It’s no secret that labor can be a daunting experience. For some, the mere thought of giving birth is enough to make pregnant women panic. According to research from the University of North Carolina, about 10% of women have a “highly intense or very negative” reaction to the thought of childbirth.
If you’re feeling anxious about labor, there are things you can do to help prepare yourself both mentally and physically. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Educate yourself about the process of labor and delivery.
The more you know what to expect, the less fearful you may feel. Read books, talk to your doctor or midwife, and take a childbirth class. Also, be sure to ask questions if there’s anything you’re unsure about. This will help you feel more in control and less anxious about the unknown.
When researching, keep in mind that every labor is different. You may have heard horror stories from friends or family, but try not to focus on the negative. It’s important to remember that these are just individual experiences and not indicative of what will happen to you. Think about the many women who have had positive experiences with childbirth, and focus on that.
You also want to be prepared for the different stages of labor and what each will feel like. For instance, early labor is typically the longest stage and can last several hours (or even days). This is when your cervix begins to dilate, and you’ll likely experience mild contractions. As labor progresses, the contractions will become stronger and closer together. You can mentally prepare for this by visualizing your body opening up and welcoming your baby.
2. Create a support system.
It’s essential to have a solid support system in place during labor. This may include your partner, parents, siblings, friends, or a doula. Whoever you choose, make sure they’re someone you feel comfortable with and who will be supportive of your decisions.
If you choose to work with a doula, be sure to interview several before making a decision. Doulas are trained professionals who provide physical, emotional, and informational support during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. They can be a great source of comfort and reassurance, especially if you’re new to birthing. You can easily find one using an online doula directory.
But if you want family and friends to be more involved, that’s great too. Make sure everyone is on the same page about your birth plan and what you’re comfortable with. Ask them to be respectful of your wishes and to refrain from giving unsolicited advice.
3. Develop a positive mindset.
The way you think about labor can have a significant impact on how you experience it. Your delivery will likely be more difficult if you constantly worry about the pain or what could go wrong. On the other hand, focusing on the positives and having a good attitude can make the whole experience more manageable.
One way to develop a positive mindset is to practice visualization. Picture yourself going through labor and delivery successfully. Focus on the result — holding your healthy baby in your arms. This will help you stay calm and focused when things get tough.
Another way to stay positive is to remember that labor is a natural process for which your body was designed. Women have been giving birth for centuries, and most come out just fine. Trust that your body knows what to do and that you can handle whatever comes your way.
4. Get your body physically ready.
There are a few things you can do to prepare for labor physically. First, make sure you’re getting enough rest. Labor can be physically demanding, so it’s important to be well-rested beforehand. Second, eat healthily and stay hydrated. This will help you maintain energy levels and avoid dehydration, making labor more difficult.
Third, do some light exercises to help keep your body in shape. Walking is a great option, but you can also try prenatal yoga or swimming. These activities will help to strengthen your muscles and improve your endurance. Ask your doctor or midwife what exercises are safe for you to do during pregnancy.
You can also try meditative exercises to focus on your breath and relax your body. This can help manage the pain of contractions during labor. Learn some relaxation techniques and practice them regularly in the weeks leading up to your due date.
And lastly, don’t forget to pack your hospital bag! This should include everything you need for yourself and your baby, such as clothes, toiletries, diapers, and formula. You may also want to pack snacks, drinks, a pillow and blanket, and other comfort items.
Labor can be a daunting experience, but there are things you can do to prepare for it. By learning about the process, building a support system, and getting your body physically ready, you can help make labor a more positive and manageable experience. Remember to stay positive and trust that your body knows what to do. You can make it through labor and delivery successfully with little preparation.