I am a big advocate of positive birth experiences and that includes anything that is positive for the woman in the way she has given birth and in the way she has felt about it.
Our experiences are what we make of them. Like anything in life you get what you put in and I am also a big advocate of actually ‘working’ on making your own birth a positive experience. It is not only a medical experience, it is your body and your mind that are involved and are in charge as well as the rest of everyone else involved from your birth partners to midwives, consultants, etc.
So as far as ‘working’ on making your birth experience positive there are many things you can do.
For my first child I did some of it but not enough, as it transpired afterwards. I did a hypnobirthing course and read the book and did the ‘visualisations’ but they were not enough. On the day labour was long, didn’t progress well and ended with interventions. However through hypnobirthing I learnt to accept the way labour actually went and consider that experience to be positive after all i.e I was not bitter.Second time around I wanted it to be better and foremost I wanted to understand how it actually worked and what were the phases of labour and who actually did the work of birthing the baby.
Understanding the physiology of birth
I learned that the womb functions as a muscle and through the contractions it “brings” the baby down.I was very lucky to find an amazing birth doula who answered all my questions, gave me a lot of handouts to read and talked me through what I was obsessed with “the fear of pain” during childbirth.
As it happened the doula was actually not present during the birth of my second baby (as the baby arrived very quickly) but the conversations with her and the way she explained the birthing process to me were amazing and enough to make me feel confident that i can do it.
The thing I couldn’t get my head around was how could I go through labour, something which seemed similar to an operation in the sense of pain without any pain relief or anaesthetic.
And this is what I learned.I learned that my body and mind have an amazing mechanism of coping with pain. As long as the woman is not “scared” or in a state of “panic” (which encourages the productions of adrenaline) but is “relaxed” and “in a zone of trust” (that encourages the production of oxytocin, the love hormone and also the hormone that facilitates childbirth), the brighting process will happen as it does, based on pure physiology.
This completely changed my perception of childbirth and made me believe that “I can do it”, ‘my body can do it” and as a result “took away the fear” from me.
The altered perception of pain
From the notes my doula gave me there was a section about the physiology of birth and somewhere in there about the “altered perception of pain” which is something that happens in the brain.
So during labour there are two types of messages that reach the brain.One is the pain from the contractions and the other is the ‘I can cope with this” signal transmitted after going through a contraction. Apparently this second message reaches the brain faster than the first causing what is known as the “altered perception of pain”, or in simpler terms less pain.
Dimmed lights, music, massage can help getting into that state and once there, it is easier to continue labour, feeling encouraged and euphoric.So for me, once I got my head around it I felt that I could actually do it as my body has the capacity of doing it, nothing to do with me but just in the same way as my ability to breathe or for my blood to circulate in my body.
This understanding turned me from someone scared to give birth to someone that can understand the process and thinks “I can do it”, “it is possible to do it”.
What I needed was to be in that state of confidence and belief for as much as possible. It also made me realise that giving birth is not like an operation because it is a part of the body’s function and the body is built around that, and giving birth is not an external thing but completely internal.
The excitement of seeing the baby and the knowledge that the baby is what I am going to have at the end of this, made the journey acceptable and even exciting.
Other things you can do to get ready for birth
- A healthy diet
- Having a daily rest
- Lots of relaxing baths
- Sleeping on the left side – especially after week 32 it is thought to encourage the baby to position itself in an optimal position for birth which is OA (occiput anterior which means baby’s back against your tummy)
- Reflexologie sessions I did for both my children as they were both late.
- Swimming regularly
- Homeopathic remedies – I swear by colophylum for a quick and efficient labour. I took it for a week, after my due date with baby nr 2 and I believe it made my labour faster.
- Perineal massage with almond oil – another thing I I swear by, for reducing the risk of tearing. I had no tears the second time round.
- Listening to Yoga Nidra relaxation tracks – the Yoga Nidra Network has a number of them online and free.
- Maggie Howell Natal Hypnotherapy CD – you can download the album from Itunes and that’s what I did just before going into labour with my second baby. I listened to the track as I got into bed. It did something magical to me, it send me to sleep for 2 hours and by the time I woke up I was in active labour and only 2 hours 45 minutes after that the baby was born at home in our lounge, on my yoga mat.
- Having a great birthing partner – for me it was my husband and he did an amazing job, massaging my back and thighs, holding me during contractions and being in charge at home, on his own. The plan was for us to meet the doula in the hospital but we had no time, by the time I woke up. So we stayed at home, paramedics arrived in the last 20 minutes to catch the baby and it was ‘unbelievable’.
So what about you, what has your birth experience been? Do you feel that having a positive birth experience matters? And how have you made it so. I would love to hear about it.