Part of enjoying your birth experience, no matter if it goes according to "plan" is creating space for mindfulness as part of the birth preparation.
Meditation creates a deep level of mental rest that is very soothing for both mom and baby during pregnancy and birth. The effects of meditation improve with time, so the earlier you start practicing meditation during pregnancy, the greater your endorphin levels will be when it comes time to give birth.
Meditation reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure and decreases the production of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and gives your baby a signal that he is safe and protected. Meditation also produces endorphins, our pleasure hormone, which can help during childbirth due to its pain relieving effect.
2. Be Informed
Attend childbirth and breastfeeding courses so you and your partner know what to expect. The more informed you are, the more empowered and relaxed you’ll be during labor. Ask lots of questions at your prenatal appointments. Choose a midwife who will provide you with compassionate, individualized care and with whom you form a solid bond of trust as you enter childbirth. Create a birth plan, but be prepared for different labor outcomes and decide how you’d want to deal with the various possibilities.
3. Slow Down
This is a gift for yourself and your baby. Focus on making yourself emotionally healthy. Be mindful in not only the external details of pregnancy planning but the inner preparation. Try to avoid over-scheduling and block off some time for yourself.
It's important to exercise, but be sure to do what's appropriate for you and stay fed and hydrated. Fitness helps reduce backaches, increase energy, reduce stress and improve your mood. It promotes muscle strength, tone, and endurance, improves sleep and helps you adjust to the physical demands of birth. But, sometimes you may just need a break.
Most women find the last part of pregnancy to be the most exhausting and uncomfortable and your lack of energy needs to be honored. Nap, change your exercise routines and find time to relax and connect with yourself, your partner, your family and your baby.
4. Prep Your Atmosphere
Many women prefer a dark and quiet environment for labor. Others may want lots of family around or music playing. Aromatherapy, especially the scent of lavender, is very calming in labor. I created a playlist and also gathered a few things that I thought I'd like into a small box: citrus scented spray, a poem and prayer, a beaded bracelet my friends made for me, a photo of me and my husband. The box made it easy for my husband or any of my midwifery team to find something I might want during labor and allowed me to free my mind of one more worry.
5. Accept the Pain
Try not to fear birth pain. Know that you can get through it. Don't let your mind suffer with worrying. During my birth, Genevieve would tell me each time a series of contractions was over that that one was gone forever. It helped me to put my focus on what was coming...my baby. Mindful birth allows you to experience labor as intense physical sensations which arise, peak and pass. Surrendering to the realization that the physical pain your body is experiencing is a sacred, miraculous journey can transform your birth experience.
By Stephanie Bazan
Stephanie is a mama, and freelance writer and graphic designer from Austin, Texas. She enjoys adventures with her husband, 2-year-old son, and shepherd pound puppy.
Some of the content from these tips originally appeared on HeadSpace.com as 10 tips for a mindful birth.