How to prepare yourself for birth when you’re pregnant for the first time

prepare yourself for birth

When I was pregnant with my first I buried my head in the sand when it came to birth.  I literally SKIPPED the ‘prepare yourself for birth’ section of the pregnancy book I was reading. I’m not really sure WHAT I was thinking.  I guess I just (wrongly) assumed that because I was giving birth in a private hospital, that my doctor and midwives would tell me what to do.  In hindsight during labour was NOT really the time to be learning about birth and having to make decisions

If I could go back and tell my (very naive) 25 year old self a few things about birth this is what I would tell her. 

How to prepare yourself for birth

Learn how your body works during labour and birth

Before I had my first I didn’t know that my body would naturally start pushing when it needed to.

I didn’t know that it releases oxytocin (the love hormone) to help deal with the pain of contractions.

I didn’t know that my womb needed oxygen to contract strongly and easily.

I didn’t know that fear would literally make birth feel more painful.

Because I didn’t know any of these things, my first experience of birth was not the best. In fact I came out feeling traumatised by the whole experience and in some ways like I’d failed.

When I got pregnant for the second time, I got back into my yoga practice, studied hypnobirthing and read everything I possibly could about birthing. My second birth was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. If only I’d known those things the first time around. 

Learn how you can support your body to birth

Once I’d realised how my body worked during birth, it suddenly became very obvious that I also needed to know how to work with it during labour to make the whole process go a lot smoother.

It’s all well and good to say that you need to ‘relax’ during birth but how do you actually do that? Yoga and hypnobirthing gave me the skills to know how to relax when labouring and this knowledge was game-chasing. I wish I’d known this the first time around.

Learn how the place you’re birthing in may affect how you birth

Because I didn’t realise how much fear can affect your body when you’re birthing I never even gave the place that I was birthing a second thought. Hospitals can be scary places, especially if you’ve never spent much time in them prior to giving birth.

I wish I’d known how much the space you’re birthing in can affect how you feel, so that I could have prepared myself and the space by bringing things from home. Have a think about where you feel the most comfortable and safe, and then try and recreate that feeling in your space to help you relax during birth. (Eg. bring music, candles, pillows, bedding, etc.)

Hire a private midwife

Active labour is not the time to be making decisions about what you want and don’t want to happen during your birth. In order to be in your birthing body and work with it, you have to let go of that conscious thinking mind. Trying to make decisions brings you back into the brain and can make the physical sensations of birth more painful. It stops you working with the breath and can quite suddenly bring you back into a fear state. 

Hiring a private midwife for my birth with Rory was the best thing I ever did and something I wish I’d done for Luca’s as well. It was so good to have had all the important conversations before I even got to the hospital and to know that someone was there to support me who also knew all of my preferences. This meant I could stay entirely in my zone and not worry about coming out for anything or anyone. 

Practice your birth skills in the lead up to birth

Like anything, being able to relax yourself on command when things get stressful is a skill. I highly recommend practicing these skills before birth.

Even in my last birth experience (after having already had one hypnobirth and ten years of yoga experience) I found myself getting stuck in my mind a little bit and feeling a bit freaked out. If I hadn’t practiced using my breath or visualisation beforehand, I highly doubt I would have been able to talk myself back down in these moments. 

If you’d like to practice these birthing skills we do this in my three part yoga for birth series. Check them out here. 

Let go of your expectations about birth

Finally, birth will unfold as it will. No birth experience will go ‘perfectly’ because there simply isn’t such a thing. While you need to prepare yourself as best you can with all of these tools, I think it’s also important to be able to surrender to what unfolds. 

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean surrendering your right to choose or giving in to anyone else’s decisions. No way!

I 100% believe you should be informed about what options there are and what happens when you choose them. I think it’s SO important to feel knowledgable enough to ask questions about what is happening and why. 

BUT at the end of the day, things will happen as they happen. You can’t control if labour takes days. Or if bub gets destressed. Afterall, this birth is not just about you, there is another being involved here. 

I think it’s important to be able to surrender to your body and your baby and not beat yourself up if your birth doesn’t end up looking like you imagined.

I’ve designed a three part birthing yoga series so we can practice some of the yoga skills and tools you’ll need during labour and birth. Each class has a different theme based on an area I believe to be very important for birth. 

In class 1 we tackle fear. Research proves that fear = tension = pain.  If we can work on releasing fear, we can set ourselves up to have a more enjoyable, less painful birth. 

In class 2 we challenge ourselves so that we can know our own strength. You are strong. You can do hard things.  You can use the breath when things get hard. This class helps you to get in the right headspace to birth confidently. 

In class 3 we practice surrender.  The experience of birth (and motherhood) is a journey of surrender.  Honestly, the more you fight against it, the harder it becomes. In this class we’ll practice surrendering and relaxing our body so that we can do exactly that when birth becomes intense. 

Practice this three part birth yoga series here.

How are you preparing for birth? Have you birthed before? What do you wish you’d prepared differently / known beforehand?

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