By Lina Clerke.
Based on my experience of supporting hundreds of women during labour, birth and beyond, I have summarised some tips that may be helpful for you:
If you are pregnant and wanting to hear and develop a positive attitude about birth (rather than the scary portrayal on popular media), you need to talk to the right people and read the right books - inspiring books. Find an independent midwife / birth attendant in your area and have a chat.
Spend time with women who have a positive attitude about their birth experiences and about birth altogether.
Research widely and find out what options are available and make wise choices about your caregiver and chosen place of birth. Make sure that your caregivers support you completely in your birthing preferences.
If you would prefer a natural, undisturbed birth you definitely need lots of water available. Wherever you are, make sure there is a BIG tub for baths, and a good hot water system for endless showers. Being able to birth IN the water is a wonderful option and many women prefer water births if they have tried both. It is also a lot gentler for the baby, and women are less likely to tear in a water birth (actually I have only once seen a lady that needed stitches after a water birth). Consider water availability when making choices relative to where you plan to give birth.
Most of the births I attend now, the fathers/partners help to 'catch' their babies - that is REALLY special for them. You may wish to discuss this with your partner and caregiver.
How old are you? If you are over 35 do not let anyone scare you about problems in labour! I have helped many women, 35 to 48 give birth BEAUTIFULLY, easily, naturally for the first time. (And I have seen much younger women needing cesarian births.) It has nothing to do with age. People love to make a big deal about your age and scare women into thinking they will need intervention.
Don’t watch stupid American TV shows about birth!
Don’t even think about lying on your back EVER in labour - unless you HAVE to because someone needs to do a belly or vaginal exam and cannot do it in your chosen position. (And anyway if your labour is sailing along with good strong intense contractions, there is no need for routine vaginal exams. Usually it is obvious what is happening from the outside.)
During pregnancy avoid sitting in 'bucket' chairs (like really soft sofas )- sit so your knees are LOWER than your hips, and your spine is tall and straight, or you are leaning forward slightly. This will help encourage baby into good position for birth. (Leaning back with knees higher than hips encourages baby into a posterior position - baby’s spine faces mother’s back which can cause long difficult labours.) In the last 6 weeks of pregnancy, crawl daily for a few minutes to encourage baby into an anterior position.
Those big birth balls or physiotherapy balls are excellent during pregnancy to encourage good posture. In labour they are wonderful for sitting on or leaning over . After the birth, the big balls are lovely for rocking baby and doing tummy and other exercises.
While you are pregnant , find some new mothers and visit them, bringing food and your eager arms to hold their babies while their mothers have a rest or a shower etc. Become familiar with little new babies and what daily life is really like for a new mother. Also familiarize yourself with the simple principles of correct attachment for breast feeding by talking with and observing mothers as they feed their babies. You may want to visit a local nursing mothers support group in advance.
Attend positive birth preparation classes that help you to get in touch with your own inner resources (not just giving facts about dilation etc.)
Having a baby can bring up many issues for a new mother and / or father/partner. Your life is about to completely change! If you have any particular concerns, or are aware of emotional issues that could prevent you from feeling relaxed and positive about the pregnancy/birth/parenting, seek specialised counselling as soon as possible. This could include de-briefing past experiences, getting in touch with your own experience of being born and parented, or relationship counselling with your partner.
Look after your health. Eat a good balanced diet with lots of iron, calcium and nutritious, organic whole foods. You may wish to research the use of homeopathic remedies, tissue salts or herbal teas ( like raspberry leaf ) to help tonify the uterus.
You may want to have treatments from an experienced osteopath, chiropractor, cranio-sacral practitioner or Bowen Technique therapist who works with pregnant women to make sure that your pelvis and spine are well aligned.
Regular massage will help you to stay relaxed and in touch with your growing body and baby.
Apply beautiful oils to your belly , breasts and thighs to help reduce stretch marks and celebrate your changing shape.
Practice yoga, tai chi and/or relaxation skills for birth and beyond.
Go swimming and use a snorkel as you crawl along the water, deeply in touch with your breath while you move or float.
Spend lots of loving moments with your partner.
Spend time with your unborn baby every day, sending love and welcoming this new little being into your life. There is an absolute miracle happening within your body. Take the time to feel it fully.
(You may wish to listen to the guided audio relaxations on this website to support you at this time)
Walk amongst the trees and birds, and smell the flowers. Spend lots of time in nature and feeling peaceful.
Practise meditation. Locate the place within you where you are always happy and peaceful. It is there all the time - only one breath away. Make friends with your breath.
The more relaxed and peaceful you are in pregnancy the better for you and your baby. This is likewise so in labour. And for parenting too!
Relaxation skills are invaluable in normal labour and also when intervention is called for. I really emphasize the importance of letting go profoundly between EVERY contraction. Conscious relaxation and breath awareness will help you to stay in your body, rather than go into your head and panic in the face of the intensity of labour. (Please make use of the guided relaxation audios on this website to practice regularly during pregnancy. It will help you SO much in labour and beyond!)
Giving birth can be hard work, but it is one of the most amazing, powerful, life changing experiences in a woman's life - a real gift. Enjoy the passion and the challenge and the opportunity to grow!
Your womb is the sacred space where your unborn child is growing for 9 months. During this precious time in which you inhabit the same body together, the greatest gifts you can give to your unborn baby are the gifts of love, safety and deep peace. These gifts will go with your child into their life, nurturing them at a deep level forever.
Blessings for your journey into parenthood.
Some useful resources:
Books (in no particular order)
All books by Ina May Gaskin
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering - Sarah Buckley
Birthing from Within - Pam England
Birth Reborn - Michel Odent
New Active Birth - Janet Balaskas
The thinking woman’s guide to pregnancy and birth - Henci Goer
Rediscovering Birth - Sheila Kitzinger
Breast feeding : I can do that - Sue Cox (Australia)
(More books to be added - this website is under construction)
Prenatal Relaxation Audios
Joyful Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond - Guided relaxations. Lina Clerke.