Fertility and Pregnancy / Mind-Body Medicine:

Childbirth is fast approaching - how can you and your partner best prepare?

My husband and I are expecting our third child and the birth is fast approaching. So far, the whole pregnancy has been what the medical community calls normal, with good lab results and good health for both me and the baby in my belly. I have experienced almost all of the pregnancy-related issues one can think of, which is part of being pregnant I guess. Now I feel relatively ready to meet this little creation that has lived in my belly for so long, and then return to a non-pregnant existence again.

Since this is the third time for us, we are expected to know how to give birth, we've done it before... that's certainly true, but that doesn't mean that as a mother-to-be I don't mentally prepare for the big day. I'm preparing myself with huge respect for whatever happens, while I am having a desire to challenge myself both physically and mentally. It's a new little person, it's a new circumstances and no two births are the same.

Having trained as a prenatal yoga teacher during this pregnancy, I have studied most things related to pregnancy and childbirth and have come up with some simple tips and advice that might help you too when it is time to give birth.

Trust yourself and your body - you were created to give birth to the child/children you are carrying. Women have given birth throughout history, and most of the time it works out well. Trust your intuition and trust that you are doing "the right thing", rather than relying more on the hospital staff than on yourself. If there are complications, most of us have access to very good healthcare.

Create a homely environment when giving birth to your baby - even if, as in most cases, it is in a hospital. Think about what makes you calm and what makes you feel at home - special photos, candles, music, movies, scents, ornaments, clothes...whatever it is, bring it to the hospital and "decorate" the room where you are going to give birth so that it feels more personal and less sterile.

I will just bring my husband into the birthing suite, while others bring a doula, children, family, relatives and/or friends. Here in the US, you can basically bring unlimited people into the delivery room. The most important thing is that it is right energy in the room, that no one is nervous, stressed or in a bad mood, etc. Because it's contagious and that's the last thing a birthing woman needs. So be careful who is in the room. This also applies to hospital staff, if you don't like someone of the staff, ask to have her/him changed. It is your right to feel comfortable with the people in the room.

Partner's role during childbirth is important! Both for him (or her/those you have with you) and for you! You won't know in advance how you will feel once labor has started. You may just want him to be in the room, you may want closeness, to be served a drink, for him to tell a funny joke or something else entirely. The most important thing is that you feel that he is present both physically and mentally and that he in turn feels calm and secure in the situation. And that he feels needed! It is also good if he has some knowledge about what happens during childbirth (everything from the different stages of labor to pain relief) in advance and not rely entirely on you and the staff to know everything. It can also be helpful to decide in advance how you envision the 'perfect' birth, so that together you can help to make it the way you want it.

Attend a prenatal course together during pregnancy (if there is one where you live). My husband and I went to a pregnancy partner yoga workshop a few months ago and we learned some useful tips and tricks, even having given birth 2 times before. And while the course itself wouldn't be particularly helpful it's important that you allocates time together for each other and focus on the new that are coming into your life. This is almost more true for re-births than first births, I would say. It was an incredibly love in the room where we had our workshop. We were about 25 pregnant couples gathered in one room and it struck me how little we cared about everyone else. The focus was only on us as a couple and on our baby in the womb. In our case, we learned what yoga postures might be appropriate during labor, different useful mantras, massage, various breathing techniques and relaxation exercises. It's about trusting yourself and your partner, feeling calm and secure in the situation. Learning different ways to relax when it hurts - because you can't get away from what it feels like to give birth. Two new things I learned during the workshop were that if I like something my partner does during labor, I'll be quiet, if I don't like it, I'll speak up in one way or another. It doesn't take a lot of words.

It is also very difficult to make decisions when you are in the active phase of labor and it is important that your partner is there to help. He should be the one who knows best, second only to the woman giving birth, if you have taken the time beforehand to discuss how you intend to give birth, and he is also the one who knows the woman giving birth as a person and knows how she tends to feel when she is not giving birth.

As you can see, words like security, calm, presence, knowledge and trusting yourself and your partner are recurring. If you have these qualities with you or strive to achieve them, it is easier to deal with the pain of childbirth and the situation and have the best possible birth experience. Every pregnancy, every birth and every person is unique...i.e. there are no specific tips and advice to give but more general ones, so you will have to choose what works for you when the time comes.

Every contraction brings you one step closer to your child. Take one contraction at a time. And focus on the breathing. You'll get through it, even if you don't think you will at the peak of labor. Your baby will come out, that's just it. Try to paint the most perfect birth for you and your partner inside you before labor starts, and strive for that image to come true. Try to get the most positive experience you can ever imagine!

Don't be afraid! Trust yourself!

I wrote this article a few hours before the water broke. I thought I would publish it the day after I wrote it, but instead it was a trip to the hospital. I have chosen not to edit anything and leave the article exactly as I wrote it at the time. I think in some way I had to write about birth preparations in order to relax and feel ready myself. The result of the hospital visit was a wonderful daughter and a fantastic birth experience!!

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