PREPARING FOR A POSITIVE BIRTH DURING LOCKDOWN.

This blog is written with the intention of helping pregnant women and their birth partners take back a chunk of control for themselves in the current climate which is filled with uncertainty and unknown.

Covid-19 is fuelling anxiety for so many reasons and the guidelines around birth have shifted several times during the last couple weeks.

These are the current guidelines as of today:

  1. Women can have a birth partner with them during their labour providing they have no symptoms of Coronavirus.
  2. If the birth partner has had symptoms within the last 7 days they should not come into the hospital.
  3. The partner stays in the birthing room as opposed to being able to walk around the hospital.
  4. This varies a little from trust to trust, but the partner is not currently able to come onto the antenatal or postnatal ward. (They can stay with their partner through active labour when they are in their own birthing room but would not be able to accompany their partner onto the postnatal ward).
  5. Home birth services in some areas have been suspended. The concern lies with the ambulance service. If a woman needs to be transferred during her labour, an ambulance is called, the ambulance service is under increased pressure at the moment and this service cannot be guaranteed. Local trusts are monitoring the situation in their area.

 

These guidelines and the worry around Coronavirus generally are making this a very anxious time for many pregnant women and their partners.

I am a Hypnobirthing teacher and mum of 3 and for the past 7 years have been helping women and their birth partners navigate their births positively.   

I want to share some top tips and techniques to help reassure you that there is a huge amount you can do to ease the anxiety you feel right now and feel more confident and in control.

So here we go ......

TOP TIP 1: BIRTH ENVIRONMENT.

Providing yourself with a personalised birth environment is incredibly simple but is a total game changer when it comes to birth.

Let me take it back a notch to explain why and then give you some ideas of what you can do ….

When we birth, our primal instincts really come to the fore and our senses are primed and on high alert. We subconsciously scan the environment for danger … is it safe to birth my baby here? Is this a good time? A good place? If the senses come back positively your body will continue to birth. If something is flagging up red, then often your labour will stall.

Because of the additional anxiety surrounding birth right now, it is very easy for you to be subconsciously telling your brain that there is danger present. This will result in your body flooding your system with adrenaline. This is not what you need in labour as it diverts much needed blood away from the womb which can slow or stall your contractions and adrenaline also suppressing the birth hormones you need to support you.

SO, CREATE YOURSELF AN AWESOME BIRTH ENVIRONMENT WHICH SOOTHES ALL YOUR SENSES. The idea here is that you will create an ‘anchor’ (or a few) for each of your senses which makes you feel relaxed.

Let’s go through your senses:

SMELL. This is a brilliant one. What smell do you already like and find relaxing? The most common answer is often lavender, but it can be anything. From now on, every time you relax or take some time out PUT ON THIS SMELL. You are conditioning your brain to know that every time you smell this you feel relaxed. This really works. Smell is very much attached to emotion.

The idea is you will then bring this smell with you to hospital when you birth your baby and it will be the scent in your birthing room. If the smell you like is a candle, can you get it in an oil form and diffuse it through an electric diffuser? These can be brought with you to hospital as opposed to candles which can’t. Or you could literally put drops on a tissue which you hold near your nose.

Your hospital room will then smell familiar and comforting and this sense will instantly be calmed and soothed.

 

HEAR. Your ears will be primed whether you are aware of it or not. Footsteps walking in the corridor, women birthing in the room next door. All these sounds will be unfamiliar and possibly unwelcome. But again, this is very easy to change. I would really encourage you to make a playlist of music that makes your feel calm and happy. It can be whatever works for you. I personally had a mixture of Hypnobirthing relaxations and music which I loved. As with the smell, start listening to this playlist now and allow it to ‘condition’ you into a state of relaxation. Have it on your phone, bring a Bluetooth speaker to hospital if possible and have this playing in your birthing room through your birth. Your brain will tell your body to relax because that is what you have always done while listening to this playlist before. All the unfamiliar noises from outside your room will no longer be heard. Very simple and very effective.

 

 

SEE. You will very likely be in a room you have not been in before. So again, your eyes will be scanning it, is it safe? Do I feel comfortable? The key here is to bring a few items from home which help you relax. I would recommend bringing in a familiar blanket, perhaps your own pillow or cushion. You might have a few photos, some positive birth statements printed out. You can put these things in your immediate eye line and help calm your brain. ‘Look brain, I’m fine … look at all these lovely things I recognise and make me feel calm’. Perhaps you will bring in an iPad and have some of your favourite programmes running in the background. This ticks two of your senses in one go 😊 .

