Preparing to give birth for the first time will, for most expectant parents, cause some anxiety and fear -- that's normal. There are many factors, however, that only serve to increase and feed into those worries, and sometimes, parents unknowingly engage in activities and habits that do just that! Taking the time to be intentional about how and where you spend your time during pregnancy can help reduce fear and increase confidence about the process of childbirth. We're going to give you 10 of our most favorite, time-tested, relied-upon ways to bolster up your confidence in preparation for one of life's most momentous experiences.
1. Guided meditation. This might seem odd to include as number one on the list, but it is one of the simplest and a very effective way to influence the way you think about your pregnancy. Meditation in general has been shown to be effective at quieting anxiety, but specific guided meditation/guided imagery/guided visualization for pregnancy and birth can be particularly helpful in achieving a more confidence mindset for birth. You can find free guided meditation/visualizations online or purchase tracks to download onto your phone. Aim to listen at least once a day (they are usually less than 15 minutes).
2. Take a good childbirth class. Notice the emphasis on "good." Not all childbirth classes are created equally. Check out the teacher's credentials, and learn more about what she teaches and how she teaches it. An 8-hour lecture on how to follow hospital policies isn't going to be your best bet to instill confidence.
3. Take a free online primer for a good childbirth class. Small plug here, but hey, it's free! Lamaze created a free, online mini course specifically designed to inspire confidence. Check out "Labor Confidence with Lamaze."
4. Stay off the internet. Oh the internet. Chock full of information, so much of which is NOT helpful. Especially when it comes to calming fears and building confidence. So, give yourself the gift of internet breaks. Stop clicking through all the things when it comes to reading pregnancy and birth posts. And for the love of all things, do NOT read the comments!
5. Get back on the internet... and be selective. Ok, so the exception with #4 is that there ARE amazing and thoughtful and intelligent and confidence inspiring websites, bloggers, and resources online. Find those. Bookmark 'em. Visit frequently. And you might even read the comments. Birth Without Fear is one of many excellent choices -- do your own homework and find more.
6. Read [the right] books. Just like picking the right websites, choosing the right books to read about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting can go a long way toward preparing you to feel strong in your choices and about your body's ability. My top three? The Official Lamaze Guide, Pregnancy Childbirth and the Newborn, and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.
7. Hand pick your support team. This includes the support team you plan to bring with you to labor and birth, as well as the group of people you choose as a go-to for everyday support during pregnancy. A good support team includes people who withhold judgement, who listen more than they talk, and who will lift you up when you need it. If this does not accurately describe your mother, then she's likely not a good choice for your team!
8. Hire a doula. A good doula is the perfect addition to your good support team -- see #7. Be sure to interview your doula, find referrals if possible, and feel good about your choice. A doula's role is not only to assist with birth, but to act as a resource leading up to birth, including inspiring confidence.
9. Surround yourself with positive messages. Positivity is not just "woo-woo" talk, it's a legitimate way to guide and enhance your life. The more often you read and hear positive messages, the more you begin to believe in them and act accordingly. Reading positive birth stories, printing out inspirational quotes and affirmations, listening to positive guided birth imagery -- all are great ways to bathe your pregnancy in positivity.
10. Connect with other expectant parents. Beyond your core support team, it helps to be able to connect with, vent to, and ask questions of other parents going through the same things. Whether this is found through an online group, an in-person support group, or with other students in your childbirth class, seek out those who are experiencing pregnancy at the same time you are.