Birth preparation is a huge part of preparing for a positive birth. Lots of women don’t appreciate why doing birth preparation is so important with many leaving it last minute. The truth is if you want to stack the odds in your favour when it comes to having a positive birth experience, birth preparation is essential.
The thing is, birth preparation can seem like this huge overwhelming task, so it’s understandable that many shy away from it or procrastinate. To help you I’m going to talk you through what I believe are some of the most important elements of your birth preparation.
Why birth preparation is important
Preparing for your birth means that you’re saying no to the “winging it” birth plan. For the record, “winging it” or “going with the flow” is NOT recommended and is more likely to lead to a difficult birth;
- Your labour is more likely to be longer
- Increased chances of experiencing a painful labour
- You’re more likely to have a medicalised labour
- Increased chances of ending up with an emergency C-Section
I don’t know about you, but they are good enough reasons for me!
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Essential Steps of Birth Preparation
So, in no particular order, here are some of the important steps that I think you need to include in your birth preparation.
Get clear on what you want
How can you prepare if you don’t know what you want? So this bit is super important. Think about what you DO want and what you DON’T want when it comes to your birth.
- Where do you feel the safest? Home or hospital? Birth centre? Maternity-led unit?
- How do you feel about medical staff? Do they scare you or make you feel safe?
- Are you considered high risk? If so, what does this mean in terms of your birth? Does your current health have any implications for your birth? If so, what?
- What birth assistance would you like? Birth pool? Pain relief? Space to move around? Home comforts? And, where is that most easily available?
- What’s the birth you DON’T want? Why? What is it about that that you don’t like/want? If this ended up being your birth how would that make you feel?
If you’re going to prepare for something, then it’s important to know what you’re preparing for so that you improve your chances of getting it. This means going all crazy on the details. So even though you might have things clear in your head in terms of what you want – you still need to plan for various eventualities.
With birth, nothing is guaranteed, which is why it’s also worth preparing for plan B and maybe even plan C.
The reason why I want you to prepare for the birth you don’t want is so that you do your homework on it. This does two things;
- it helps you to understand it better as a birth option, and crucially,
- this helps to reduce the fear you might have of it. After all, there’s a reason you don’t want it, right?
Having a load of negative emotion around your plan B will not be very helpful for you on the day if your birth ends up going that way. Being prepared means that you will be able to change tack without getting all stressy on the day, which would be no good for the hormonal cocktail that keeps labour moving.
So you see; being clear AND savvy on both birth options is important work! Start seeking out the information you need that will support your birth choices.
Who do you want at your birth? Your partner? Your mother? Friends? Doula? Photographer? Are they are fully briefed and “on the same page” as you?
Pain relief: do you know your options and consequences of their use? How do you feel about accepting pain relief? Does this carry emotional weight? What pain management strategies would you like to adopt?
What methods would you consider to induce labour if required? At what point would you accept an induction? Do you know which methods you’d accept?
What are your fears?
Now that you’re clearer and a bit more savvy about this whole birth lark, you’re in a much better position to tune into any fears you have. My experience tells me that fears around pregnancy and birth usually fall into one of two categories;
- Fear of the unknown – “I’ve never been through this before and I have no idea what to expect”
- Deep-rooted fears – “I’ve read all the birth books but I’m still completely terrified of the thought of x”
Maybe you don’t have any. Early on in pregnancies, this is possible but it may well be because you’re not fully aware of them yet. If you’re feeling confident and excited, that’s brilliant. But don’t make the mistake of denying that you have any fears or pretending that you don’t have any.
Be open to explore this as soon as possible. If you dig for them and don’t find any, then even better. But the last thing you want is for them to pop up in the weeks before you’re due because then you’ll have nearly no time to sort them out.
Perhaps you started with some fears, but now that you’re a bit more savvy, you’re feeling less fearful. Or maybe not! Whichever it is, it’s important to give this some focus so that you put some effort into sorting this out.
Going into your birth with fear is not a good thing because fear has a direct physiological impact on your birthing body;
- Fear will slow labour down, if not stop it altogether, due to the effect it has on your hormones
- Fear can increase the likelihood of you experiencing pain, and/or increase any sensations of pain you have
- Increases likelihood of an instrumental delivery or c-section
As you think about your birth, what fears are you aware of? When you tune into your fears, do they feel strong? Do you notice them in your body?
What is contributing to your fear? Friends or family sharing stories? Things you’ve read?
Boost your birth confidence
There are always two sides to everything. I talked about fears, well the flip side to that is confidence. They both affect each other; the more you have of one, the less you have of the other, so we’re going to help you to tip the balance and stack the odds in your favour.
Find ways that you can boost your birth confidence. No matter how you feel about birth, feeling even MORE confident about it can only help.
Your level of confidence going into your birth is crucial, so finding ways to boost your birth confidence is an important step. This will differ for everyone but might include things like;
- Start listening to positive birth stories
- Stop listening to the scary ones
- Listen to the Fear Free Childbirth Podcast! Or indeed other podcasts 😉
- Seek out positive and balanced sources of birth information
- Create firm boundaries with people who aren’t supportive or encouraging
- Write birth affirmations and post them around your home
- Get even more savvy about the birth process
- Find brilliant and supportive people to be on your birthing team
- Edit your Facebook stream to limit the scary stuff and boost the positive stuff
- Join supportive Facebook groups like the Fear Free Childbirth Facebook Group
- Read birth books
- Watch some birth documentaries
The great thing about many of these is that they’re free. But, they do require persistent action.
Think about how confident do you feel RIGHT NOW? What thoughts do you have around birth? How does birth and motherhood make you feel?
What has the potential to sap your birth confidence? Fear? Lack of support? Lack of knowledge? Lack of encouragement?
Identify your birthing tools
One thing that will help you to boost your confidence going into your birth is having a bunch of tools you can use to help you cope with what’s happening and to stay in your birthing bubble. This applies no matter what kind of birth you’re working towards.
The most obvious thing that people want help with is pain management. The thing is, pain is as much as a mindset thing as it is a physical thing, and when it comes to birth, this is even more so.
With a lot of these techniques, you will need to practise using them. It’s when you have confidence in your techniques that you boost your birth confidence. They need to be second nature to you on the day so time spent practising is worth it. And remember, it’s not just you who has to prepare in this way; your birthing partner needs to too!
I’m going to break this down a bit, so that it’s easier for you to find things that can help you;
Pain management techniques are the most common ones that are worth doing your homework on as there are quite a few for you to choose from. Acupressure and massage can be really helpful for pain and is an ideal way for your partner to get involved and feel like they have an important role.
Being relaxed will help you to manage the tension that may arise which in turn will help you to minimise the pain. Things can help you to relax include breathing, listening to music or hypnosis tracks, or applying pressure on acupressure points.
This is more about helping you to keep your mind clear of fear and focussed on the birth. The aim here is to minimise mental chatter and negative self-talk, but be clear of emotion so that you can tune into your body. Having some fear-clearance or positivity boosting techniques will help to boost your confidence. Breathing can also help you to keep your mind clear.
Alexia supports families planning pregnancy and birth. She helps them to overcome their fears and feel calm and confident about birth and pregnancy.
Alexia also trains birth professionals in the Fearless Birthing, a unique approach to birth preparation that is ideal for those who have fears around birth.