Above: Learning to relax deeply is a key birth preparation
Birth is a normal function of the body, and like other functions of the body, it is designed to work. When it does, we call that health.
Like other functions of the body, however, birth is also subject to dysfunction and disease occasionally.
We know that we cannot control how well the body functions, but we can support the body to give ourselves the best chance for health – we can make our own luck – and minimize the possibility of disease and dysfunction. Birth is the same.
My previous post explains the most important plans to make in order to make your own luck in birth. I told you how to 1) choose a provider and 2) a birth place that already deliver the kind of maternity care you want to receive, and I told why and how to 3) hire a doula.
Today’s post gives you the other half of the healthy birth equation: how to prepare your body and mind.
- Prepare Your Body by Making Your Health Your Priority. The mother’s underlying health is the single greatest contributing factor to a healthy pregnancy and birth.
You know that already, don’t you? General information on healthy eating and exercising habits is widely available, and you’re an educated woman, so I won’t rehash that here. I’m also sure your maternity care provider has given you specific guidelines, too.
My question to you is, What is the thing that you know you should be doing but haven’t taken action on? What specifically are you resisting?
This answer is going to be unique to everyone, but resistance itself is not unique. Behind all resistance is fear. What are you afraid of? Here are some common answers to that question and some ways to get around the excuses:
- “It will be hard.” Honey, one of the biggest lessons that birth and motherhood will teach you is that you are a person who can do hard things. What are your proudest accomplishments? You would not be proud of them if they had come easily. Think also of how you accomplished these feats. Break down the actions you took and use the same template for this thing. If it worked for you once, it will work again.
- “I don’t know where to start.” You know what they say about eating an elephant. . . one bite at a time! My teacher Martha Beck suggests making your first “bite” laughably small and easy, then repeat it until it’s too easy and you want to do more. For example, if you want to exercise, replace one elevator trip each day with walking the stairs, or have a friend walk with you for ten minutes after lunch. Small, easy actions help you overcome inertia and build momentum.
- “It may not be worth the trouble.” Consider how long you have wanted to do this thing. You’ll gain so much time and energy if you just do it. One of my favorite coaches, Brooke Castillo, says, “Stop indulging in indecision. Give yourself the gift of commitment.” Your peace of mind and personal satisfaction are worth it, regardless of any other outcomes that flow from your actions.
- Prepare Your Mind by Taking a Birth Class That Teaches You How to Breathe and Relax. Deep breathing and deep relaxation will help you to have a healthier birth by helping you manage the effects of fear and work with your body.
The intensity of labor will frighten you the first time you experience it. Our culture also teaches you, through popular media, to be afraid of labor. Fear, however, causes dysfunction in labor by inhibiting labor hormones and causes pain by creating muscular tension. Breathing and relaxation techniques that are specially designed for birth will prevent fear from having these negative effects on your labor. They also will help you work with your birthing body, so that your labor will be more efficient and comfortable.
I adore HypnoBirthing for this – it’s what I learned and worked so well for me. But all childbirth educators understand how important relaxation and trust are to the progress of labor. Ask a potential teacher how much you’ll learn. If she only teaches medical management of pain and what the hospital will “let” you do, find another teacher.
Pregnancy and birth are taxing to the body, and labor will push your mind to its limits. When you have prepared body and mind in these ways, as well as made plans to be abundantly supported throughout your labor, you give yourself the best possible chance for a healthy birth. And if your birth does not go to plan due to factors beyond your control – if you are unlucky – these plans and preparations will help you to feel satisfied with your birth even so.
P.S. Please see “The Physiology of Postpartum Thriving,” “Ten Steps to Postpartum Thriving,” and “The Last Piece of the Postpartum Puzzle,” for my tips on how to prepare for a gentle, joyful postpartum, too!
What health changes did you make while you were pregnant? Did you use deep breathing and relaxation, too? Please share your tips for healthy, satisfying birth!