How to have a positive birth experience in 2021
Lucianne Hughes, (@TheSunshine_Doula) is a postpartum doula, a wife and a mum to two girls. Here she gives helpful tips on how to have a positive birth experience in 2021.
No matter what restrictions are in place, or what type of birth you have, every experience has the potential to be a positive one. Feeling empowered, cared for and listened to are key to a positive experience and what follows are some practical tips and recommendations to add to your labour toolkit.
Birth preparation is key. Knowledge is power and empowered is how you want to feel when birthing your baby. Your body is designed to do this so you, your birthing partner or anyone else who is by your side during labour should believe in this too.
Reading about and understanding the different stages of labour prepares our mind for what is happening throughout each one. My favourite book is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin. She includes lots of information and jaw-dropping statistics as well as gorgeous birth stories (which I found addictive!) If you’re looking for some Irish birth stories, check out @positivebirthireland and @irelandsbirthstories.
While your hospitals may provide antenatal workshops it’s worth looking into (and paying for) additional workshops that have the scope to provide a lot more time and information. Breathing techniques combined with a positive mindset is key for birth. You want to feel as calm as possible throughout labour, using your breath to help you through each surge, something that is taught in these workshops. They are also a really great opportunity to involve your birth partner. There are so many available online (and when restrictions are lifted, in person). Examples include : Active birth, Hypnobirthing, Gentlebirth along with others.
Active Birth is what resonated most with my husband and I. This approach focuses on moving around during your labour . The natural positions your body instinctively wants to move into helps your baby move down the birth canal e.g. standing, lunging, sitting on the birthing ball, etc. We worked with Lou Horgan of @louhorganyoga Active Birth workshop for both of our babies and adored it. Lorraine Lozano of @GlobeBabyDoula is incredibly informed and passionate. Check out her “Preparing for Birth” & VBAC workshops.
Hypnobirthing is another birthing method that supports the mind/body connection which enables us to manage our perception of pain. Kitty Hackel of @birth_baby_beyond is a hypnobirthing educator and all-round birthworld legend. You could also try some meditation apps like Calm or Headspace to help you meditate and learn how to connect to your breath.
Body & Mind
Labour is like a marathon and you wouldn’t rock up to race day without any training would you? As well as strengthening your body, being physically prepared for birth helps you to connect to your body so you really become attuned to what is going on. Staying active throughout pregnancy also helps your body to build the stamina for labour. I loved pre and post-natal pilates
I also enjoyed @reformpilates & @eurekatherapy antenatal aqua classes. Pam Davis @pamjdavis is so informative in both pre and post natal pilates. Babs Chaney @babs.c.yoga holds beautiful prenatal yoga classes. I highly recommend following them on Instagram and if you can get a place in their classes, nab it! Antenatal classes* really help to get your mind into the right space throughout pregnancy.
Communication is another essential part of a positive birth experience. Talking about what you want from your labour to your birthing partner, midwives, consultants, doulas, and anyone who is going to be near you during your birth is a key part of preparation.
Make sure that you and your birthing partner talk about what you expect from your labour. There may be times when you can’t express what you want to say or how you feel, so your birthing partner will have to be your voice.
One of the best ways to communicate clearly what your goals are before, during and after delivery is to write a birth preference list. Things you could include on this are: eating or drinking during active labour, being able to walk around, what pain medication (if any), delayed cord clamping and so much more. This is something that is usually covered in the antenatal workshops I mentioned and there are lots of sample birth preference lists available online. I really like the one provided by AIMS Ireland.
It is important to know that no matter how much planning you do, sometimes birth can take a different course from the one that you had envisaged and intervention may be necessary for the safety of you and/or your baby. In this instance, it is still important that you know what is happening and you consent to anything that is being suggested. This is when you bring out the most powerful tool in your toolkit, the BRAIN acronym.
If there is any doubt in your mind about anything during your labour, ask the following questions:
Benefit – what are the benefits?
Risk – what are the risks involved?
Alternative – what is the alternative?
Intuition – what is your gut telling you?
Nothing – what if you do nothing?
The answers to these questions will ensure that you understand what is happening, that your wishes have been heard and you feel empowered. Whether you spontaneously go into labour, are induced or have a c-section, it is still possible to walk away from your labour as you should; strutting like a real-life superhuman who can take over the world!
*Always check with your healthcare provider if you are going to start any new form of exercise while pregnant.
Who to follow in the birth world on Social Media:
About the writer:
I am Lucianne Hughes, aka The Sunshine Doula, wife & mom to two gorgeous girls (4 years old and 17 months old). When pregnant on my first I was obsessed with finding out all I could about what my body was about to do in labour – it blew my mind. I had an incredible vaginal birth in the National Maternity Hospital with my first baby and the most beautiful home birth with my second.
This ignited a passion inside me for all things pregnancy, labour and postpartum and I just knew I had to work in this area. I then trained to be a postpartum doula, a compassionate and non-judgemental support person for parents transitioning into life with a new baby. Hence @thesunshine_doula was born! I am so lucky to say that I am doing my dream job.