“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful; it’s that women are strong.” -Laura Stavoe Harm
Pregnancy and labor can be a very overwhelming time filled with many emotions such as excitement and fear. While pregnancy is generally reflected in a positive light, the same cannot be said about labor. There is a general sense of negativity that surrounds the labor experience. With very few positive examples of natural, drug-free childbirths[quote_right]”The truth is that with the right preparation one can achieve a successful drug-free childbirth…”[/quote_right] there is a lot of fear behind this type of experience and it is seen as un-normal.
With so little natural birth education passed along to mothers-to-be it is no wonder that many women are not confident in their body’s innate ability to birth naturally without narcotics and why medical births are the new norm.
With C-sections up 53% since 1996, these procedures are being used on women with little or no complications. Common medical interventions include Pitocin, Epidurals and Cesarean section surgeries. The truth is that with the right preparation one can achieve a successful drug-free childbirth. This article will discuss how to practice for childbirth and take control of the birthing experience.
How to prepare for a natural labor:
Over the years there has become less and less of a focus on enhancing women’s confidence in the ability of the body during labor. Simply spending more time educating women on how to handle the birthing process, as well as fostering an environment to help make the mother as comfortable as possible, are healthier and less expensive alternatives to the interventions. These following methods have been shown to reduce labor pain naturally and help women to birth without interferences.
1. Surround yourself with a positive concept of birth
With so much negative energy regarding birth it is not surprising that many woman are fearful of birthing the way it was originally intended. Hollywood has dramatized the event with depictions of women screaming at their husbands while begging the doctors to eliminate the pain. In addition to the negative portrayals very few women themselves have positive birth stories to share and take it upon themselves to share these adverse encounters with other pregnant woman.
[quote_left]”…many women who take a proactive role in their labor and make the effort to make it enjoyable have had very positive experiences…”[/quote_left]One of the best things an expecting mother can do is create their own perception of the birthing experience by avoiding any and all negativity. Labor does not need to be a dreadful experience and in fact, many women who take a proactive role in their labor and make the effort to make it enjoyable have had very positive experiences. Seek out these women and listen to their empowering birth stories.
2. Plan and Visualize
Many mothers feel like patients rather than participants in their labor, by having a strong understanding about how birth and the body work a woman can take an active role in making the right decisions for her body. Creating a birth plan can ensure that the birthing environment is a positive one. Imagery and visualization are other powerful tools for women to practice prior to labor. Envisioning a successful labor can help build confidence in the woman’s ability to birth naturally without medical interventions coming into play. Tight and tense muscles can prevent the body from opening, which is essential in order for labor to progress. Practicing imagery and visualization towards the end of your pregnancy and during labor helps to condition the mind and reduce stress and anxiety.
3. Increase knowledge & trust intuition
Read books, attend classes and become as up to date as you can on birth in general. By learning as much as you can about the process and how the body works the woman can be inspired to let nature run its course while trusting in the wondrous ability of the human body to do what it was made to do. Birthing is a very natural experience and was carried out without medical interventions for millions of years before women were brainwashed to believe that medical involvements were a better alternative than letting the body act naturally. By educating oneself on the natural progression of labor you are reinforcing confidence in the body’s innate power.
4. Be mindful of fears and emotions
Birth is such a life changing event it would be impossible to not have fears and emotions associated with the experience. Ignoring these fears does no service. You must encounter your fears and work on releasing them through meditation and visualization. By acknowledging worries the woman is able to work towards overcoming those reservations throughout pregnancy to ensure a blissful birth.
5. Connect with Body, Mind and Spirit
Yoga is one of the most popular forms of exercise during pregnancy and combines gentle stretching, relaxation and breathing techniques. This ancient practice increases internal awareness and focus that helps create confidence and trust in your body while also bonding with your baby. It can lower blood pressure and prevents and relieves aches and pains that impinge on the body during pregnancy.
Yoga builds stamina, relaxes the pelvis, and helps the baby transition into an optimal birthing position. The relaxation response can significantly improve your overall health and well-being. Research has shown that when the relaxation response is used on a daily basis it can reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, as well as improve blood pressure, immunity, and self-esteem. Relaxation helps to create endorphins, which help to decrease pain during labor, whereas fear causes the release of stress hormones and catecholamine that can increase pain and duration of labor.
Meditation helps to create melatonin, which is released into the bloodstream during stress inducing times. It also produces endorphins that have very powerful pain relieving effects, similar to morphine. The more dedicated the woman is to her prenatal meditation, the less afraid she will be of preconceived pain prior to the onset of labor.
`This will allow the woman to be less disturbed by any actual pain felt which creates feelings of joy. Frequent practice results in higher levels of endorphins during labor. Regular practice of yoga and meditation is essential to prepare the mind and body for labor.
6. Supportive Network
Making sure to have people around who support your decisions is extremely important.
Without health care providers, friends and family members to support your decision it can be very difficult. Having a strong support system creates a positive birthing environment allowing the mother to be surrounded by love and encouragement.
Making the effort to practice regularly, becoming educated as much as possible and keeping a positive attitude are essential to empower the mother-to-be and ensure she can birth with freedom and joy. Just as one would prepare for a marathon, the same provision should apply to the biggest life-changing event that a woman will experience. In addition to helping make pregnancy and labor easier, these modalities also help the post-partum body recover quicker.
These techniques prevent and treat post partum depression and anxiety by allowing the mother some time to herself to nurture her mind-body connection. With so many physical and hormonal changes going on during this time, it is beneficial for the mother to take some time to decompress and build awareness with her changing body to adapt to each new stage of motherhood.