I could talk about birth all day because preparing for birth is something I am so passionate about; I see as a practicing Midwifery Sister the incredible positive impact birth preparation has on improving birth experiences, but I am going to keep to some key top tips for you here:
· This MUST be number 1 on the list! Invest in yourself and your birth through quality, midwife-led antenatal classes. Educating yourself around birth, the potential twists and turns and your options is imperative to having an empowered, informed birth experience.
· A close second is preparing your mind as birth is a hugely psychological event.
We have been conditioned over years to believe that birth will be a ‘painful’ experience- if we expect this then the chances are it will be.
But what if we challenge this concept?
Imagine a dog for a moment and you (unfortunately and I am very sorry dog) step on his paw- he will likely yelp and whimper, right? He will feel that as a painful sensation and display signs of pain.
Now think of a time you have seen (You Tube may be helpful here!) a dog give birth- any yelping? Nope. They calmly and quietly birth their many puppies without any displays of pain. Mammals have not been conditioned to expect pain during birth like we have.
So, fill you head with positive birth stories, affirmations and videos of mammals calmly birthing their offspring without pain.
· Learn to breathe for birth and practice breathwork techniques for birth regularly in pregnancy. Now I know this may sound a little bit ‘hippy’ but it is actually really simple and effective.
This is something we delve into depth in on my antenatal course but to summarise:
In the first stage of labour the main physical change is your cervix being pulled upwards into the womb to allow it to open or dilate. Everything is happening in an upward motion, so we want to support this with calm, upward breathing techniques. You can use visualisations to support this such as a coloured balloon filling up in your stomach as you inhale and floating up into the sky as your exhale.
In the second stage of labour the direction changes- your baby now needs to move downwards through the birth canal to be born. So, you want to switch your breathwork direction to support your body and baby and breathe down towards your bottom instead. A great time to practice this is when you go for a poo! Because in all honesty this is the closest feeling to those final stages of giving birth.
· Perform Perineal Massage.
This is a fancy term for massaging and stretching the muscles at the opening of your vagina and the perineal tissues with the aim of reducing tearing during birth.
This is a physical form of birth preparation that can really be our friend and here is why…
Studies have found that it may reduce the risk of episiotomy and tearing, reduced the risk of 3rd and 4th degree tears, improve wound healing, result in less perineal pain, reduce the length of pushing in labour and lower the risk of bowel incontinence.
Sound good? It is recommended to perform from 35 weeks 3-4 times per week for around 5 minutes at a time.
· Eat Dates and drink Raspberry Leaf Tea.
There are A LOT of old wives’ tales about supporting a natural, spontaneous onset of labour and honestly there isn’t much truth in many of them.
However, there is some evidence to support eating dates and sipping raspberry leaf tea to helping!
Eating 6 dates a day from 36 weeks may increase cervical ripening, reduce the need for a medical labour induction and have a positive effect on postpartum blood loss.
2-3 cups of raspberry leaf tea a day from 36 weeks of pregnancy, has been suggested to increase the strength of the myometrium (muscles in the womb), facilitating an easier birth with a reduced need for induction of labour and medical intervention.
So, feel free to get nibbling and sipping away!
It should be noted that it is advised to avoid the use of raspberry leaves in cases of planned caesarean sections, multiple or breech births, high blood pressure and when taking metformin or anti-depressant medications.
I would highly recommend listening to this week’s Podcast Episode to find out more about how to optimise your baby’s position for birth, a great tool to having a smoother, easier labour and birth, created in partnership with Aptaclub and available on all podcast platforms Midwife Pip Podcast Episode 127. How to optimise your baby’s position for birth.
And finally, GET EXCITED. Birth is such a precious time in your life, and you will create memories that last forever so making sure it is a positive and empowering experience is important and should not be left to chance.