First thing’s first- as I always tell my clients, there are no guaranteed results in pregnancy and birth. Anyone who tells you that if you put xyz in you will get your dream outcome is having you on. We cannot know how our circumstances may evolve, or what challenges we may face.
But. We can be well prepared to meet any bump in the road with confidence, calmness and clarity, feeling well supported, safe and strong. And this is what I’m talking about. This is what positive birth really means.
Leading nicely into step
- Find your local Positive Birth Movement group. Click here to read Founder Milli Hill’s definition of a positive birth. And get a sense of what you could gain from going along. The groups are free to attend, meet monthly and the movement is linked up by social media. They are a great place to connect with other pregnant women and mamas, find out about what support services are available locally to you, and often, there’s cake available.
- Get a doula. A do-what, you ask? Doula UK explains here. It may surprise you to learn that having a doula, a woman you know, like and trust as part of your birth support team is shown to improve outcomes by reducing your risk of intervention. Here’s a summary of some evidence suggesting continuous support from a doula could reduce the chances of a c-section by a staggering 28%, amongst other positive indicators. There’s far more to it than this, of course, as positive needn’t mean low intervention. The emotional benefits are difficult to capture. I send my local clients along for a chat with Lynsey Calvert at Mothering Matters, and she will recommend that you meet with a few doulas in order to find the right fit.
- Physical preparation. Strengthening, gaining an awareness of your changing body, your pelvic floor and core, understanding how you can use your breath. Preparing with a well qualified pregnancy specialist provides real benefits. Pregnancy Pilates is my favoured method- under the watch of my amazing colleague Jade West. I have never really done any exercise before (does it count if you get out of breath and sweaty when dancing?) but it is so straightforward to build into every day life and feel a difference. (I don’t mean taking 15 mins for myself before the sun rises- I have a 2 yr old, we are often eating lunch before the sun rises… I’m talking simple steps that change the way you move). And she knows SO MUCH about our bodies. And she runs postnatal groups where you take your baby along and continue the good work *winning*. I’ve also really enjoyed some pregnancy yoga with Clare Curtis which I’ve found calming and relieving, she is a pleasure to be guided by. Being connected to your body will support you in labour, and postnatally, and gives you another fab opportunity to connect with other pregnant women.
- Engage your partner. Birth has historically been supported by females- our mothers, aunties, sisters, gathering around us with womanly wisdom and comforts. We don’t live this way any longer, the village is spread far and wide, and for most of us, our partner is likely to be the one we expect to rely upon in labour. We do a lot of prep for ourselves, we are instinctively drawn to it, but how do we help our men folk to support us? I advise all my gang to get some of the influence of Mark Harris in their lives via his fantastic book, Men, Love & Birth. As an experienced male midwife, father and grandfather, no man understands birth better. The book is by a man, for men, and I repeatedly get rave reviews. Since reading the book, I’ve had dads instilling confidence in their partner’s home birth plans, encouraging them to get their placentas encapsulated, and enlightening the other dads at their NCT group. And the more subtle things- the mamas report a shift in their partners’ perspectives and attitudes towards them. They just get it- what you want from them, need from them, and the confidence that they can deliver. It sits nicely alongside the message I bring them via…
- Hypnobirthing. Come on, you didn’t think it wasn’t going to get a mention, did you? For me, this is where it all comes together. For many couples who attend my courses, I’m the one introducing them to most, if not all, of the previous 4 points. So before we even get into why hypnobirthing itself is a great plan, I would say that’s a good start. I read an interesting thread on a birth related group recently debating whether hypnobirthing always contributes to positive experiences, or whether it places a burden of expectation on mothers. Of course, this can’t be a good thing. I would suggest that this can be an issue, (I’ve read women’s stories telling me so) and it’s why it’s important to choose a teacher whose message speaks to you and fits your needs. I conjured up a list of Qs to consider here (and interviewed myself for your convenience…) In my view, hypnobirthing exists to undo the negativity (and perhaps, oppression) we are subjected to over a lifetime when it comes to preparing for birth. It’s a way to tackle the fear, confront the stereotypes with evidence, and take responsibility for our choices. It offers us tools to do this calmly, and to create the optimal state of mind and body for labour to function smoothly, and as comfortably as possible. It engages our partners, and our babies, and makes us a team. I tell my gorgeous bunch, “whatever you do is right, if you do it from a well informed and respected place”, and you’ll find amongst the Birth Stories a spectrum of outcomes, with all the mamas declaring the rewards of hypnobirthing.
Sound manageable? In short, get informed, get supported, get physical, get confident. You’ve got this. #birthpositive