Updated: Apr 14, 2020
There you were, pregnant, planning for the birth you wanted - where you wanted it to be, how you wanted to birth, who you wanted with you. You had a few weeks left before you started maternity leave, you might not have everything sorted, but there was still time.
And then bam - Corona Virus strikes!
And now everything's changed. And understandably, you feel scared, anxious, uncertain. Maybe you even feel angry that the birth choices you wanted are no longer available to you, that you have to self-isolate, that your midwife appointments have been cancelled, that your partner can't come with you to your scans.
Fear, anxiety, anger - all of these negative feelings can have a negative impact on labour and birth. Feeling calm and confident as you approach birth can make a huge difference to your experience and transform it into a positive one.
So below I've listed 5 tips that can help you to overcome your fear, remain calm, change your perspective, and maybe help you to have a positive birth experience during the Corona Virus pandemic!
1. Breathe -
If I could only teach one thing in my hypnobirthing classes it would be the breath.
This is because it is beneficial in multiple ways.
Women have a tendency to hold their breath in labour, particularly when pushing. However this causes the body to tense up, which can make birth more painful. Breathing through the contractions or 'surges' helps to reduce the pain as the breath oxygenates and relaxes the muscles - making them work more efficiently and feel more comfortable.
When you breath in and out in a controlled way it gives your mind something to focus on and this distraction helps you to manage the sensations of labour.
Further, controlled breathing is one of the best things you can do to help calm and relax. Someone once told me that your heart cannot race if you control your breath. Becoming aware of and focusing on your breath helps to ground and calm you, instantly reducing anxiety and panic.
Try this during contractions or when feeling anxious- A really simple calming breath is to breathe in through the nose for a count of 4 and gently out through the mouth for a count of 6 or 8, whichever you can manage. Keep breathing like this until you feel calmer or your contraction subsides.
2. Create a calm environment wherever you are -
Due to the Corona Virus pandemic, many maternity services are closing their midwife-led units (MLU's) and home birth teams. This means that many women may now be unable to give birth in their preferred choice of location.
If you were planning a home birth or wanted to attend a MLU because of the more homely feel, you can still create a calm environment in a hospital maternity suite.
It is often said that the birth environment should be the same as the environment in which the baby was conceived - dark, private and relaxed.
Here are some suggestions:
You could ask the midwives to keep the lighting in the low in your room.
Bring battery operated tea lights or fairy lights to the hospital room to create a warm relaxing glow.
You could also ask the midwife to limit people coming in and out of the room and explain you would like it to be as private as possible.
Play calm music either through a portable speaker or listen through earphones to really help you stay in your 'calm bubble'.
Bring your own pillow.
And maybe even an eye mask to block out visual stimuli.
Use lavender oil on a tissue or pillow for a calming scent.
Bring photos of your loved ones, children, pets, positive birth affirmations or whatever feels calming to look at throughout your labour.
3. Remember you are never really alone-
Due to Corona Virus, maternity services across the UK have introduced safety measures intended on reducing the risk of spreading the virus. As well as the closure of MLU's and home birth teams mentioned above, also included amongst these measures has been restrictions to the presence of birth partners; both at antenatal appointments and during labour and birth.
Although this has been done with good intent, it has also understandably caused fear and anxiety for many women faced with the prospect of birthing without their partner.
I want to reassure you that there are ways to make this situation into a positive one.
First of all remember that, if you do find yourself on your own at any point during labour, you are never truly alone - you are with your baby. Although you haven't met them yet and you don't know what they look like, you may not even know their name - they are there, they are your family, they are your unseen birth partner, and they will help you through it.
Another tip is to be fully prepared for the prospect of spending time without a birth partner and try to arrange something virtually, i.e. via skype or face time, so that even if they can't be with you physically, they can still be present and able to offer that comfort and reassurance.
Also, be reassured that the midwives in the hospital will be with you. They want the best for you and your baby too!
4. Use affirmations -
Affirmations are a powerful tool. It's so true that if someone tells you something often enough, after so long you start to believe it.
The same is true if you tell yourself often enough - you start to believe it. It becomes reality.
Start today, start with 'I am going to have a comfortable, calm and positive birth, wherever I am and whoever I'm with'.
The more you repeat this to yourself, the more you will believe it to be true, and it will become true.
Here are a couple more -
'My body is perfectly designed to birth my baby naturally',
'I am strong, my body is strong and I am able to give birth to my baby easily',
'I look forward to meeting my baby at the end of the birth process',
'Me and my baby will work together to create a positive birth experience'.
5. Know that you are superwoman -
Giving birth is badass!
The female body is incredible, the fact it can grow an actual human being inside it and then manage to push it out is actually mindblowing when you think about it. In labour and birth, a primal source takes over, and women manage to draw strength, courage and power to achieve something unbelievable.
So to all those mamas about to give birth, know that you are superwoman. Not only are you about to give birth (badass!), you are giving birth in the midst of a pandemic! That makes you twice the badass.
Trust that you can do this, your body has been designed to do this, and when it comes to it, wherever you are, whoever you are with, you will find it within yourself to bring your baby safely into the world.