my baby and I am doing all that is necessary to bring about a healthy birth.
This one can be helpful as you’re planning your birth, especially if you’re making choices that are not in the normal routine of things. People may say discouraging things to you but focusing on why you make your decisions and remembering you’re making good choices for you and your baby is important. It can also be helpful if you reach a point in labour when you make a different choice to your first choice birth plan you might need to help yourself focus on letting go of that first choice and feeling positive about your new choice knowing you’ve made it for good reasons.
2. Keep breathing slow and even. Inhale peace, exhale tension.
This is a good affirmation for anytime you need to relax, for times you feel stressed while pregnant and as your contractions start to feel like really hard work during labour and then when you’re holding your new baby wondering at the enormous love and responsibility you’ve taken on.
3. I feel the love of others around me.
It’s always good to remember as we birth we’re never alone, we’re surrounded by the love of the long line of birthing women we come from. The love of our sisters (by blood and by choice). One of the most positive things you can do for yourself as you prepare for your birth is to surround yourself with that support. Hang out with people who tell positive birth stories. Prep your birth partners to focus on increasing your oxytocin through every stage of your labour. Always remember if someone is in your birth space and is not helping you feel the love you have the right to ask them to leave no matter who they are.
4. My body will give birth in its own time.
Due dates are just estimates. Guidelines that stipulate a certain number of centimetres of dilation per hour are not the rules. There are no rules in how birth unfolds. If you’re happy and your baby is happy it’s all good.
5. I accept myself completely here and now.
Each birth is a new adventure for you and how you deal with contractions, the choices you make and the way you feel in each moment is always okay. Birth is not a pass or fail event it’s part of your journey and it’s up to you to speak kindly to yourself and accept how you feel and love yourself through each moment.
During World Doula Week we have the privilege to share a series of interviews with people who have benefited from doula support. Kirsten had a baby who was in the breech position and decided to have a home breech birth. For more information on why some women prefer to choose vaginal birth rather than caesarean for a breech baby, this website is a good place to start reading.
How did you hear about doulas?
When I had my first son in New Zealand I had a pregnancy massage with an English girl. She had been a doula in the UK and told me all about it. I thought it sounded lovely but as I had an independent midwife, I didn’t feel that I needed a doula.
Why did you want a doula?
When it came time to have my second son I had moved to the UK. Since NHS midwives are not guaranteed to be at your birth (unlike in NZ), I really wanted someone that knew me and my birth preferences to be with me through the birth (apart from my hubby!).
How did your partner (if you have one) and wider family feel about the idea when you first bought it up?
My hubby thought it was a great idea.
How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?
My doula gave me lots of positive affirmations which I stuck around my house to help me keep feeling positive and prepared for my baby’s birth. She was happy to answer any questions I had. If she couldn’t answer she would find out the answers for me. She came to meetings with me. I was planning a home breech birth which was outside of normal hospital protocol so I had some meetings at the hospital about this. My doula supported my decisions and choices throughout the preparation.
What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?
My doula was available on the phone to discuss options/plans. When I asked her to she came over to my house (I had a home birth) and helped calm the atmosphere. She coached me through the contractions reminding me to slow my breathing and relax my shoulders. She encouraged me. She answered the door when the midwife arrived. After my baby arrived he was a little slow to breathe deeply (which is normal for breech babies and he remained well with a strong heartbeat throughout). The midwife asked my doula to call an ambulance so that she would have any equipment and fast transport if needed. As it happened the ambulance crew weren’t even needed in the room as baby began to breathe deeply of his own accord and the midwife was able to give him a little oxygen and was happy with how well he was doing after a couple of minutes.
What did she do after the baby was born?
Cuddled him! While I was feeling faint and my husband was engaged in necessary practical tasks and my midwife looking after me it was good to have my baby still held in loving arms. My doula then looked after my placenta ready for encapsulation and tincture. She gave me a small piece of placenta for under my tongue to help prevent excess bleeding. She was able to remind my midwife that I did not want the injection to expel the placenta. She made me Vegemite toast and a glass of chocolate Nesquik! Later she brought me an amazing chocolate cake!
What was the best thing about having a doula?
The total unbiased support. Knowing she’d be in my corner.
Would you recommend having a doula to other families?
Without hesitation. Every woman should have a doula in my opinion!
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.