Staying relaxed and calm during the birth of your baby will always be of benefit to both you, your baby and those around you. This is true no matter what kind of birth you plan or end up having.
Whether it’s a natural birth, a planned caesarean or an emergency c-section, staying calm is always key.
But why is staying calm so important in childbirth?
When we are stressed, not only does it FEEL unpleasant but, if you’re giving birth naturally, the birth process does not work as well. The birth process works best when we are relaxed.
For labour progress well, we need Oxytocin (the hormone of love) to be abundant.
We need to feel the love; from our caregivers, from our birth partners and towards ourselves and our babies. When we feel stressed, we can’t produce the magic hormone, oxytocin so our labour slows down or stops. You may have heard the term ‘failure to progress’? Chances are that women who receive this diagnosis are simply not being given an environment their labour can progress in. Put simply, getting stressed puts the brakes on our own labour.
So if we get fired up, scared, panicky or frightened in the birth room or if we feel inhibited or embarrassed, labour will not progress as it should. When we are stressed, a complex cascade of hormones are produced including ephedrine (adrenaline) and cortisol is produced and this works against oxytocin, the love hormone that helps us feel calm and connected. Whilst our hormones are responsible for these feelings, there are things we can do to ward off the fear
and bring on the love.
So how can you maintain focus, bring on the love and stay relaxed?
1. Use Your Breath
You need to breathe; slowly, evenly and deeply. When we are stressed our breathing becomes quicker and shallower.
Consciously choosing to keep your breathing slow, deep, even and gentle, even though the surges might be strong, essentially overrides the fear and tricks the body into being and feeling relaxed.
Plenty of practice using your breath in a deep and controlled way will help you access this state of mind and being when you really need it, like during the birth of your baby.
Ensuring that your out-breath is longer than your in-breath will help to produce the right hormones to make the birth work more effectively; In for a count of 7, out for a count of 11.
If you do a hypnobirthing course you will get plenty of practice. You will practice on the course as well as at home.
You will receive guided relaxation scripts and can practice them with your birth partner so you get to associate the sound of their voice with being relaxed.
Or you can use a hypnobirthing CD to get into the swing of totally relaxing your mind and body.
When your mind and body is totally relaxed, your breathing will automatically be deep and slow.
This ensures the muscles you need to give birth to your baby get plenty of oxygen.
2. Have A Mental Toolkit
Having a toolkit to deal with the sensations you’ll feel when giving birth childbirth may be helpful.
Counting your breaths is one way but after what may be hours and hours of laborious counting it can get pretty boring.
So, having other tools in your kit can really help.
Your mental toolkit might consist of words or affirmations. Positive statements you have practiced so they are able to come to you easily. For example; ‘Each surge brings me closer to my baby’ or ‘All I need to do is relax and breathe and nothing else.’ Having them written out in prominent places around your house will enable them to be brought to the forefront of your mind more easily when it comes to your baby’s birth day.
You might also want to use some visualisations. Creating pictures in your mind, helps the mind to focus. For example, using the ‘Up Breathing’ and ‘Down Breathing’ techniques you use in KG Hypnobirthing, uses the breathing in conjunction with visualisations.
For example, in the first part of labour you might imagine bubbles rising on the in-breath and then as you breathe out imagine blowing the bubbles gently away.
This kind of breathe works with what your body is actually doing, i.e. the vertical muscles of the uterus are drawing up to expel your baby means you can work with your body as opposed to against it.
On the hypnobirthing course, we practice this breathing with some different kinds of visualisations to see which one works best for you.
Releasing any fears or doubts you may have by acknowledging them and taking action can be really helpful too. We go int more detail as to how to do this on the course.
3. Think Carefully About Your Planned Place Of Birth
I always say to my clients, keep an open mind and consider all your options when choosing place of birth.
The environment you give birth in is important because the outcomes are differ in different places.
Many people instantly dismiss a homebirth and don’t even consider it as an option. But more and more women are choosing the luxury of having the midwives come out to them. Even if you need to transfer, you’d be making that journey anyway. The midwives want you to stay at home ‘for as long as possible’ because they know that labouring somewhere where you feel relaxed is helpful. You are likely to have more privacy and familiarity at home.
In days gone by, most people gave birth at home. Giving birth in hospital was only for the wealthy; a status symbol. Home births were for peasants, those who can’t afford it.
And yet, believe it or not, the transfer from predominantly home births to predominantly hospital births was built on shaky evidence.
In 1970, the Peel Report recommended 100% hospital confinement for all women. No one asked the women where they would prefer to give birth and no strong evidence was presented to back up their case to provide hospital beds for all women giving birth.
You can read this brilliant account from Beverley Beech of The Association For Improving Maternity Services: http://bit.ly/AIMSPeelReport
Almost overnight, after the Peel Report women started to opt to give birth in a hospital seeing it as the safest option. The perceived safety of hospital births have become so engrained in our culture it’s hard to set aside our conditioning so we can look at the facts and make a truly informed choice about where we would like to give birth to our babies.
