You announce your pregnancy to your family and friends, and it begins: you are subjected to birth horror stories. Sometimes others recount stories that aren’t even theirs--- they may share with you a scary news article they just read, or a third-hand account of someone else's traumatic birth experience.
What is it about pregnancy that makes others want to share negative news? When you announce an engagement, people don’t start telling you about their marriage problems. When you share the news about a work promotion, they don’t dump on you about their own workplace drama. But pregnancy seems to open an invitation to others to give you unsolicited advice and warnings.
Negative comments from others can interfere with your ability to keep your own worries and anxiety at bay, or to simply enjoy your pregnancy. And when the negative stories are related to your personal birth choices or preferences, or used as a way to discourage you or shame you for those choices, the emotional impact can be great.
Here’s how to deal with those birth horror stories:
1. Understand the motivations behind sharing them.
There are several reasons why people overshare the negative aspects of birth. Often they just want to connect with you, and they feel that sharing the hard parts of pregnancy and birth is a way to do it. What they don’t realize (or remember) is that you’re still in it! You’re pregnant and haven’t given birth to this baby yet. Even if this isn’t your first birth, each pregnancy and labor are unique and you really don’t know how it will go until you actually give birth.
Sometimes people haven’t yet processed their own birth trauma, and instead of speaking to someone who can help them work through it, they are dumping their negative feelings onto you. Perhaps their concern for your well being creates a need in them to tell you about what can go wrong, as if speaking it aloud is all that’s needed to keep you safe.
Some people are talkers with no filter. They see that you’re pregnant, and they blurt out all of the pregnancy-related things they know, even if they are negative. They don’t think about the impact on you.
And sometimes, people just think they know more than you, and know what’s best for you. But they aren’t you. This is your pregnancy, and your baby.
2. The story is incomplete.
Someone can tell you something negative about their birth experience with all the gory details, but here's what you may not know:
You don’t have all the facts about someone’s birth story. What’s missing may explain what contributed to a negative outcome, or their negative feelings about their birth.
I'll say it again: Every pregnancy and labor are unique. Even if you have the same care provider as someone else, birth at the same location, at the same time of year under the same full moon, your experience is uniquely your own.
3. Consider the source.
There are aspects of birth that can be painful, uncomfortable, and difficult. Knowing what to expect during labor and during your postpartum recovery, learning about the warning signs so you know when to seek medical care or when to see a specialist-- these things are valuable and important to share. But there is a difference between education and fear-based story telling.
Consider who is giving you the information-- what is their knowledge of birth, of perinatal research, the policies and practices of your care provider, or of your unique medical history?
Very rarely does an event or experience have only negative aspects. Is the person sharing information with you not aware of or are they withholding the positive aspects of a situation?
Your care provider, childbirth educator, doula, lactation consultant, or informed friend may be a more reliable source for information than someone recounting a horror story.
4. Challenging births can still be positive births.
You can’t predict or control how your birth will play out. Birth, by nature, is unpredictable. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily dangerous, or to be feared, or that things will go wrong. And it doesn’t mean that what happened to someone else will happen to you. The way someone else feels about their birth experience, will not have to be the way you feel about yours.
Even if you face challenges that you didn’t anticipate or want, or if things veer off course from your birth plan, you can still feel positively about your birth. When you feel informed and supported throughout, when you feel like your birth team cares about you and respects your wishes, when you feel safe and loved, then you are likely to feel more positively about your birth experience.
Inductions, Cesareans, very short or very long births, unintentionally unmedicated births, high intervention births, or any birth that didn’t go as desired— these can all still be positive births. Birth is in the eye of the beholder.
Preparing yourself by taking a childbirth education class, knowing your options in labor, choosing a care provider who supports your goals, and surrounding yourself with a strong birth team-- these steps themselves can help to buffer you against others' birth horror stories.
You can also just stop them before they start. Change the subject, find an excuse to hang up the phone, or tell your family and friends what you do and don't want to hear when you are pregnant. Surround yourself with what will help you approach your labor with confidence, calm, and joy-- start your positive birth experience now.
I am a certified birth doula, postpartum doula, and childbirth educator serving clients in Boise, Meridian, Eagle, Nampa, and the Greater Treasure Valley.
Learning about the birth process and having caring, knowledgeable support throughout pregnancy and labor can make or break your birth experience.
If you are pregnant, sooner or later you will think about how to manage the pain of labor. Some clients know they want to get an epidural, and others would prefer to either forego pain medication entirely, or see how they feel in labor and make a decision in the moment.
Pain management and comfort measures are topics I discuss at length with my clients in our prenatal meetings. When clients want to avoid or delay pain medication, we talk about natural pain relief methods like counter pressure, hydrotherapy, heat therapy, and position changes.
When clients are open to pain medications, but want to avoid or delay an epidural or narcotic medication, nitrous oxide can be a great option.
Nitrous oxide has been used by laboring people in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada for decades. The ACNM (American College of Nurse-Midwives) supported its use in a 2011 position statement, affirming nitrous oxide as a pain relief option that fits into the midwifery model of care.
While nitrous oxide was once frequently used in United States, in the 1970’s its use declined as epidural analgesia surged in popularity. As of 2017, one report stated that nitrous oxide was available in only around 150 hospitals and 50 birth centers nationwide.
Fortunately for those in the Treasure Valley, both major hospital systems, St. Lukes and St. Alphonsus, offer nitrous oxide, also known simply as “nitrous,” in their labor and delivery rooms.
