You may not be able to control your labour experience, but you can most definitely prepare for childbirth. I am going talk you through the best ways you can prepare for childbirth, both physically and mentally.
1. Prepare Your Pelvic Floor.
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again…the mighty pelvic floor! This is because the pelvic floor really is a critical component in childbirth. The pelvic floor is a muscle that needs to contract and relax to work optimally. Learning how to do this correctly during your pregnancy will both prepare you for childbirth and assist your recovery.
During a vaginal birth, your pelvic floor muscles need to relax and then stretch to accommodate for your baby’s head. If you do not know how to mentally connect with your pelvic floor, and relax it, then you might find that your muscles tense up and contract in response to pain during labour. As you can probably imagine, this makes childbirth much harder as you are pushing against resistance. The key to preventing this is to connect with your pelvic floor prior to labour, and work on releasing/relaxing/softening/letting go of these muscles so you can adopt the same strategy during labour. A great way to achieve this is doing diaphragmatic breathing described below.
To assist your recovery after childbirth, it’s also important that you exercise your pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and strengthen them as much as possible. By exercising, I mean contracting your pelvic floor, holding for your endurance and then relaxing the muscles completely. Strong pelvic floor muscles that function optimally during pregnancy have been shown to prevent prolapse and incontinence after childbirth – something every woman wants!
To learn how to correctly exercise your pelvic floor, grab my FREE Guide.
As well as downloading my free pelvic floor guide, make sure you see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
2. Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing.
Breathing as an exercise is overlooked in my opinion. It can be viewed as “boring” because it doesn’t feel like it gives immediate benefit. But, this isn’t the case at all. Performed correctly, diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the Vagus Nerve, which stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System, calming the nervous system and reducing heart rate. Diaphragmatic breathing also brings about relaxation in the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, which is what we want to achieve in the lead up to labour.
As well as being physically beneficial, breathing exercises encourage mindfulness, as your mind can connect to the breath in and out of your nose, staying in the present moment. You can also connect with the sensations that come along with your breath to distract yourself from your wandering mind, such as the sound of your breath and the expansive feeling inside your body.
To learn diaphragmatic breathing click here.
During labour, research shows that breathing exercises reduce labour pain perception and shorten second stage of labour. This just shows how doing simple breathing exercises in the lead up to birth and throughout labour can make a big difference to your birth experience!
3. Use the Epi-no.
This is one device every pregnant woman needs to get her hands on! The epi-no is an inflatable balloon device that pregnant woman can use to prepare the perineal (superficial muscles of the pelvic floor) for childbirth from 36 weeks. The epi-no is inserted into the vagina, and the woman uses a pump to slowly inflate the balloon, stretching her perineal muscle. This teaches the muscle how to stretch to accommodate for the baby’s head. The stretching is not permanent, but instead increases the flexibility of the muscle, and familiarises the woman with the sensation of being stretched. This has been proven to reduce women’s anxiety levels surrounding childbirth. Studies have also shown that the epi-no prevents perineal injury i.e. episiotomy (cutting of the perineal) or perineal tearing.
Hundreds of my pregnant clients have used the epi-no with amazing results i.e. no perineal injury. Of course, using the epi-no is not a guarantee, but another tool to best prepare you.
To find out more on the epi-no click here.
4. Exercise Regularly.
Exercise in pregnancy goes deeper than feeling and looking good during pregnancy; it is an essential ingredient to prepare you for labour.
Being fit and strong enough to have an active birth is incredibly important. It will help you manage the pain, have the endurance to get through labour, and maximise your recovery.
The key is to incorporate both cardiovascular fitness and muscle strengthening into your exercise regime. What exercise you do will depend on what you enjoy, but I believe a good mixture of exercise is brisk walking, swimming or aqua aerobics, and Pilates and Yoga. To read more on safe exercise during pregnancy click here.
5. Attend a Birth Course (with your partner).
Mental preparation is equally as important as physical preparation for birth. There can be a lot of fear surrounding childbirth, which has been instilled by the media and others women’s experiences. It’s essential that pregnant woman work on shifting their mindset from being fear based to understanding the purpose of pain during labour. Well renowned birth courses that educate and empower you can help you make this mindset shift.
