From the time you decide to start trying, the fears of labor and delivery begin. But it's often easy to just push out of your mind until the little stick turns blue. Then everything becomes so REAL. You start thinking about that precious, tiny baby that's supposed to come into this world via your body and wondering how in the world it's going to fit through such a small space. "You won't feel a thing as soon as you look at your baby" might be true, but it doesn't stop you from being scared out of your mind.
Birth is hard. Labor is painful and uncomfortable - that's just a fact of life. But luckily there are plenty of useful tools you can use give yourself a strong foundation of knowledge and prepare yourself for labor.
1. Read, read, read
Educate yourself! Part of what makes the thought of labor and delivery so scary is the unknown factor of it. Do all the reading and listening you can - from doctors, doulas, midwives, and even other trusted moms or pregnancy-experts. As you ease your fear by increasing your knowledge, your body will relax and you'll find yourself a little less anxious.
2. Practice prenatal yoga
Yoga is great during any period of life, but practicing during pregnancy with flows designed for expecting women can help to loosen and open the body up for each phase of pregnancy and, eventually, labor. Another benefit of prenatal yoga? Breath work. You'll learn specific breathing patterns that can also help you when pushing and coping with the pain of labor.
You'll also learn how to relax certain muscles and regions of the body, like your back, shoulders, and hips. These are some of the most tensed muscle groups you'll be using during labor and learning how to relax them will be very useful to your tired body before and during labor.
3. Do labor-specific exercises
Prenatal yoga is great and even necessary (in our opinion), but building your strength with weight-lifting or body weight exercises is just as necessary. In particular, pelvic floor strengthening exercises are very important.
These top 5 moves to make labor easier will help strengthen you in all the right ways!
4. Practice mindfulness
Get out of your head and into your mind. Practicing mindfulness or meditation can help you tap into your ability to stay present and breathe (two very useful skills for labor.) Not only can it help you shift your mindset about how scary and painful labor is, but it encourages the release of oxytocin to relax your body. Win, win!
5. Develop labor mantras
Mantras and affirmations, much like mindfulness, allow you to step out of the way of your own body for a smoother labor experience. Having a mantra gives your mind something to focus on and helps to keep you positive during labor.
Need some ideas for labor mantras? Try this list.
6. Practice visualization
As you can tell, the mind is a very powerful tool for pain management, especially during labor. Professional athletes often use visualization to help them improve in their sport - visualizing themselves executing a move or routine perfectly, which very often yields positive results. Let's use labor day as "game day" in this scenario. Picturing yourself remaining calm, allowing your body to open for your baby, and being powerful will help you prepare for the real deal.
7. Develop your birth plan
A birth plan allows you to lay out all of your wishes and goals for pregnancy and before/during/after labor and delivery. Things like how you want to labor, what kind of meds you want, and what you want to happen once your baby is born are all laid out in the plan. It can help keep you focused during labor and make you less fearful of what's to come. But remember - a lot of it is out of your control and it's just that: a plan. Sometimes you need a plan B and that's okay! For tips on how to develop your birth plan, check out this post.
We hope these 7 tips help make you more confident + less fearful as your big day approaches. Remember, your body was made for this - you can do it, mama!