With all interventions, there are benefits and risks. Here’s what you need to know if you are considering using nitrous oxide in your upcoming birth:
The Benefits of Nitrous Oxide in Labor
The Risks, or Downsides of Nitrous Oxide in Labor
I am a certified labor doula (birth doula) and postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the Greater Treasure Valley.
Are you considering using nitrous oxide in labor? Would you like more information about it?
Visualization is a proven tool commonly used by professional athletes, corporate leaders, speakers, and marathon runners that is free, effective, and powerful. It can also be used by anyone birthing a baby, in any setting, in any position, for any type of birth. It's one form of childbirth preparation you can do just about anywhere.
Visualizing a specific action has been shown to activate nervous system responses that are similar to actually performing that action, impacting your heart rate, blood pressure, and hormones. Visualization can help you stay calm and focused in a challenging situation; it can reduce physical symptoms of stress and anxiety and promote feelings of relaxation.
Consider this tool a “mental rehearsal” for your birth. You can visualize the entire process, from imagining yourself feeling the earliest labor signs, to arriving at your birth place, to pushing out your baby and bringing her to your chest. Or, you can focus on just one thing, like your cervix opening up or your baby descending.
Whatever you choose to visualize, keep the following tips in mind:
Practice throughout your pregnancy. You won’t get the benefits of visualization from trying it out once or twice. Make the time to practice your visualization often throughout your pregnancy, so when you are actually in labor, it is familiar to you and easy to go back to when you need it.
Get creative. Some people find it helpful to imagine their actual uterus pushing baby down with each contraction, or to imagine their baby’s head pressing against their actual cervix, thin and ripe.
Others prefer to imagine something more abstract or metaphorical, like a flower opening, or waves crashing. Some may find an image of themselves passing through a barrier representative of “moving through” contractions, and in turn they become an active participant in their labor rather than a passive onlooker. And some choose to visualize something completely unrelated, like their favorite vacation spot, or some other peaceful location.
Personalize your visualization so that it works for you.
Break it down into steps. Whatever you choose to visualize, break it down into small steps. For instance, if imagining a flower opening, you might visualize each petal of the flower slowly unfolding until you can see the center. If imagining ocean waves, visualize the wave building far from shore, gathering momentum until it crests and then falls against the rocks; see the ocean spray, the bubbling foam, maybe even sand crabs scurrying around as the water is pulled back into the sea.
If your visualization can be broken down so it lasts roughly 60-90 seconds— the approximate length of a labor contraction— you will find yourself with a tool you can use to manage each surge.
Write it down. Write down the steps of your visualization to help break it down, and to get a clearer picture in your mind’s eye of what you will “see.” Pay attention to detail; incorporate your other senses, imagining what you might smell or hear if you were actually at the ocean, or in a field, or even in your place of birth.
Incorporate affirmations. Think about how you want to feel as you visualize, and tie this into any birth affirmations you may utilize in labor. You might think of your affirmation, or even speak it aloud, as you work through your visualizations.
As author and speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer says about the power of affirmations,“I use the inner mantra I am, seeing myself as already having arrived at what I’ve placed in my mind.”
During your labor, you might think or say aloud, “I am strong,” “I am open,” “I am calm,” or any number of phrases, while you are actively using your visualization.
You can use visualizations to distract yourself from any pain or discomfort you may experience, even outside of labor. Afraid of needles and about to have blood drawn? Consenting to a cervical check or having your membranes swept? In the OR having your baby by Cesearean? Having an IUD placed?
Go to your visualization to distract your mind from your physical discomfort, and bring you back to a more peaceful state.
I am a certified labor doula and professional postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
As a doula, I can remind my clients of their visualizations and affirmations and help them have a supportive, positive birth experience.
“The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values.”
William S. Burroughs
I encourage my clients to take childbirth education classes as they prepare for the birth of their baby. The more you know about the physiology of birth, and what you can expect at each stage of labor, the less fear there is surrounding it.
Where you have your baby can also affect what what you experience— the procedures, care routines, people you will interact with, and what decisions you may have to make, can vary depending on whether you give birth at home, at a birth center, or even at different hospitals.
The amount of information you learn can be overwhelming. In the prenatal meetings with my clients, we sift through this information to find out what pertains to them specifically, based on their goals and how they want to feel during labor and birth. I help them identify what limitations may be present, and how to best work around them. I get to know my clients and their values, and what techniques, both physical and emotional, that will work best for them.
This is where childbirth preparation goes beyond childbirth education.
Preparation for your birth is unique to you. Sometimes, it’s unconventional and maybe even a little strange. I’ll use my own experience as an example: When preparing for the birth of my daughter, I watched every episode I could find of a show on A&E called “I Survived.” The show profiled people from all walks of life who had endured horrible events, like attempted murder, natural disasters, near-death experiences, and trauma, and how they survived those experiences. Their outlook on life was usually gratitude, and a newfound strength. My mindset was that if these people could survive those horrific events, and still have a positive attitude, then I could make it through labor!
That might not be the best form of prep for everyone, and that’s kind of the point. What preparation for birth looks like for me, will likely look totally different for you!
Here are ways others have prepared for their births:
What have you used to get through a physically or emotionally challenging time? Laughter? Visualization? Music? The deep breathing you learn in yoga or meditation? Do you value knowing the hard facts?
You can tap into your own experiences, your own strengths, in labor. Use what has worked for you, or what speaks to you, to prepare in a way that is as unique as you are.
I am a certified labor (birth) doula and postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
How can I help you have a more positive birth experience, that is focused on you and your unique needs?
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.