For most women the thought of giving birth brings along a lot of fear around the 'pain' they will be experiencing and the question over how they are going to cope with it or possibly even WORK with it. It doesn't help when we are surrounded by descriptions of birth being 'horrific' and the 'most painful experience' ever which leave women feeling scared or thinking about epidurals before they've had their first contraction. The truth is, when women have the opportunity to work through the pain, have the experience of working with their bodies and give birth fuelled by oxytocin the perception of their own strength and bodies is changed for the rest of their lives. But how can women do this?
During my six years as a birth doula I've had the privilege to observe many women during labour and think about what allows women to access their birthing power. Women prepare in different ways, some attend hospital birthing classes, some do independent childbirth education or both, many read various books and if they are my clients will have individualised birth preparation as part of my birth doula support. What most women have in common however, are the answers they give you if you ask them before their birth what they plan to use to cope during labour: They'll list things such as use of their breath, movement, being active or using water. All fantastic techniques, but as I've learnt, in their own right will not be enough to help women work through the intensity of birth.
Imagine a woman in a large, brightly lit room, she is naked, feeling scared, alone and exposed. Do you think her practised breathing techniques will work for her in coping with intensifying contractions? Probably not. And this is where the other three elements in addition to actual birth coping techniques come in:
1. Your Birth Environment Needs
Birth is a natural process that requires us to connect with our instinctual behaviour. Oxytocin, the hormone that drives labour, flows when women are feeling safe, protected and inspired. Ask yourself what do you need from your birth space (also at home during early labour) and in hospital to make you feel this way? There are many things you can do that can make even a hospital environment more personal and feel like it is 'your space'.
2. Your Emotional Needs
Everything in birth is an interplay between your emotional and physical state. What emotional preparation do you have to do ahead of giving birth to ensure your fears will not take over when things become intense? How can you become comfortable with the unpredictable nature of birth? The topic to explore here is vulnerability.
3. Your Support Needs
Feeling supported and encouraged is one of the key coping techniques during labour. Feeling alone in what you’re experiencing or having people around you who doubt you or the process birth is one of the hardest things to overcome. What do you need from your support team? Explore and discuss this before giving birth.
4. ...and last but not least: Birth Coping Techniques
Birth coping techniques are all about using your body to release the build up of tension/power inside your body and that help you to stay with the intensity rather than trying to move away or ‘escape’. Having as many as you can in your 'birth skills basket' and taking care of your other needs as described above will increase the likelihood of them working well for you tremendously.
So there you have it: For women to cope through birth and work with their bodies it takes a combination of needs fulfilled rather than placing emphasis on a single coping technique. For this to happen on your baby's birthday it requires some preparation and consideration on the woman's part before giving birth and what it will take for her different needs to be taken care of. But when it all comes together it is the most beautiful, humbling and powerful experience all at once and an emotional memory that will stay with you forever.
If this post has left you curious and wanting to learn more about HOW you can fulfil your 4 elements of birth coping skills then get in touch! This is something I explore with my birth doula support but also birth coaching clients and I would love to help you too in finding your own perfect 'birth coping mix'.
Julia MacLeod has been a birth and postnatal doula since 2013 after she became a mother and has supported more than 60 families since. When it comes to giving birth she wants women to feel prepared for the unexpected nature of birth and fully supported at every moment through their partner and doula by their side. She also offers dedicated postnatal care aimed at giving newborn mothers the best possible start into their fourth trimester. Julia lives and works on the NSW Central Coast with her husband and two young boys.
If you would like to find out more about Julia’s services please get in touch! She offers an obligation free ‘Meet & Greet’ for anyone who is interested in her birth doula & postnatal care packages.
Phone 0457 100 752