 

 

FEEL. This can work two ways. If your birth partner is present, they can help you to stay calm and feel safe and supported by using touch. A key hormone you want to produce in abundance during labour is Oxytocin and touch is a brilliant way of stimulating this. Again, just as with smell and sound, you ideally want to have practised this lots in advance. Gentle back massage, hair stroking, having a cuddle, simply holding your hand. All these signal to your brain that you are protected and safe and that this is a great time to have your baby.

If you find yourself birthing without your partner (I know this is not a welcome thought), you can absolutely still do this. Stroking your own arm, up and down from fingertips to elbow is a fantastic way of self-soothing (slowly, gently). Pressing your thumb into the centre of your palm on the opposite hand is also a good way of releasing anxiety and pressure. Practise these on yourself in advance just in case you need them.

 

TASTE. This is in some ways is the least important sense when it comes to birth BUT is definitely still has a part to play. I would 100% recommend packing yourself and your birth partner a picnic for labour and birth. Treat it as if you are running a marathon. You need to carb-load in advance and then your need to sustain yourself. Your partner also needs energy too, you don’t want them to get hangry 😊. When we have what we fancy at our disposal it is really reassuring and helps put us at ease.

By attending to all your senses, you have transformed your birth environment and will feel so much calmer. Simple hey?

 

 TOP TIP 2: SKILLS FOR BIRTH.

You need to believe you can do this (because you absolutely can!). If any fear you have of birth is dealt with you will feel so much more in control and less anxious.

 I can’t teach you a 10 hour Hypnobirthing course in a blog but I can share a couple of things that will really help.

1. Make sure you BREATHE. Many women hold their breath when they are having a contraction and hug into themselves and tense their body. They endure each contraction rather than embrace it. What your body needs you to do is the opposite. It needs you to relax so that your cervix can retract, and for you to breathe deeply so you are oxygenating your muscles.

The optimum thing you can do is breathe slowly and deeply through each contraction. This tells your brain you are calm (you would be breathing quickly if there was danger).

The technique: breathe in as deeply as you can through your nose (but don’t strain). Then breathe out as slowly as possible through your mouth – it helps to make your mouth nice and small as if you are whistling. Place your hands on the top of your bump and feel your tummy rise and fall.  Repeat this breath until you feel calmer (if you are doing it now) or through the length of your contraction when you are labouring.

Practise this. You want to make it second nature.  Use it every time you feel anxious. Use it when you go to bed at night to help clear your head and get you to sleep. It is very simple but hugely effective.

 

2. Practise Relaxation.

It is really important when you labour to allow your body to do what it know how to do – have a baby. So often our ‘thinking brain’ can get really in the way. We often have a head full of negative birth examples from watching programmes like One Born Every Minute and this is the last thing you want to flood into your thoughts when you are in labour.

Relaxations help you to learn how to ‘switch off’ your brain and focus inwards. If you regularly listen to relaxations in the run up to your birth you will understand how to do this during labour and allow your instincts to come to the forefront.

There are lots of relaxations out there that will help you do this, and I have written one specifically for this purpose called ‘The star within you’.  You can grab this from my website for free: https://bunintheovenbirthing.co.uk/products/free-anti-anxiety-download

‘The Star Within You’ script uses a count down (have a listen). This is a very effective way of re-focusing you during labour if you feel anxious. Counting down from any number nice and slowly really helps ground you.

 

 

3. Increase your confidence and self belief.

I’m a massive fan of positive affirmations. There is so much evidence out there which shows how effective they are at bolstering your self-belief. This is SO important when it comes to birth. If you believe you can do it, you are more than halfway there.

My favourite affirmations include: ‘I feel confident, safe and loved’. ‘I trust in my ability to birth my baby’. ‘Each surge (contraction) of my body brings my baby closer’. There are so many brilliant ones.

A great idea is to get birth partners to record their voice reading you relaxations and positive statements. If for any reason they cannot be present at your birth, you can have their voice with you which will go some way to feeling their presence.

 Pictured above are the awesome @yesmum range of affirmation cards. 

 

RIGHT. Let’s go back to the guidelines and problem solve a little now I have shared some tactics and techniques …..

