This isn’t how you imagined birth would be.
It isn’t fair.
Why you? Why your birth? Why your baby?
You have a right to feel angry, frustrated, scared, isolated, robbed, powerless.
It’s so important for us to acknowledge the grieving that is going on right now. The loss of choice. The loss of support. The loss of certainty.
You have a right to feel all the feelings.
It totally sucks – there are no two ways about it.
Maybe this is your first birth, your only birth or your last birth.
Maybe you fell pregnant easily, or by accident, or maybe you fought – like I did – for years through fertility struggles.
However you got here, I want you to know that you’re not alone. You are two, after all. You have a little partner on this journey to motherhood who knows nothing of what is happening on the outside world.
Remember, you were designed for birth. You’re stronger than you realise mama and this challenge you’re facing – which flipping sucks and no woman should have to face – is going to shape you, make you more resilient, make you appreciate the ordinary, taken-for-granted moments of the fourth trimester in a way you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Your body is wise and beats to the rhythm of an ancient feminine energy that supersedes artificial boundaries.
Now – more than ever – your baby needs you to connect with your inner wisdom. To ground yourself. To elevate your consciousness and find a way to be the calm in the storm you and your baby need.
Maybe you’ll experience birth at home.
Or maybe you’ll deliver in a hospital room.
Maybe you’ll have a vaginal birth or maybe a belly birth.
And either way, it will still be a beautiful birth.
What this pandemic highlights is that it is critical for birthing women and their partners to become as informed and empowered as possible to feel prepared going into birth. To understand the pros and cons of birth choices, the implication of interventions, and your right to make those choices. After all, this is YOUR birth.
To help empower you on your birth journey, I connected recently with Nadine Richardson, childbirth educator, doula, prenatal yoga teacher and the founder of She Births to discuss what steps women can take to prepare for birth in this new normal.
How are pregnant women feeling at the moment?
A recent survey of over 1,000 pregnant women tells us that over 80% of women are feeling anxious right now about birth during COVID and over 40% are changing their birthing plans.
Women want to know how they can stay calm and take care of their babies during pregnancy, birth and postpartum with less support than they expected. They’re also afraid of feeling alone and isolated after birth.
Partners are being asked to act as primary support people – they’re experiencing high anxiety, stress and pressure to ‘perform’.
The realisation that the majority of labour will happen at home, without a doula, and the lack of incentive to visit the hospital, with only a skeleton staff is making it critical for mum and partners to be more educated and empowered.
What are the restrictions birthing mothers are facing?
Every state, country, hospital and provider varies slightly in their restrictions. It’s really important to ask questions and be informed plus get updated regularly, so you can feel fully prepared.
Across the board there are international measures implemented in nearly all developing world hospitals, primarily put in place to protect families from cross-contamination within a ‘sick’ person’s environment. Generally, we’re seeing the following restrictions:
– Reduced antenatal face to face visits (some reduced by up to 75% for low-risk mums)
– Mums learning to take their own blood pressure at home
– Partners not allowed to attend antenatal appointments
– 1 support person allowed in the room only during labour
– Skeleton midwifery staff, due to midwives being restricted between COVID and non-COVID areas & midwives/nurses being recruited elsewhere
– Delivery suite rooms being utilised or allocated towards COVID ICU treatment
– Encouraged late entry, when labour is well established
– Encouraged early discharge after birth can be 4 hrs after normal birth and 24 hrs after complicated vaginal delivery. 2-3 days post-c-section rather than 4-5 days.
– Telehealth consultations only in most areas to assist with breastfeeding and recover
With these changes we’ve already seen an increase in the number of families choosing to give birth at home. Homebirth is proven to be as safe or safer when good communication exists between providers and hospitals. However, it is also likely we will see an increase in free birthing ie. when birth is not attended by any health care professional.
What would you say to mothers who are anxious about these restrictions?
This is still your birth, it may be your only birth or your third birth…either way….it’s important that you don’t undervalue the preciousness of this day.
The wonderful opportunity still exists for you to come out of birth empowered and strong. To find a bonding that will carry you and your family unit forward into parenting.
The power of your hormones will be there to help you form a healthy bond and assist your breastfeeding. All of these benefits stem from having the most natural birth possible.
Experiencing some natural labour helps with all of the parenting foundations. Experiencing as much natural labour as possible helps even more. Don’t give up on yourself and birth now just because the world has gone a little mad and some of your choices have been taken away.
You still have choices, so many more than you realise, despite the pandemic. With the right education you can still create a beautiful birth. The most natural, gentle and joyous birth despite what Hollywood has told you and despite all the fear and trauma being shown on TV news channels every day.
How can pregnant women take back their power and prepare for a beautiful birth?
Firstly…accept your feelings.
Women and partners are deeply afraid right now and they’re grieving. It is totally understandable.
Women are finding it hard to cope with all the changes and restrictions being placed upon them, their family and their births. This in turns puts a lot of pressure on our partners – to be the key support person both now and for the majority of the upcoming labour, which is not an easy task.
The majority of mums I speak with are trying hard to acknowledge and name their feelings and breathe deeply through them – embracing the changes as best they can by sharing within our community groups, journaling and expressing even in artistic ways.
But, it’s really important we don’t get overwhelmed or stuck in a stage of grief, like denial or start to play the victim because all of this will restrict our natural hormones and oxytocin production for labour.
