Psychological strategies for preparing for labour

Preparing for labour

Are you mentally and psychologically prepared for birth?  What are your expectations?

Often people describe birth as being a time of momentous joy, achievement, pride and relief on bringing a new baby into the world.  While for most this is the end result, getting to that point can be long, painful and exhausting. Sometimes, the mode of delivery was not at all like we wished for or envisaged.

Birth experiences vary greatly from one individual to another, and even from one birth to another. (Just ask anyone who has had more than one child!) If you ask anyone what their birth plan is, there is likely to be a fairly straight forward, limited number of scenarios described.

But every birth is so different, and there are things that can happen that are outside of our control. So how do we then psychologically prepare ourselves for birth? Here are a few things that are useful to keep in mind when thinking about the upcoming birth of your baby.

Tips for preparing for labour

1. Know that there is no one ‘right’ way to give birth

Know that there is no one ‘right’ way to give birth. You will do what feels right for you at the time. It is only then when you are in that situation and experiencing the birth process, that you will know what the ‘right’ thing truly is.

Antenatal classes can show you how to prepare for birth, and assist you to know and understand what your options are when giving birth (e.g. pain relief, birthing positions). They also explore different ways that you may handle the stages of the birth process.

There are also podcasts and television series available, such as Australian Birth Stories or One Born Every Minute, which will give you an idea of the many, diverse ways that women give birth.

However it is only when you are in the situation that you will really know what feels best. So, be open to this and be prepared to ‘go with the flow’.

2. Remember that things can happen during labour beyond our control that are no-one’s fault

It is important to remember that things can happen during the birth process that might not be as we had planned, hoped for, or anticipated. In most instances these are situations that are beyond our control. The baby may arrive early. The baby may get into an awkward position. Your blood pressure may rise or fall. These are just a few examples of the number of things that can happen to anyone. They are beyond our control and are no-one’s fault.

If this does happen to you, try and keep an open mind. During the process of giving birth, be guided by your health professionals who are best placed to assess the situation at the time. Draw on their experience to manage the safe arrival of your baby.

While you may be encouraged to have a birth plan which is important to discuss with your health professional in the lead up to your birth.  Remember, however, that while this may be your ideal birth, things may happen that lead to a different intervention or outcome. Also, in instances where there may be more interventions required, the length of recovery time may be greater – physically and/or mentally.

3. Focus on the end goal

No matter what happens, or how close or far your birth experience ends up being from your ideals or your birth plan – the focus is to safely deliver your baby (or babies) – and work with the health professionals to make this happen.

Be guided by your health professional. Focus on following their direction.

4. Access to supportive information on preparing for labour

Access additional tips and supportive information while you’re preparing for labour, and following birth. Recommend that you download our free app, Ready to COPE, for expectant and new parents.

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Discover The Mum Drum

Discover The Mum Drum: an eight-part YouTube and podcast series where real mums share real stories about their journey through pregnancy, birth and parenting. You can find all the episodes here.