Is there such a thing as a positive birth? Birth is a huge experience in a woman’s life, and it’s normal to have some worries beforehand. But with the right preparation, birth can be incredibly powerful and life-enhancing.
Here are some common concerns many women have about birth. If you feel like this, you are not alone. But there are lots of ways you can prepare for a positive birth.
- I’m not good at coping with pain
Your birth will probably involve some of the most intense feelings and emotions you have ever experienced. But remember that every surge or contraction is bringing your baby closer.
Women’s bodies are designed to cope well with the strong forces of birth. Your body will make its own natural endorphins or painkillers. Plus there are lots of ways to ease and manage those intense feelings.
Find a good birth preparation class and learn about how your body gives birth. It’s important to find out about all the ways to help you cope.
These include breathing, hot baths, self-hypnosis and visualisation, massage, movement, aromatherapy, TENS, gas and air, pharmaceutical pain relief, and more. Understanding all your choices will help you feel positive and in control.
- I don’t like hospitals
Where you have your baby is your choice. Many women birth their babies at home or in Birth Centres which aim to offer a more relaxed home-from-home environment.
Some people feel safer in a hospital labour ward with specialist doctors and medical equipment close at hand.
It is important that you feel safe and comfortable wherever you have your baby. Talk to your midwife or doctor about your options.
In some situations your healthcare professional may advise that it is safer to have your baby in hospital. It is important that you understand why they are recommending this and discuss your choices if you are unhappy or unsure.
There is lots of information available to help you decide where to have your baby. If you like statistics, take a look at the results of the Birthplace Study which compared the outcomes for women giving birth at home and in hospital. Its key finding was that “giving birth is generally very safe”.
- My last birth experience was traumatic
It can be very difficult to face another birth if you have unresolved fears and emotions from a previous birth which did not go according to plan. Disturbing memories from your last birth often re-emerge in the next pregnancy.
However it is possible for your next birth to be a positive birth. When this happens you can feel healed and strong again.
It is very helpful to get support in dealing with painful emotions from a previous birth. The Three Step Rewind is a very effective way to do this.
Three Step Rewind is a process where you are supported to detach negative feelings from your memories in a safe and protected space. A qualified practitioner will help you revisit your birth memories and feel better about them.
You can read more about the Rewind and how it can help you here.
- My partner is stressed and anxious
It is very common for partners to become nervous and stressed as birth approaches. They are often very protective, wanting to keep you and the baby safe. This is natural and good, but sometimes their worries can make you feel worried too.
If at all possible, encourage your partner to learn about birth and how they can best support you. Find a birth class that they can attend, and talk about what you would like them to do during the birth process. They might like to learn some massage techniques or practice relaxation scripts that will help you both.
I really like Mark Harris’s book, “Men, Love and Birth” (Pinter & Martin Ltd, 2015), which is an excellent read for men about how to support their partners for a positive birth.
It is also worth remembering that your baby’s father does not necessarily have to be your main birthing supporter. Some women feel more comfortable and relaxed with their mum, sister, best friend or a doula (professional birth supporter). Choose someone who can help you stay positive.
- My best friend/sister/mum had a 45 hour labour
People love sharing their birth horror stories! Try not to be too alarmed.
When someone says they had a labour longer than about 12-18 hours they are usually including the pre-labour or “latent phase” when contractions are milder and further apart than in fully established labour. During this early stage it is usually best to stay at home, relax, take a bath, eat and drink, and try to carry on with normal activities as much as you can.
If you think you might be in labour, call your midwife and listen to their advice. It is usually best to wait until your contractions are happening regularly two to three minutes apart before going to hospital, but always call your midwife if you are at all worried for any reason.
Lots of people have very positive birth experiences, but sometimes they don’t talk about these very much. Try Googling “positive birth stories” for some beautiful and reassuring accounts.
- I’m worried about pooing when I push.
It is really very normal to open your bowels a bit during the birth process. Everything is opening up down there! Some women get very embarrassed about this, but it is a completely natural process. When it is time for your baby to be born, you will most likely have a massive urge to push, and forget about everything else.
Be assured that your midwife will not be remotely bothered about a bit of poo. She sees this every day, and for her it is a positive sign that your baby is coming, probably very soon. She will just discreetly wipe away anything necessary without a word.
Think about how you feel about this level of intimacy with your birthing partner. It is entirely up to you where your partner looks or doesn’t look!
- I’m scared about tearing down below.
The tissues around your vagina are designed to stretch amazingly well to let your baby out.
However sometimes small grazes or tears do happen as your baby emerges. If your baby needs extra help getting out, your midwife or doctor may occasionally need to make a cut, called an episiotomy, in the perineum, the skin muscles between your vagina and your anus.
If you do have a tear or an episiotomy, this will be repaired by your midwife or doctor shortly after the birth. It can be a bit sore for a few days, and ice packs and paracetamol may help, but it will normally heal very well.
There are several things you can do to reduce the chance of a tear.
Your midwife will tell you to stop pushing and take short breaths through your mouth as your baby is about to emerge to prevent your baby from being born too quickly. She may also use a warm compress on your perineum to help it stretch.
Pelvic floor exercises while pregnant are helpful to strengthen and prepare your muscles for birth. You will also need to do these exercises after having your baby. I teach pelvic floor exercises at all my Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga classes.
There is also evidence that massaging your perineum from about 34 weeks pregnant can help. You can read more about that here
Prepare for a Positive Birth
It isn’t always possible to predict every aspect of how your birth will unfold. But there are plenty of ways you can prepare for a birth where you can make positive and well-informed choices throughout. This will help you stay calm and feel supported.
Learn as much as you can about birth, and consider all your choices. Ask all the questions you need to.
Learn how to breathe and relax. Choose a great birthing partner who can help you communicate with your health professionals. Birth is an exciting adventure. Look forward to your baby’s arrival!
Karen Lawrence is a former midwife and mother of seven children. She teaches Pregnancy Yoga and Birth Preparation classes in Billericay, Essex. She also offers Reflexology for Pregnancy, Three Step Rewind, and Postnatal Yoga, Postnatal Recovery Massage and Closing the Bones.
To learn more about how Karen can support you, visit