Expert tips on how to feel more comfortable and relaxed when you have a baby.
If your due date is on the horizon, it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious about labour and giving birth. Having a baby is a big deal!
But there are a few things you can to do prepare for the days to come and most importantly, stop you from feeling anxious and unprepared. Marina Fogle of The Bump Class and Jacqui Tomkins chair of Independent Midwives UK share their top tips to help you feel more in control when you give birth:
1.Create a birth plan
While a birth plan will help prepare you for the big day, use it as a loose guide. ‘Birthing plans have become more of a preference list,’ says Tomkins. ‘Don’t become fixated on it and think you have to achieve everything on the plan. Overall, I think it is a really good idea to write down what you’re hoping to achieve.’
Birthing plans have become more of a preference list. Don’t become fixated on it.
‘Tell your birth partner – whoever that is – about your wishes,’ adds Tomkin.
‘They need to be aware of your preferences, simply because whoever is with you will be the best person to answer on your behalf when you’re busy in labour and might not be able to have the best conversation.’
2. Consider hypnobirthing
Feeling anxious and unprepared? Hypnobirthing has proven to help many expectant mums before and during labour. ‘Hypnobirthing looks at the whole process and physiology of birth, whereas antenatal classes equip you with the key skills to navigate your way throughout an NHS system,’ says adds Tomkin.
‘Hypnobirthing talks about your body’s chemical processes and how it can help you, what is happening physically and internally for the baby, how you’re a team, and your birth support and how to use them – that little package is gold dust. The confidence that this may give a woman and the relaxation it allows her is a game-changer.’
3. Ask questions!
It pays to feel prepared, so don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. ‘It’s really important to ask questions, understand the answers and if you don’t think you are getting an adequate standard to care, then ask to see someone else,’ says Fogle. ‘Once you are in established labour, you should have a midwife giving you one-to-one care until your baby is born.’
Once you are in labour, you should have a midwife giving one-to-one care until your baby is born.
‘While most midwives are truly exceptional at what they do, if for any reason you don’t get on with your midwife, you can ask the midwife in charge whether you can change,’ adds Fogle. ‘It’s usually always possible – remember for her it’s another day at work but for you, it’s the day your baby is born, a day you’ll never forget.’
‘People should give you time, let you sit down and explain what your concerns are,’ agrees Tomkin. ‘They should answer all your questions and allow themselves time to answer them. If you feel like you haven’t been able to point something out or get an answer, something’s wrong.’
4. Do your research
If you do your research and come prepared, you will know what to expect on the day which should aid relaxation and quell any unnecessary fears.
‘They say knowledge is power and I believe this is never more true than in pregnancy,’ says Tomkins. ‘Make sure you understand about what happens during birth – both when it’s straightforward, but also when you or your baby might need a bit of assistance. A good antenatal course should do this.’
‘If you understand what happens with an assisted delivery or why they might be recommending an induction, you are going to be in a better position to understand what the best decision for you is,’ she adds. ‘Similarly, understand what pain relief options are available to you and what they involve and what the risks might be so that you can request and understand what is best for you.’
5. Get clued up on C-sections
Contrary to what you might have heard, C-sections are not the easy way out, but it is important that you don’t feel bad if you end up needing to have one. ‘Caesarean sections are surgical rescue solutions. They are not the ‘easy option’ to which they’ve sometimes been labelled,’ says Tomkins.
Caesarean sections are surgical rescue solutions. They are not the ‘easy option’.
‘It’ll take 6-8 weeks to fully recover. It will impact how you can look after your baby, because of lifting and heavy medication.
Also, the process of CS – unless it’s managed very sensible, separates you from your baby very initially.’
‘If a woman is looking choosing a CS, you need to be considering all of your options,’ adds Tomkins. ‘When I’m talking to a woman about CS, I do like to remind them it is generally a rescue operation and we don’t need the surgeons to step in when the normal process is working. You never want to feel bad about having it as a rescue operation, though.’
6. Don’t fear the unknown
There are numerous aspects of giving birth that might fill you with fear, but it’s important to remember that thousands of women give birth successfully every single day – and you can too.
‘In low risk births, delivering your baby vaginally is undoubtedly the easiest and safest way to deliver your baby. It can be long and tiring but if it’s too much you can always have an epidural,’ says Fogle.
‘Girls on the Bump Class are often scared of tearing. But it’s important to contextualise this – these tears are mostly small, heal well and don’t provide any problems afterwards. There are also some preventative measures that you can take such as perineal massage or using a perineal trainer (such as an Epi No) from 37 weeks. A good antenatal class should discuss all these options.’
7. Don’t be afraid to say no
While it is important that you trust medical professionals, if something doesn’t feel right or is against your beliefs or opinions, don’t be afraid to say no.
I’ve yet to meet a woman who doesn’t have the best interest of her child at heart.
‘Mums-to-be can absolutely refuse everything,’ says Tomkins. ‘You can say: “no, I want you to find the alternative.”
Women are given the general flavour that they can’t do that but, by law, you can totally do that.’
‘I’ve yet to meet a woman who in the process of being pregnant or in labour who doesn’t have the best interest of her child at heart,’ she adds. ‘Even if a woman has a poor outcome, but she’s felt as though people have listened to what she’s said and helped her make informed decisions, she’ll probably be in much better psychological nick than someone who had a better outcome, but felt like nobody listened to her.’
8. Filter the ‘birth chat’
One thing other mums love to do is share their birth stories, but it’s also important to remember that everyone is different and no two births are the same.
‘Everyone has their unique strengths – stay away from the scaremongers who love telling a horror story, which usually loses nothing in the telling. But practical mothers are often full of great, up-to-date and useful advice – so stick to the supportive ones and stay away from those who are full of judgment,’ says Fogle.
‘If you listen to your friends, you need to have a filter and understand that you and your baby are a specific dyad; your friend’s experience isn’t necessarily going to be reflected in your own experience,’ adds Tomkins. ‘The best thing to do is find a health professional, or drop in clinic, or phone, or forums, but overall your best friend and most knowledgeable friend is yourself. You instinctively know how to look after a baby, we all just do it.’