What can women do at various stages of pregnancy?
If you are in your first trimester…
Start to cultivate a sense of calm and positivity through protection and selection.
It is essential to protect yourself from negative birth stories because the human brain receives and encodes negativity 5 times faster than it does positivity. And we are also 36 times more likely to remember information when it is told to us in a story.
All the podcasts and stories you read are wiring your brain …and have been for years. Now is the time to forget the negative and start a new positive birth and pregnancy narrative. To dream up what is possible and lean into it, even if you are feeling nauseous all day and exhausted, remember to avoid entertaining negativity about birth.
If you are in your second trimester…
Jump into childbirth education now. Later is not better! Earlier education will give you time to get your head and heart ready for the changes that are both happening and coming. It will give you and your partner ideas and questions to discuss with your caregiver. It will guide you towards the books and resources that are best for you.
On top of keeping up with sunlight, exercise, great nutrition and blood tests to monitor your iron etc start to build up a daily yoga and visualisation practice. Get your body and mind in balance and ‘talking’ to one another. Yoga is such a powerful, evidence-based way to discover natural comfort measures as well as keep your baby in an optimal position for birth.
If you are in your third trimester…
Really get your partner on board – big time! With a full conflict of interest disclaimer, I can only say – do She Births ® if you haven’t already. Check out She Births here and use code raisedgood10 for a 10% discount.
Also, get your partner involved. Many mums do their partners a huge disservice by not including them in birth preparation. This is a big transformation for partners too. Just because they can’t feel the baby and hormonal changes during pregnancy doesn’t mean they don’t need support, information and guidance at this time. They want to help, they just don’t know how. Dads go through dramatic hormonal changes post-birth so let’s help them understand more earlier on.
The tools, philosophy and principles we have to guide both mums and partners are absolutely critical to not only getting through birth but actually coming out the other side thriving, as a loving and strong family team. A family with a connected vision of how they want to go forward as a couple, as well as parents.
Tell us about She Births – why is it unique?
She Births is the only scientifically verified childbirth education program in the world. When compared to standard hospital classes in randomised controlled trials (176 couples) She Births® is proven to lower epidural rates (65%), caesarean section rates (44%) as well as resuscitation of babies (53%) and even shorten labour by 32 minutes. Find out more in this ground-breaking study, published in the British Medical Journal.
How can pregnant women stay calm at any stage of pregnancy and parenthood?
Studies show that the human nervous system requires at least 20 mins a day of being in a parasympathetic state. We suggest mums practice one visualisation per day, and two per day if they can fit it in during their third trimester. Of course, our babies get the benefits of these times too with reduced cortisol and adrenaline, increased oxygen and endorphins in their systems.
A parasympathetic nervous system response can be found in many ways. Having a bath, singing and playing the guitar, doing some gardening, walking in nature and cooking even! Whatever brings you a sense of joy and rejuvenation will be key to feeling calm and having a more positive state of mind about the future, therefore you will have more confidence going into birth.
What is your advice for mothers who now have to do their birthing courses online?
I understand that it is a hard one to get your head around. You have to believe in yourself, your partner and your birth educator! An online course is going to be so much better than random books and youtube clips. If you’re interested in learning more about She Births we have multiple options to choose from.
The most popular course is the She Births Full Online Course, which is self-paced learning and can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and on any device. We’re thrilled to offer Raised Good mamas 10% off on the She Births Full Online Course by using the code raisedgood10.
For the current crisis, we also created a mini Birth Basics Course and we also have a Free Pregnancy Support Guide people can access via the app or desktop and experience guided visualisations, birthing lessons and PDF downloads as well as live weekly events on Zoom.
What can partners do to support expectant mothers through pregnancy, birth and postpartum?
Create a time together that you can both speak easily and share your fears. Fears are there to be spoken and released, but also they are there to guide us in the right direction for a better birth.
By starting a dialogue with your partner, you will be more than half the way there. Sharing the journey together in a constructive way through active listening and proactive planning together will help you both.
On a more practical note – give massages. Learn how to do Happy Paws, the Caterpillar and the Bi-lateral hip squeeze and mum will be a much happier lady. We also created a Dad’s Guide to She Births® quite a few years ago to help partners understand why Childbirth Education is so important for them. And we’re offering free prenatal classes on Tuesday nights with Q&A sessions afterwards to anyone who would like to join. Find out more here.
What’s one final piece of advice would you like to give pregnant women?
Changing and modifying the ideal pregnancy, birth and postpartum vision you had is essential but at the same time the core elements are still available to you.
Having the most natural, gentle and joyous birth possible can still be the goal for many of us and actually is the most beneficial, especially with what is going on. With less time spent in hospital and less interventions there will be less immune compromising for both mum and baby.
It is possible to create a bonding, enriching and empowering birth amidst COVID, if we put in a few hours of preparation and practice beforehand. The inner commitment to make any birth beautiful, no matter what unfolds, is always the most important principle I teach.
About Nadine from She Births: Nadine Richardson is a mother and has been a childbirth educator, doula and prenatal yoga specialist for over 20 years. She is the director of The Birthing Institute and creator of She Births®, the world’s only scientifically verified childbirth education program. Nadine is currently writing her first book and developing a TV series to celebrate birth diversity around the world. She is engaged in speaking events and teaches medical students, midwives, health practitioners and birth workers as well as parents around the globe.