Here is a table produced by the NICE guidelines that helps women considered low risk to make the decision about where to give birth: http://bit.ly/NICEPlaceOfBirthTable
You will see that PLANNING to give birth in hospital increases your chances of having an instrumental delivery (forceps or ventouse), an episiotomy, a c-section and you are more likely to be given spinal or epidural analgesia which has side effects to both you and baby. Planning to give birth at home is AS SAFE for your baby as giving birth in hospital if it’s your second or more baby (3 adverse outcomes in 1000).
If it’s your first baby, there’s an increased risk of adverse outcomes for your baby (from 5/1000 to 9/1000) if you plan to give birth at home. However, when making your decision, do take into account, the considerable increase in adverse outcomes for you if you plan a hospital birth. For example, your chances of having an instrumental delivery go from 126/1000 to 191/1000, an episiotomy (that’s being cut) go from 165/1000 to 242/1000, having a caesarian go from 80/1000 to 121/1000 and having an epidural go from 218/1000 to 349/1000. That’s quite a hike, right? And something, we might not immediately consider when choosing our place of birth.
It’s always worth considering the risks as well as the chances everything will be just fine. Being well prepared stacks the odds in your favour.
Hospital protocol is ‘risk averse’.
The reasons for the increase in intervention when planning a hospital birth are complex. Hospital protocol is ‘risk averse’. They would rather do more than do less. The truth is they need to cover their arse. They need to be seen to be doing something rather than ‘allowing’ you have the time and space your body needs to give birth to your baby. In short, they often intervene too quickly. And quite frankly women are not being prepared enough in mainstream education for them to get through their baby’s births safely with minimum complication.
The World Health Organisation states that in a Western Country the rate of Caesarian should be no more than 8%. And yet in the UK it is 26.2-32%. Therefore, there is a great deal of unnecessary intervention. The reasons for the high caesarian rate again are numerous but a fear of litigation, women’s requests for caesarians and a perception that caesarians are a safe option are among them. It’s major abdominal surgery so after effects are not benign; increased risk of infection and pain at the incision are among the after effects. Interestingly, there is a wide variety across countries. In Cyprus it is 52% and in 17% in Sweden so how your baby is likely to come out really is a lottery.
If you plan your birth in hospital, there is an increase chance you’ll end up having ‘pain’ relief. What is this about?
4 key ingredients for a swift and manageable natural birth:
- Trust and confidence in the birth process
- Feeling ‘safe’
- Being undisturbed as undisturbed as possible so you can focus your entire concentration on what you need to do
- Feeling unobserved and
- Not feeling inhibited so you can allow your body to do it’s job.
Consider the environment where you are likely to get these things? Will being in your own space decrease the likelihood of strangers walking in, being poked, prodded, measured and monitored and feeling pressured by the time constraints put upon you?
So all in all, think carefully about which road you are going to take when planning your baby’s birth.
I see the tide turning and women taking more control of their own baby’s births and making decisions different from the generation before us. Yes, of course take into consideration what medical professionals say but ultimately, all the decisions are yours. It helps to be fully in possession of the evidence. Only you walk in your shoes.
4. Think Carefully About Who Will Be With You
I can’t stress the importance of having someone with you enough who knows the score. A birth partner who understands what is happening and is there for you. Someone to bring you what you need, to stay calm and above all, stay connected to you. Making sure your birth partner is well versed in how to be a birth partner is so important.
I highly recommend this book, Men, Love and Birth by the male midwife, Mark Harris. It’s the book that every pregnant women wants her lover to read! http://www.pinterandmartin.com/men-love-and-birth.html and it’s a book all dads on my KG hypnobirthing course receive:-)
And, of course, there is always the possibility of having a doula. A doula is birth guide, like a sherpa who stays with you throughout labour and birth. They help you discover what you want from your birth experience and do their best to help you to get it. They help you obtain information, and can support you both practically and emotionally. You can find out more about what doulas do and whether you want one here: http://bit.ly/FindAnAceDoula
So that’s about all from me. Feel free to stay in touch. Follow my Page on Facebook: Birth You In Love or join my newly created little closed Facebook group, The Birth You In Love Share Shack http://bit.ly/PregnancySupportMcrandCheshire.
O and my next 4 week Hypnobirthing group course starts on January 26 in Chorlton, Manchester. There is a couple of spaces left. You can find out more about here. And fantastic news, we have a very special guest. Mark Harris will actually be joining us on Week 3 to talk about how birth partners can be the best possible birth partners!
And I am also taking names to reserve your space on the April Hypnobirthing Birth Preparation Course course as well.
Private 1:1 courses available too on request.
You might want to sign up for my newsletter for more tips and tricks to guide you to a confident and relaxed birth.
Massive Love, Kati x