Birth and Labor Mindset

Aug 29, 2022

For this blog, I wanted to write about birth and labor mindset. I have a ton of first-time pregnant patients in the office right now, and I thought this would be a good time to do a blog on mindset and how important it is, no matter what type of birth you plan on having for labor and delivery.

It's a very anxiety-filled time when you are about to get birth, especially when it's your first time. So I've done a blog on tips on how to have an unmedicated birth, if that's what you're looking for, and I've done a blog on the fetal ejection reflex, which I'll touch on briefly, but this is more on just your mindset.

I think people forget about the nervous system when they think about the delivery and labor. When you see it in the movies, labor and delivery is usually bright lights, lots of commotion, lots of talking, beeping, yelling, those kinds of things. It is not calm, it is not relaxed, but that is not always the case. I had my daughter in a hospital, and I did a blog on her entire birth. I had my son at a midwife center in Pittsburgh, and neither one was all loud and bright and whatever.

 But my daughter's birth in the hospital was much more loud and bright than my son's birth in the midwife center. And they pick at the midwife center to have it be subdued and quiet and dimly lit for that reason, because they know the benefit of relaxing your nervous system.

We talk about the nervous system a lot on here and keeping us from going into that fight or flight mode. Animals in the wild cannot give birth when they're in fight or flight, and it's not going to be easy to give birth for yourself if you are in fight or flight. You need to feel calm, you need to feel safe, you need to feel relaxed. So how do you do that?


How To Relax Your Nervous System

I personally like to labor at home for as long as possible. That didn't work out with my son because he was extremely late, and I had to go in and get naturally induced. So I did not have Pitocin, but I had a castor oil drink that I do not recommend as it was terrible. And I think I was going into labor anyways, but to be able to have a baby at the midwife center, you cannot go over 14 days. So I was right up on that cutoff line, and I had no choice, and I really wanted to have them there. So I did it, and it is what you think it is.

Castor oil means you're going to have terrible diarrhea and the contractions of that simulates labor. It's an ill-advised move, to say the least, but it worked. I had him probably much more quickly than I would've naturally because of that. Comparing it with my daughter, I had a very slow labor with her.

Now for the laboring part for her, I stayed at home and labored with a lay midwife until she told me that I was seven centimeters and I should probably go to the hospital. Now, anytime you switch your environment, or you move yourself, or you’re feeling stressed, your labor can sometimes slow, and oh, did mine slow down. So if you want to avoid that, you should try a few things. So keeping calm, doing your breathing exercises, keeping things dimly lit.

I had her at night, so that wasn't really it, but it was the getting there, which was 40 minutes away. And then when you go into check in, it's bright lights, people are yelling, there's things beeping, it is not calm, it is not relaxing. So if I had been thinking ahead - maybe this is going to sound crazy since I had her in the winter and it was nighttime - but wear sunglasses to keep things dim. And I would've worn either earphones or I have these little earplugs that cancel out like background noise. I would've worn those to help keep my nervous system as subdued as possible in that parasympathetic state. I think that that would've helped, and I could've let my husband take care of all that registration stuff, because it was very anxiety-filled to go into that.

I had labored beautifully at home. It was so calm, so relaxing. I was in our whirlpool, there was no TV on, no distractions, nothing like that. And it was just an assault to my senses to go into the hospital with all that commotion. And my labor really stalled out, and I did have her naturally, and it all worked out, but nobody wants to go backwards when they have labored that long. So I would suggest those things to help to keep you as far out of fight or flight as possible, because we want to feel that calm connection.

Once I got to the hospital, and they got the monitor on and everything like that, my midwife was in the room with me the entire time. So she did not let people come in, and out of the room, so it was very quiet, not much going on in there once we finally got things going and got set up. So that was great.

With my son at the midwife center, I was there from the beginning, but we were the only people there. They only have, I think, six suites, so there wouldn't be a lot of people there anyways, but it was very quiet. I could make it as dimly lit as I wanted and that total quiet and minimal talking from anyone because I didn't like people cheering me on or anything like that. But everybody's different, some people might like that motivational encouragement. I'm just not that kind of person. So back to when I delivered my son at the midwife center, there wasn't talking from my husband or my doula. They just kind of knew what they needed to do and were able to help me and so there was nothing really stressful about the situation. And I really used my breath as something to focus on.


