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Does the idea of giving birth seem dreadful?
How about downright scary?
Even though birth is a natural process, it can be a difficult concept to grasp.
Concerns about pain, interventions and adverse birth outcomes can weigh heavily on your mind and make birth seem like an unfortunate necessity.
Negative feelings about birth might seem impossible to overcome at first, but there are simple strategies you can use to feel more at ease about the birth process.
Here are five strategies you can start to put into practice today.
1. Block out unsolicited advice
When you’re pregnant, everyone suddenly has something to tell you. Sometimes it’s well-meaning; “you need to know about this particular drug!”
Sometimes it’s people just making conversation; “how crazy is it that babies come out of vaginas?”
Sometimes people feel compelled to share personal stories; “let me tell you about my terrible birth experience.”
Occasionally unsolicited advice gives some insight, but most of the time it contributes to anxiety around birth.
Even if the information is valid, you might not be ready to hear it (and that’s ok).
A simple statement is usually enough to shut down unwanted birth talk.
The key is to make the statement without hesitation or apology. You also need to be willing to experience an awkward pause in the conversation.
You could go for:
“I’m not ready to talk about birth right now.”
“Thanks for sharing your thoughts but I’m not really up for this conversation.”
“Can we talk about something other than pregnancy?”
2. Connect with other women
When you connect with other women, you’re bound to find someone who empathizes with your perspective and feelings.
When you deliberately seek a connection, it is a very different experience from receiving unsolicited birth stories or advice.
For this approach to be effective in conquering negative birth feelings you need to pick the right people.
Seek out other women you feel comfortable with; it could be someone at the same stage of pregnancy or someone who has given birth already.
Midwives, doulas, and doctors can play a role here as well.
Choosing the right moment matters too.
You might not be receptive to a conversation about birth in the first trimester, but as your pregnancy progresses, your feelings can change.
While it feels uncomfortable to shine a light on your birth fears, the support and wisdom other women can offer are often invaluable.
3. Educate yourself
Most of us don’t think deeply about giving birth until it’s firmly on the horizon.
Until that point, your perception of birth might have formed from snippets of your newsfeed, movies and media, and maybe conversations with family and friends.
Intentionally educating yourself about the process of giving birth will leave you feeling clearer about what lies ahead.
It also helps eliminate misinformation or skewed viewpoints that may have snuck into your consciousness.
A solid grounding in facts and birth wisdom can help erode negative feelings about giving birth.
Reputable prenatal classes are an excellent place to start.
Hospitals, midwife practices, birth centers, online providers and yoga studios often offer classes — the trick is to make sure the class is the right fit for you in terms of content and delivery style.
Carefully chosen books and trustworthy websites can play an important role in birth education too.
4. Shape your support team
A range of people you encounter through your pregnancy will influence your perspective on birth.
Take a moment to think about all of the people you’ll rely on for information, medical support, emotional support, personal advice, and practical assistance.
Even though it’s a virtual group, these people form your pregnancy and birth support team.
For a lot of women, this support team naturally evolves without too much consideration — but collectively this group can have a meaningful impact on your perception of birth and ultimately your birth experience.
Is everyone in this group supportive, kind and a positive influence?
Does anyone in this group contribute to your fear, anxiety or negative feelings about birth?
When you recognize and actively shape your support team, it can help you feel well-supported coming into your birth.
5. Identify your birth toolkit
Giving birth is a physically and emotionally demanding experience. One useful way to prepare is to put together a birth toolkit.
Your birth toolkit includes your birth plan and a set of ‘birth tools’ you can lean on when you’re in labor.
Your birth plan is a communication tool.
It’s a way to clearly communicate your expectations and preferences with those people who will be present with you when you give birth.
Your ‘birth tools’ are birthing strategies you’ve identified as potentially useful for your labor and birth.
You may have learned about these strategies from books, prenatal classes, and other women.
Your toolkit might include things like:
Specific breathing techniques
Using stress balls
Using mantras and visualizations
Making controlled sounds
Making use of certain physical movements
When you know you have a plan, and a set of tools to lean on it can give you a sense of feeling prepared.
Over to you
Giving birth is a hugely significant event.
Feeling apprehensive about something so important (and unknown) is natural.
There are practical strategies you can put into action to help conquer negative feelings about birth.
These strategies draw on removing negative influences, proactively getting informed about birth, connecting with other women, shaping your birth support team and preparing a birth toolkit.
How do you feel about birth right now?
Are there other strategies you’re using to move past negative birth feelings?
This is a guest post by Lisa McAully from Lisamcaully.com. Lisa is a freelance writer with a focus on exploring all facets of womanhood (including the juggle, the struggle, life-phases and, the wisdom of the women she meets).