Everyone will find their own way of coping with labour on the day. But being prepared with some ideas of things you can try that might help you cope with your contractions and positively work with what your body is doing is a great way to feel prepared and confident for when you go into labour.
Active labour positions:
Your body’s first job with your contractions is to move your baby into the best position for coming out. Sometimes early labour with contractions that stop and start and often feel strongest in your back can be frustrating especially if they are very intense but don’t seem to be having a measurable effect on your cervix. This is very normal and doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Moving about and changing position can not only help the potentially overwhelming sensations of your contractions to be easier to cope with but can also help to create space in your pelvis to allow baby to move around and tuck their chin in to be in the best position to move easily through your pelvis.
Deep relaxing breathing:
Planning to ‘just’ breathe through your contractions might sound hippy-dippy or too simple to be of actual use. It’s good solid science though. Controlling and relaxing our breathing allows us to relax our other muscles which allow our body to get to work birthing. Tensing our muscles feeds into a fear response which encourages our bodies to produce adrenaline which is the natural enemy of oxytocin the most important hormone for labour and birth. Switching off our thinking brains and doing everything we can to raise our oxytocin levels gives our bodies the best chance they can have to get on with the job. Breathing doesn’t have to be done any one specific way as long as you breathe in a relaxing way and find a rhythm that feels relaxing to you it will have a relaxing effect. It can help you to feel relaxed and ready with ways to remind yourself to breathe deeply if you practice in pregnancy. Some places you can do this are at pregnancy yoga or Daisy Foundation classes.
Having something to repeat to yourself in your head is another effective way of keeping your thinking brain relaxed and allow your body to get on with the job of labour and birth. There’s another blog post with more details on how they work to get your head in a good place approaching birth and can be used to keep your brain busy thinking positively during labour and birth.
Water can help you in two ways, labour is really hard physical work and like with other physical activities your body needs to stay hydrated. Having something that’s easy to sip and easy to drop when you need to focus on a contraction is a handy tool. Water can also help to relax you when you get into it. A shower or a bath can be a useful tool for early labour and in later labour, a birth pool is brilliant for providing a lovely safe space and wonderful support to allow you to relax and to find comfortable and effective positions for birthing.
The sensations of labour and birth can be really overwhelming, finding something that keeps you grounded can help you to focus on the things that keep you relaxed. This is where a good connection with your birth partner is vital. Not only can your birth partner help you keep calm by helping you feel that you’re not alone but the way they make you feel loved and cared for actually raises your oxytocin levels. The physical connection your birth partner provides also raises your oxytocin levels and increases your relaxation.
When you’re pregnant much of your focus goes into planning for your birth and practical purchases for your baby. But once your baby is here the reality of how much your life has changed in that one instant can be quite overwhelming. The first few weeks with a new baby in your life are a mix of emotions, learning to feed, change, cuddle and find ways that your baby will happily sleep all at once.
Some of the skills you used preparing for your birth can help you through this time too. Any deep breathing and relaxation exercises can help you calm down when things start to get stressful, going for a walk or dancing around your kitchen can bring some light relief and help soothe a crying baby and positive affirmations can help you to keep your focus and remind you what’s important. Here are 5 of the Hampshire doulas’ favourite positive reminders for new parents. If your baby isn’t here yet you might also find these positive affirmations for birth helpful.
- The days are long but the weeks are short. When the day seems to be going on forever, when it feels like you haven’t slept in as long as you can remember, when you wonder if you will ever drink a hot cup of tea again. This reminder is that in the whole length of your life with this new child these first few weeks are not really very long at all.
The other wonderful thing about reaching the end of each week is you can look back and remember how far you have come.
2. One of the inevitable parts of being a parent is worrying, is my child well, are they developing ‘properly’, am I doing a good job? Sometimes books about how babies grow are helpful and reassuring but sometimes, especially with the ones that claim to be able to solve all your problems and make your child a ‘perfect baby’ they can increase the stress we feel. The good news is there’s no such thing as a perfect parent and your baby just needs you to love them. The way things work for you is the right way for you.
3. It’s so very easy as our new identity as someone’s parent develops and begins to flourish to forget that we are people too and that we matter as well. We need to look after ourselves. When there’s a new person in your life, who you are so in love with and who has so many needs it’s easy to get to the end of the day and realise you’ve not had a moment to yourself. Now that moment doesn’t need to be totally alone or something out of the ordinary but it needs to be a time when you’ve realised you need to care for yourself and you’ve done something that feeds your own soul. This can be as simple as taking a walk in the fresh air with baby in the sling, asking your mum to cuddle her new grandchild for half an hour while you have a nice long shower or just putting on your favourite music or TV program and relaxing in your chair once your baby has finally fallen asleep.
4. Sometimes we feel euphoric with a new baby and sometimes we feel just amazingly tired. It’s completely normal to have ups and downs, good days and bad days. It’s also OK to admit you don’t love every moment. It’s important to seek out your tribe at this time, to build a network of friends you can trust to be honest with, to be able to say I had an amazing day and I feel wonderful without worrying they will think you’re showing off. But, to be just as able to say “I had a terrible day, I haven’t showered I have eaten only chocolate all day and my baby has been super grumpy I’m so fed up,” without worrying they will think you’re a bad mum. To have people who will always say ‘me too’ ‘I get what you mean’. Sometimes we can know the way we feel isn’t ok with us, we can’t seem to ever feel really happy, we’re always worrying everything seems to be on top of us and we haven’t had any good days and it’s OK to admit that’s how you feel. In fact, it’s important to talk about it if you feel like that. Find someone you can trust, GP, Health Visitor, a really good friend who will help you get the help you need to stop feeling like that and go back to the usual ups as well as downs of life.
5. Whatever your first few weeks are like with your baby they are part of your story and you will make the right decisions for you and come through the other side. You won’t be exactly the same as before you had your baby, and that’s all good. Your new you and new reality may take time to get used to but know you are amazing. Learn to love the new you, you’ve got them with you for life.
Which is a positive affirmation we can all use and remember, whatever stage of our life we’re in right now. This is part of my story. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you’ll never change or never grow it means you love yourself enough to make good choices for you and to keep on learning.
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.