Facing the experience of childbirth with a positive outlook cannot only alleviate your worries and fears. It can also speed up delivery of your baby
Researchers in Norway recently found that women who felt afraid of giving birth endured an extra 47 minutes of labour and were more likely to need an emergency caesarean. “Anxiety releases hormones like adrenaline, which work against those hormones released during labour,” says midwifery adviser Mervi Jokinen. But fear not – we’ve compiled some simple tips to help you relax and take (some of) the pain out of childbirth.
Use the power of positive suggestion “Women in labour are almost always in a borderline trance-like state, which makes them very vulnerable to suggestion, both positive and negative,” says Dr Allan Cyna, consultant anaesthetist at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide. “So the language we use in labour is critical.” If you are told you are going to feel pain, you probably will. Instead, ask your birth partner to use positive reinforcement to help you through contractions. “[Get them to] talk about how each contraction is getting you closer to seeing your baby for the first time – they’re increasing in strength, so they’re increasingly effective,” Cyna says. “It reframes the meaning of the sensation, from one of pain to one of looking forward to holding your baby.”
Compile a playlist Listening to repetitive, soothing music helps reduce anxiety and induce relaxation, according to one recent study, particularly during the early (latent) phase of labour. Researchers found the best tunes had 60 to 80 beats per minute (approximating the human heartbeat) and a simple melody – they chose Beethoven and Debussy, but any calming music you love will help. During the active phase, when your breathing becomes more rapid, they suggest you opt for faster, more energetic tracks.
Get to know your body and baby “When you have a Braxton Hicks contraction, sit down and objectively observe the experience,” Jokinen says. “The second time, you might notice new sensations. Get to know the baby’s movements; know what the uncomfortable positions for you are and why – this will enable you to become more aware of how your body is functioning. Birth isn’t a test, or an illness, and the best outcomes occur when you allow your body to labour.”
Choose a birth partner who will stay the course One study found women who received continuous support from one person – either a midwife, doula, partner or best friend – were less likely to use pain medication and had slightly shorter labours.
Look at the alternatives Your midwife or obstetrician will explain all the medical methods of pain relief, but it is also worth investigating some easy alternative techniques. Ice massage, for example, has been shown to be more effective than acupressure at reducing pain in labour. Ask your birth partner to put ice cubes in a plastic bag, wrapped in a tea towel, and apply them between your thumb and index finger, known as the “Hegu point”.
Do say yes “During a contraction, a lot of women say, ‘No, I can’t do this,’ or ‘No, I don’t want to,’ because they’re afraid,” says Susanna Heli, author of Confident Birth (Pinter & Martin). “Instead, I tell them to say, ‘Yes’. It changes everything; you’re reaching out to your subconscious and telling it to say yes to the baby and to what’s happening to your body. Try it three times – and if you hate it, try something else. But for nine out of 10 women, it’s a very powerful technique.”
Don’t read (or ask!) too much It can be tempting to start trawling the internet for pregnancy stories as soon as you have taken the test, but too much information can make you overly anxious, Jokinen says, particularly as women always seem keen to share their personal horror stories. “Instead, develop a good relationship with your midwife, who will be able to give you a more realistic perspective.”
Don’t set unrealistic expectations “If you’ve set your heart on having a pain-free labour, but you don’t have time for drugs because it all happens so rapidly, don’t feel upset,” says Dr Sandra Wheatley, a social psychologist with a special interest in parenting. “Have aspirations, not expectations. And when you’re writing your birth plan, bear in mind it might change – how many other plans do you have in life that go completely as you wish?”
Don’t worry about losing it “Some women are naturally expressive and will shout if they’re upset; others have been brought up to show less emotion,” health psychologist Dr Cynthia McVey says.
“You bring to any situation your existing character and disposition, but you need to give yourself some leeway – if you find yourself crying or shouting, allow yourself to do that.” Choose a supportive birth partner who is prepared to expect the unexpected, McVey says.
Source: Body and Soul