Childbirth can be one of the most challenging experiences of your life, both physically and mentally. But by planning ahead and staying in control, you can ensure that your childbirth experience becomes one that you’ll remember fondly rather than with dread. In order to help you stay in control during childbirth, here are 10 things you can do to prepare yourself mentally and physically.
1) Keep Calm
No matter how tough or powerful your partner or doctor may seem, you’re still a vital part of what’s going on. You need to relax and breathe deeply while they handle most of it. Relaxation helps you stay strong and balanced, which will make your childbirth go more smoothly. Breathing deeply helps you slow down your heart rate and blood pressure, helping you feel more calm. The more relaxed and calm you are, the less likely you are to have complications during labor.
2) Take deep breaths
Taking deep breaths can reduce stress and anxiety levels, allowing you to stay calm and composed during labor. Before you go into labor, make sure that your breathing is strong and smooth so that it will be there for you when you need it most. Practice slow breathing exercises every day as a way of preparing yourself for childbirth.
3) Practice having your child during labor
You know that practice makes perfect—and preparing for birth is no different. Practice having your child during labor by imagining how you’ll breathe and what position you’ll want. This will give you an idea of what to expect when it actually happens, so that things go as smoothly as possible.
4) Use distractions
It’s common for women who are about to give birth, and even those who have just delivered a baby, to experience increased heart rate and blood pressure. Staying calm is key during these times. Make sure your partner is with you at all times and talk about distracting things that have nothing to do with childbirth. That way, you’ll be less likely to stress out or panic during delivery.
5) Have your partner support you
Giving birth can be a very daunting and stressful experience. Having your partner support you by holding your hand, massaging your shoulders, or simply providing emotional support can greatly help you stay calm and relaxed during childbirth. Your partner can also help manage pain by making sure that you’re breathing properly and watching for signs of distress.
6) Don’t be afraid to ask for pain relief
Being afraid to ask for pain relief during childbirth is a common problem for many women, who believe they’ll be considered a bad mother if they request medication. In reality, giving birth is extremely painful and all women should feel comfortable asking for extra help as needed. If your child is safe, then you are free to focus on your own comfort – which will allow you to stay calm and composed throughout childbirth.
7) Ask if you can walk around
If you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed, it’s totally normal to ask for a break from your contraction work. If your healthcare provider says it’s okay, you can walk around (on your own or with help) during contractions. You can also get a massage, take an ice bath or take a soothing bath (especially if you like water). Even just resting for 20 minutes between contractions can make all of those hours much more bearable.
8) Focus on how far you have come
Never doubt that you can handle anything your baby throws at you, because once you’ve reached your current state of pregnancy, you’ve already overcome so many challenges. I remember people telling me that my third labor would be over quickly—I didn’t believe them! When it came time for delivery and I was stuck in a seemingly endless active phase of labor, I breathed deeply and told myself: You have come so far. You have handled every single challenge.
9) Rest between contractions
When labor starts, your body will experience contractions at regular intervals. If you’re going through natural childbirth, it’s important to learn how to rest between contractions. That doesn’t mean take a nap. That means pause and focus on deep breathing or other relaxing activities that don’t require much physical effort. Your partner might rub your back or give you a massage.
10) Listen to music
Music can help distract you from childbirth’s many challenging noises. Make a CD or playlist of songs that will motivate you and empower you, like Fight Song by Rachel Platten or I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. You might also try putting on relaxing music, like Beethoven, Handel or Mozart; studies have shown these composers calm people during times of stress.