For new moms and seasoned mothers a like, pregnancy and birth can be full of unknowns and worries. Between being inundated with new information, adjusting to the changes your body is going through, and being bombarded with birth horror stories, the whole process can be overwhelming in more ways than one. Having fears and worries is totally normal, but it’s important not to let those feelings overwhelm you. Although that is easier said than done, a little practice and preparation can go a long way in focusing on the positive and learning to relax. We prepare in so many ways for the arrival of our precious little ones, from designing the perfect nursery to nurturing our bodies with healthy foods and prenatal yoga sessions. It’s so important not to forget about preparing your mind for the truly amazing experience that comes with bringing a new life into the world. Not only does having a positive outlook and addressing your fears make for a peaceful mind, it can literally change your physiology for the better. Keep reading for my top four strategies to keep your thoughts in check throughout your pregnancy, birth, and the days that follow
First things first: you must address your fears.
You can’t make any progress in changing negative feelings if you don’t acknowledge their presence. As previously mentioned, having negative feelings is totally normal! Harboring them and allowing them to impact your health and your birth process is not. Share your concerns with your care provider and your doula. Your care provider will be able to address any concerns that arise and either get you the help you need or provide you with the right information that will reassure you everything is just fine. In addition, voicing your concerns will open up the opportunity to discuss your options if by chance things do go differently than planned. Be open with your doula or other support people about your emotions so they can help you process them and move on. It’s what they are there for!
Secondly, practice gratitude every day.
When things get stressful or feelings of uncertainty overwhelm you, take a moment to shift your perspective. Focus on the good things that are happening and you may realize the glass is half full! This may seem too simple, but gratitude is the seed from which positive attitudes blossom. According to scientists, practicing gratitude is one of the leading ways to increase happiness, optimism, and other positive emotions. One of my favorite ways to incorporate gratitude is to write down two to three things I am grateful for in my journal at the end of the day, or when writing out my to-do list in the morning. They don’t have to be huge things. Perhaps you had a great workout or refreshing walk that day. Even the simple things like feeling your baby move or having a supportive partner by your side can be considered blessings not to be taken for granted.
Thirdly, surround yourself with positive people.
There will be people who insist on telling you their pregnancy and birth horror stories. For every person like that, there is a person who had a beautiful experience similar to the one you envision for yourself. Seek out the latter! Look into local resource centers and boutiques such as The Motherhood Center in Houston. Places like this have support groups for mothers and expectant moms that are well informed and often willing to share their experiences and wisdom. One thing I’ve noticed is that women who seek education and support are much more optimistic about their birth. More often than not, they have conquered the their fears by empowering themselves with information and recruiting the help of experienced support people. In addition to that, simply knowing you are not alone is comforting in itself! Don’t be afraid to seek understanding about that may concern you or ask for recommendations for whatever your birth team may be lacking (i.e. a provider who listens to your concerns, nurturing doula, etc.). Having positive people around you during this time will have a tremendous impact on you and your experience.
Lastly, learn to quiet your mind and relax.
This is so important! Not only will this keep stress at bay, it will also help you during your labor. Remember when I briefly mentioned how negative and anxious thoughts can change your physiology? Think of a time when you were very angry or anxious. Can you recall how your body felt in that moment? Maybe your jaw was clenched, your fists were balled, and shoulders tightened up. Well, allowing yourself to be rattled by negative emotions and thoughts could cause your labor to stall, become more painful, or keep your labor from starting in the first place due to your body’s “fight or flight” response. Negative emotions and thoughts will arise during the process, no doubt about it. You can overcome them by knowing how to check in, refocus, and relax versus allowing them to take over your thoughts thereby affecting your body. Breathing exercises, visualization, and meditation are excellent tools to help you do this.
I believe these four simple strategies will help you build your mental strength and remain positive throughout your pregnancy and birth. So between picking out the perfect nursery colors, going to and from prenatal appointments, and everything in between, remember to take some time to focus on your mind. No matter what happens you will be ready to tackle any obstacle with a focused mental approach and positive attitude. In the end, keeping mind over matter is an often-overlooked essential to creating the birth experience you desire.
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