Preparing your mind for birth..?
Giving birth is a huge physical feat, but your mind also has a huge role to play. The power of the mind is a vast subject, but in this blog post we touch upon the power of the mind for labour and birth.
When a woman finds out she is pregnant, she may start taking vitamins, pay attention to her diet and stop drinking alcohol, to keep her body and baby healthy. But how many women think about giving their mindset a makeover?
Birth is a normal, natural event. It is certainly challenging – but we are fortunate that in our culture it is no longer a life-threatening event, thanks to advances in hygiene and antenatal and postnatal care. However, I will take a bet that many women are absolutely terrified of giving birth – and it is no wonder, when you consider what we have been fed all our lives by media, friends and family.
Think about it. Have you ever seen a positive birth on TV, or in a film? Have you heard any positive birth stories from friends (great if you have!)?
When you consider how birth is portrayed on TV, you probably think of something like this: a woman’s waters break dramatically. She clutches her stomach in immediate agony. She is rushed to hospital, in great pain. She lies flat on her back in hospital, screaming, while she is shouted at to ‘Push! Push! Push!’. She is surrounded by people. The baby is ‘delivered’ by staff.
No wonder women are terrified of giving birth! This plus so much more fuels their fear.
The problem is that unless you have given birth positively before, these negative stories and images are the ones your mind will ‘go to’ when you are in labour, and this can dramatically affect how your body works. There is a lot to this, too much for a blog post – but it is explained a little below.
Many of you will have heard of the conscious and subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is like a library, or a memory bank, and its capacity is vast. It stores everything that has ever happened to you, and its function is to store and retrieve data and ensure you respond in the way in which you are ‘programmed’.
If you have not given birth before, the subconscious mind will use whatever reference material it has. For the majority of women this will be what they have seen and heard about birth on TV and from friends and family, or how they have experienced birth before. Usually, though of course not always, this section of their ‘mind library’ is full of negativity. So when a woman goes into labour, the subconscious thinks ‘birth is not safe, it hurts and it’s frightening’, which provokes fear, setting off a chain reaction that can hinder and slow down labour.
The good news is there is a lot you can do to reboot and reprogramme the birth section of your ‘mind library’, just the way you upgrade your mobile phone or computer. You can:
- Stop watching programmes that depict birth negatively. They feed the subconconscious with negative birth fodder that it will access when it is your turn to give birth.
- Watch positive births on YouTube (to do the opposite of the above!) – there are tons out there.
- Consider doing a hypnobirthing course, or reading a book or two on this subject.
- Read positive birth stories on sites such as ‘Tell me a good birth story’, or sign up to Hypnobirthing Facebook pages to have your news feed full of birth positivity (just like mine 🙂 )
- Close your ears to negative birth stories – don’t be afraid to stop someone in their tracks by saying ‘I’d love to hear your birth story once I’ve had my baby’ (unless it is super positive).
- Listen to a hypnobirthing MP3 – even if you are not doing a course. They are just positive guided relaxations. You can fall asleep to them, or listen to the positive affirmations while you get ready for work, cook or potter about. For a fear-release MP3 click here.
- Choose some affirmations that you like, or just make up your own. Pin at least one up where you will notice it each day. Say it out loud, say it in your head. If you think it’s a load of rubbish then say it 10 times more!
- Use visualisation. All the top sports stars use this tool. There is a ton of evidence around it working (again, more on this here).
- Breathing – practise your breathing techniques every day, at random moments such as on a busy train or bus, or when you are feeling wound up by a colleague – as well as before you go to sleep or get out of bed in the morning.
- Positions for labour – reboot the mind so it knows you don’t have to be on your back! Blog post coming soon on this. Practise them alone, with breathing, with your partner.
- Attend a good pregnancy yoga class from as early as possible.
- Knowledge – knowledge is power! After all, if you don’t know your options, you don’t have any. Understand how your amazing body works. Learn what helps and hinders labour.
- Mind your language. As Rudyard Kipling says ‘words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind’. Tune into how you speak to yourself. Are you talking positively to yourself about birth?
To illustrate the power of words, consider this example. You consent to a vaginal examination to see how far your labour has progressed.
Midwife 1: Oh you’re only 5cm dilated, you’ve a long way to go yet I’m afraid!
Midwife 2: Wow! You’re already 5cm dilated! And look how relaxed and calm you are. In no time at all you are going to have your baby in your arms! Well done! Just keep doing what you’re doing because it’s clearly working!
See how one could knock you off your perch and one could buoy you up?
Remember to practise and prepare. You cannot overdo this. You would spend time and effort preparing for a holiday, for a big event, or for a wedding: so why not spend time preparing for the biggest thing you will ever do – giving birth to another human being!