I highly recommend:
The birth course also educates and empowers your partner, which is imperative during labour, as they too can understand what is going on, and how to best support you.
6. Educate Yourself.
In addition to a birth course, I also recommend diving into a few other resources to re-iterate the course, and familiarise yourself further with the concepts. Remember, the point of educating yourself is to empower yourself with knowledge, not to overwhelm yourself, so be careful not to access an excess of books, websites or podcasts.
Understanding the birth process is crucial. It’s important to know what each sensation and stage of labour means within your body, as this gives purpose to your pain. Viewing labour pain as healthy pain with purpose of bringing life into the world can shift your body’s reaction to pain and facilitate the birthing process.
Here are a few great resources I recommend:
Meditation is a powerful technique at all life stages, particularly during your childbearing years when there is so much uncertainty. Meditation calms your mind, helping it from running rampant to all the different ‘what if’ scenarios that could happen during childbirth. It helps you to accept what you can’t control and to embrace uncertainty rather than resist it. Because at the end of the day, anything can happen during your birthing experience, and it’s important for you to adapt to any changes that deviate from your birth plan.
Remember, childbirth is one part of the journey, and we can’t lose sight of the end result, having a baby and entering into motherhood. A new mother has a myriad of changes and challenges she is faced with both physically and mentally. Meditation can help new mums to stay grounded as they transition into motherhood. Meditating pre-pregnancy and during pregnancy will aid this further, as the effects of meditation accrue with time.
There are many different types of meditation, so it’s important to find one that works for you. To prepare for childbirth, Hypnobirthing is a way to achieve relaxation and reduce fear associated with childbirth. It is involves self-guided relaxation, which can lead to deep hypnosis or meditative state. This might sound like a whole lot of “woo-woo” to you, but it’s worth trying! There are guided audios you can listen to each week and positive affirmations you can say. Because our mind and body are so intimately connected, if you can work on shifting your mindset on pain before labour begins, you may facilitate a more positive birthing experience.
Here are two apps to try:
As you have probably noticed, a common theme in my top tips to prepare for childbirth has been around shifting our mindset, and therefore it deserves a whole point to itself! Our mindset really does influence every aspect of our life. I am a big believer in personal development and manifestation, and the positive impact these can have.
I believe that energy flows where our focus goes. If we focus on negative birth stories we hear and how scared we are about labour, then we are more likely to attract this into our life. I realize this might be a new concept for you, and I ask you to stay open to the idea of manifestation! Try it during your pregnancy. Firstly get really clear on what you want to attract, and start working on your relationship with childbirth. Then write down or say in your head how your birth experience is going to go, as if it were happening. For example “My birth experience is beautiful. I am connected to my breath and using strategies to help me get through the contractions. I trust my body is capable of this extraordinary feat, and I surrender control to the process.” Now close your eyes and feel the sensations of love, flow and surrender inside your whole being, and then let it go. This last step, letting it go, is crucial. Manifestation is not about attachment, and desperately holding onto an outcome. It’s about putting our desires out into the universe, really feeling it as if it were happening, and then letting it go.
To make one thing clear, I am not implying that you can simply think yourself into having a positive birth experience. However, I am saying that mindset and manifestation are pieces of the birth preparation puzzle.
9. Create a Support Team.
You need a support team around you that will assist you achieving optimal health during your pregnancy and going into labour. The practitioners you choose as part of your team will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Here is a list of practitioners I recommend:
- Women’s Health Physiotherapist
- Integrative GP
- Massage Therapist
You might also consider working with a:
- Kinesiologist or Energy Worker
The key to a support team is continuity of care, trust and comfort. You need to feel supported and comfortable throughout your pregnancy and childbirth journey, so make sure you choose your team wisely.
Well, there you have it, 9 Must-Have Tips to Prepare for Childbirth! If you have any questions about any of the above strategies, feel free to email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.