Focusing On Your Breath: How It Helps With The Nervous System

The other positive of that is that that's going to help with your nervous system as well. So when you're focusing on the breath and trying to get some movement of the diaphragm, that is going to stimulate your Vagus nerves, and that is going to help relax you as well. Again, you can't have a baby very easily when you're in fight or flight mode.

So I was focusing on that breath, and I already know what these areas look like just from school and dissection and everything like that, but what I would suggest for someone that is not in that field, when they're going into labor and delivery, is to take a Google image of a cervix and of the pelvic floor, so they have something to visualize as they're rolling through those contractions because there is a brain-body connection. And I want you to visualize the cervix softening as you have a contraction and the pelvic floor softening as you have the contraction. So not pushing through that section but each contraction, visualizing, “Okay, my cervix is opening up. Okay. My pelvic floor is softening. The pressure's coming down there, and I am opening up gradually, slowly.” That gradual slow opening is what maintains the integrity of the pelvic floor and minimizes tearing.


A Fast Birth Is Not Necessarily A Better Birth

A fast birth is not necessarily a better birth. Just like if you stretch laughy taffy, if you pull it slowly, it gives nice and smooth. If you pull it really hard, it might tear. The same thing happens with your tissues. So faster is not necessarily better. You think slow opening, give it time to give, give it time to stretch. You want your perineum, that space between your vaginal opening and your anus, to slowly give so that it doesn't rip in two. We want slow and steady. So visualize that area. Get a Google image of your cervix, your pelvic floor, and your perinium, and think slow, laughy taffy stretching after each contraction.

And you don't want to push until you cannot physically hold back. You have to let your body do the work, the softening with the contractions, and do not push until you feel like you can't help it anymore. That's when you should push. If you push for two hours, that to me means you're not ready to push, and then you can have more trauma to your pelvic floor in the tearing.


Perineal Pressure: A Game Changer

The other thing that I think is an incredible game changer is perineal pressure. So somebody, whether it's your nurse, your midwife, or your husband, or your partner, whoever, take a warm compress or warm washcloth and hold pressure at your perineum. So that's a space between the anus and your vaginal opening. That is where the tearing happens. That is what needs help for it to slowly, slowly stretch open so that it does not tear. We do not want a first, a third, or more tear. We don't want that.

This happened when I delivered my son. In the room was my husband, a nurse, the midwife, and my doula. And I delivered him on all force. He was over 10 pounds, and he had a hundredth percentile head, enormous, chunky little monkey. And this godsend of a nurse had per pressure there for probably - I'm not even kidding - an hour. She must have had no blood flow left or her poor hands, and I had minimal tearing. I think I had one stitch from that ginormous baby coming out, so it can be done.

I found that to be super helpful. I know other patients that have had that be super helpful.



So I definitely suggest that and keeping super calm, keeping your nervous system super calm through dimly lit or sunglasses, ear plugs or headphones, and doing your breathwork. Breathwork, breathwork, breathwork - really focusing on it and then visualizing the softening of your cervix, your pelvic floor, and your perineum. That is so important. I just can't say that enough.

And I think those will be super helpful, and that's not just for people who are having natural childbirth. That would be for somebody having with an epidural as well. So those apply to both things, and sometimes when you're in so much pain, and you just can't get out of that fight or flight mode, and you can't allow yourself to soften, sometimes that's when an epidural is necessary, because you need that slight decrease of pain to allow your body to feel safe and comfortable enough, to relax enough, to open up the last bit of the way.

So everybody's different. Everybody has a different experience, and sometimes we have to be very, very open to modifications as we're laboring because nothing goes as it’s planned.

One more thing that I like to let people know is that when I was first giving birth, I just assumed that contractions would slowly build and be very methodical and stronger and stronger and stronger. No, that's not how they worked for me, and I didn't have an epidural, so I could really feel it. It's not like I was looking at a screen to see when my contractions were. I could feel them, and it was a very intense contraction and I would feel the tightening, and then I would have like a smaller contraction. I could almost like relax through it because it was so minor compared to the previous one. So I would kind of ride these waves of uneven contractions and let them do their thing as they built. So, just something to keep in mind because that was a little bit of a surprise to me for mine. So if you have any questions, feel free to let me know, and I hope you have a great day!

If you have any questions, you can drop it in the comment section or you can send me a message through Facebook or Instagram. I’d be happy to do another blog about your questions. Also, if you want me to talk about something specific, let me know!

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