 

  1. Women can have a birth partner with them during their labour providing they have no symptoms of Coronavirus.

My advice: If possible, line up a secondary birth partner as back up. I fully appreciate this is not ideal or ‘first choice’ but it may put your mind at ease knowing someone else is primed to come with you if you partner does start displaying symptoms.

If you have no one else who you want / can be a birth partner this is where working really hard on your self- belief and birthing skills is key. If you KNOW you have the tools to help yourself and believe you CAN do this, you are so much closer to achieving your goal. Work really hard on your environment too – make sure you have your ‘anchors’ with you so your senses are soothed as much as possible.

Another ideas is to get your partner to record positive statements and some scripts for you so you know you can always have their voice in the room reassuring you.

 

  1. If the birth partner has had symptoms within the last 7 days they should not come into the hospital.

The same advice as no 1 would apply here.

 

  1. The partner stays in the birthing room as opposed to being able to walk around the hospital.

This just means you need to be super organised 😊 make sure you have everything you need and they need too. Drinks and food are particularly important ones to remember for both of you.

 

  1. This varies a little from trust to trust, but the partner is not currently able to come onto the antenatal or postnatal ward. (They can stay with their partner through active labour when they are in their own birthing room but would not be able to accompany their partner onto the postnatal ward).

The key message here is to stay at home for as long as you can, so that you ensure you arrive in hospital when you are in active labour.

The best way to ensure you can arrive at the right time is to have a ‘game plan’ for early labour at home. You need to be confident that you know how to labour at home as comfortably as possible and that you know how to help yourself with labour techniques so you don’t run to hospital too early because you want a midwife to help you labour.  Breathing through your contractions, being active and boosting your oxytocin levels through massage and relaxations are key here. (More on this in a mo but I’m running a free Hypnobirthing class via Zoom next week where I will explain and demonstrate these.)

A rough guide of when you should be heading to hospital is when you are having three contractions in a ten minute period regularly. The easiest way to determine this is to download a contraction app so you can time them.

 

  1. Home birth services in some areas have been suspended. The concern lies with the ambulance service. If a woman needs to be transferred during her labour, an ambulance is called, the ambulance service is under increased pressure at the moment and this service cannot be guaranteed. Local trusts are monitoring the situation in their area.

My advice if you have been planning a homebirth would be to figure out a plan for both home and hospital birth. (unless your trust has stopped homebirths altogether).

You are going to need to work out how you can make hospital feel as familiar and comforting and ‘homelike’ as possible. This comes back in huge part to your environment. Comfort every sense so you help your body to relax as much as possible. Make it smell like home and sound like home by using your familiar scent and playlist. This will make a huge difference. (see part one of the blog.)

 

 

I really hope this  advice and recommendations have been useful and you feeling a little more confident and hopeful.

 

HOW CAN I HELP MORE?

  1. As mentioned above, I have written a brand new anti-anxiety relaxation script to help calm and build confidence. It is called ‘The Star Within You’ and is all about boosting confidence, increasing relaxation and soothing anxiety. I’d love you to benefit from it 😊 If you would like it sent to you can grab it here: https://bunintheovenbirthing.co.uk/products/free-anti-anxiety-download

 

  1. I'd like to invite you to a free Hypnobirthing class. The techniques described above are better explained in person. I have been running regular free Hypnobirthing ‘taster’ classes for the last 7 years, normally in a venue with plenty of tea and cake on offer 😊. I’m hosting a special taster on Monday 4th May via Zoom with the theme of anti-anxiety where I’ll be running through the breathing, relaxations and teaching massage (but you will have to provide your own cake, boo!). If you would like to book onto this so you can see the techniques explained in person and I can answer any questions, you can do so here: https://bunintheovenbirthing.co.uk/products/free-taster-session I’d love to have you there.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

A huge part of birthing positively is shifting your mindset and focus. The hospital is unfamiliar? Rather than let this put you off surround yourself with your anchors. Take control of your environment.

The midwifes and medical team will be wearing protective clothing which may feel intimidating. Rather than focusing on their appearance, focus on their voice. Their voices will be encouraging and caring. Let this be your focus. (Many women spend a lot of their labour with their eyes shut so this may well be the case for you.)

Build your confidence, work on your skills and take back a little control. You have got this.

 

Love, Linda x