Recently I have heard a lot of expectant mums discuss the importance of a mindful birth, keen to find out more I spoke to the Mindful Birth group about what a mindful birth means. https://www.themindfulbirthgroup.com
1. How would you define a 'mindful birth'?
A mindful birth is when the woman/ birthing person/parents feel completely calm and in control of how they are feeling and reacting to their birth.
This may be a straightforward A to B journey or it may include a few or many unexpected turns. Understanding the process (taking out the unknowns) and using mindfulness techniques will all help to keep adrenaline down and birthing and parenting hormones up. Being mindful of our physiology is important however the birth happens for the birth, bonding and postnatal healing stages.
2. What are your top tips to help an expectant parent prepare for a birth?
Knowledge is power and generally we know so little about pregnancy and birth when it happens. Taking out the ‘unknowns’ will make it a much more enjoyable and calm experience for you.
My biggest tip would be to find a birth education course that suits you best. Our online self learning courses are very helpful if financial and time resources are low, but investing in a private or group Mindful Birth course will be one of the best things you spend your money and time on as an expectant parent if you can.
3. Do you believe in birth plans? Or do you feel that more flexibility can be valuable?
Planning isn’t something that sits well with babies and birth! What is SO important though is understanding what happens in all types of birth and knowing what would make you feel the most comfortable and confident as the stages progress and what you would like to happen once baby is here. These details are what then form ‘preferences’ rather than a rigid plan.
I encourage parents to make ‘birth preferences’, one for physiological birth and one for unplanned abdominal birth for if things do take an unexpected turn. If planning an abdominal birth I encourage them to complete the relevant preferences sheet and think about what they would like to do should their labour start before their planned date.
4. Any hospital bag items which you believe can assist with a positive birth experience?
I think of this as an oxytocin kit for all births! Even if planning a home birth, pack this kit for any unexpected turns:
- Music, any which makes you feel calm and happy. There’s no perfect playlist, just what you feel happy listening to! Our Mindful Birth relaxation audios too. It’s fine to have these on your phone to play out loud or on headphones wherever you are
- Scent- a calming lavender room spray or pillow spray (or a pregnancy-safe one that you love). Scent is SO powerful for helping the body to relax.
- Battery powered fairy lights or a star light projector! At home or a birth centre the lighting is easily dimmed but in a labour ward room it could be tricky so turning off the lights and putting on these calming options would transform the room! Also an eye mask for in case you’re on a labour ward waiting for a room to become available. Blocking out bright light is really helpful to encourage the body to relax. Post abdominal birth the calming lights are all helpful for in a private room or eye mask for the open ward too.
- Touch, your familiar clothing and pillow from your bed. Anything that feels homely in a hospital environment!
- Taste, things that are going to give you energy and make sure you are well hydrated too
5. For those who have experienced difficult past labours (even birth trauma) do you have any advice for them to overcome their fear? For example, my birth with Alba was induced as she had known gastroschisis, so the whole birth had to be very tightly controlled. I laboured for nearly four days and, in the end, my pain relief free plan had gone very much out of the window! I wouldn't say I'm traumatised by it, but I am certainly very fearful of the idea of labouring again.
I’m sorry you’re feeling fearful, this is a really common situation that many people come to me to prepare for subsequent births. I always say every pregnancy, birth and baby is completely unique and individual. No two births will be the same and it’s important to remember that. Preparing yourself for your subsequent birth with a fresh mindset will really help. But before that can happen, it’s important that you feel that you understand what happened in your previous birth (and that none of it was your fault). Many mothers and parents carry guilt and sometimes grief for how a previous birth went and the reality is, sometimes birth takes twists and turns that catch us off guard. Sometimes the care provided wasn’t adequate. These things are out of our control and the very best things you can do is talk about it (via a birth debrief with your hospital or privately, your hypnobirthing teacher can sometimes provide support as a listening ear before you get started with your course too) and prepare for your subsequent birth knowing you are doing everything you can to feel prepared and confident. I also believe it’s really important for birth partners to be involved in the courses too as they are such a big part of the birth team and may be feeling uneasy themselves following a previous difficult birth experience. Or if they weren’t there, they’ll get to know your wishes and hopes for this birth and be able to advocate for you confidently. It really is a team effort.
I would also recommend starting your preparation for the birth from as early as week 20-24 as you may have a journey to go on in order to come to terms with lots of feelings and emotions that have been kept inside.
6. Lastly, what one piece of advice would you give to expectant partners in relation to the birth itself? I know they can often feel disconnected with this part of the parenting experience.
I mentioned this above but it’s so important that they get involved in the education side of things. Honestly, no partner has ever told me that they felt useless during the birth having understood what happens and how they can support the mum or birthing person. There’s SO much they can do, it’s just the knowledge and understanding that they need first- the rest will come naturally to them!
If you've enjoyed this Q&A and you would like to find out more about the Mindful Birth Group please take a look at https://www.themindfulbirthgroup.com