During pregnancy, we are focused. On our body, our emotions and our health. And as our body changes, so do our emotions (sometimes on an hourly basis thanks to hormones!) and it’s likely that our health needs change somewhat too. Growing another human is a huge undertaking and one that must not be under-estimated. Give yourself credit for the amazing thing you are doing! But don’t forget that at the end of this pregnancy, comes the birth. Sounds silly, but many women focus on the day to day challenges of pregnancy, but when it comes to the birth not a lot of consideration is given to the logistics of it all. Then there are the women who give it a lot of thought indeed! It’s important to keep things in perspective, which is why writing a birth plan is often suggested. But instead of writing a plan that may not be kept, how about simply choosing your birth preferences instead?
Choose preferences, don’t plan
When we make plans, we often set ourselves up for failure if they go awry. And during pregnancy, labour and birth, nothing is set in stone. Childbirth cannot be predicted. We cannot know how labour will progress nor how baby will react. Unpredictable events cannot be planned for! So, writing a birth plan may seem like a sensible thing to do (and for many it is!) but it could be an idea instead to choose birth preferences that fit in with your expectations?
To be informed is essential, and if you are armed with all the knowledge of what is happening to your body, and what will happen during birth then you are in a better position all round. Knowledge is power, as they say, and being in the know will help you to feel more in control too. But remember that your baby does not know about your plans. No matter how well you have researched your ideal birth- you will still need to be flexible. So writing down your birth preferences makes a lot more sense than writing a plan, don’t you think? And when you do, you might find there is more that you can control than you originally thought…
Let go of the fear
It’s normal to feel fear and anxiety about birth. Television and films tell us that it is going to hurt, and depending on what book you read many of the experts agree. But it is up to you how you channel that pain. If you decide that you want to take pain relief when you’re in labour, research the different medicines that are available at your hospital. Make sure you know what each one does and what the side effects are, and write down your preferences. If you decide you will handle events differently, look into other ways to manage the pain and reduce fear and anxiety- hypnobirthing is excellent for this and we’ve already written a quick guide that you can refer to.
The most important thing is to release the fear, and you can do this by:
- Read some birth stories. Fear of the unknown is destroyed if you know what is in store for you.
- Talk about it. Let your partner and your midwife know how you are feeling, and ask questions too.
Make sure that you address your fears before you write your birth preferences and make sure that whatever it is that is causing anxiety is out in the open as soon as possible. The saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ really is true!
Create a positive birth environment
Another thing to consider when you write your preferences- where you are going to give birth. And how can you make it as positive as possible? Whether you opt to have your baby at home, a midwife led unit or in hospital, it has to be the right decision for you. And there are ways that you can make it a positive environment for you. Consider the following:
- Lighting. Some women like to have candles to help create a calm and relaxing environment. Some hospitals can dim the lights for you and it’s worth knowing that bright lights can actually inhibit the progress of labour, so make it clear in your preferences how you want your lighting controlled.
- Your sense of smell is very powerful and the aromas that you choose to have around you as you give birth are important too. Soft, pleasant and nurturing scents such as vanilla can help you to relax and are a lot nicer to smell than hospital antiseptic smells! Have some scented massage oil to hand and ask your partner to apply some when you need it.
- Lots of women find listening to music during labour extremely relaxing, so if you have preferences make sure you bring your own music.
- Food and drinks. During labour, you will need lots of energy to see you through your task in hand, so make a list of the types of food and drink you want- and the types you definitely don’!
When you write your birth preferences, discuss them with your partner so that you are both clear about the things you’d like to be in place when the day arrives- but remember that they are just preferences. Nobody knows what is going to happen, and if you are happy to remain flexible then you are more likely to retain control of the situation.