The words “fun” and “birth” may sound like total opposites, but there are ways of easing the pain by creating a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere. After all, this is a celebration!
Breaking the Cycle
During labor and delivery, staying relaxed and open is essential to a smoother birth process. If you’ve ever seen movies or TV with a birthing scene, chances are the focus was on pain and immediacy. In reality, birth typically starts pretty slow and is not necessarily very painful for some time. Most women have plenty of time to try and relax and enjoy the excitement of meeting their new baby very soon.
The expectation that your birth is something to “make it through” that will be very painful and unenjoyable is not doing you any service. Birth can be and should be something we enter into feeling calm and collected. Even though you know that pain will most likely be a part of it, it should not be the focus of your baby’s arrival.
Beginning in the late 1800s, physicians started examining why some women could give birth smoothly while others had a challenging time. They uncovered that the women who struggled held fearful expectations of their births. The fear caused tension. The tension made the labor process more difficult, leading to increased pain and more fear. The fear-tension-pain cycle took hold of these mothers and created a self-fulfilling situation.1
While changing your internal beliefs about childbirth might seem impossible, these ideas for creating a positive birth experience can help. Read on for astute advice from mothers, doulas, midwives, and health experts.
Get Your Mindset Right
Having an enjoyable birth is more likely if you do a little planning. Doula Sue Chargo from New Heart Doula Care in Minneapolis likes to figure out what will make her clients feel the best. “Birth can feel very overwhelming,” says Sue. During prenatal meetings with clients, Sue works to help them discover what will help them to feel comfortable. She wants her clients to feel empowered and feel they will have an enjoyable, positive birth experience.
Sue finds out what the birthing persons’ interests are and tries to incorporate them in some way during the labor process. For example, if they enjoy music, she encourages people to put together a playlist of songs. Movement is vital during labor; sometimes, they sway, dance, or Zumba to their music.
Alex from Alexandra Wellness Doula in Ontario, Canada, says that only allowing positive and supportive people into the birthing room is vital for your mindset. She also suggests using positive birth affirmations and visualizations, such as your baby’s clothing, as focal points. “Focus on positive memories and thoughts through your contractions,” she says.
“Anticipating childbirth, especially as a first-time mom, can be intimidating,” says Amy Raines, founder of ManyHatMom. “Fear, embarrassment, and anxiety can all slow down the natural progression of labor. This is exactly why finding ways to make labor and delivery fun is vital to having a relaxing and enjoyable labor experience,” she says.
Amy suggests using a touch of fantasy to relax your mind. “The level of sheer concentration that you experience during contractions is astounding. You can feel the muscles in your body tense up with extreme strength in preparation for pushing your baby out. But when all you can concentrate on is the contraction, the pain will soon become unbearable. To ease the pain and take your mind off it — daydream,” she says.
“During my labor, I remember daydreaming about a California road trip my husband and I had taken a few years back. I thought about how the sand felt between my toes, how wonderful the sun’s heat felt on my skin, and how relaxing it was. Finding something to daydream about took my mind off of the pain and made the whole labor experience more enjoyable,” says Amy.
Daydreaming can act as a sort of meditation or self-hypnosis. Both are renowned for their ability to ease labor. If you focus on the sounds, textures, smells, and sights in your daydream, you are also helping to ground yourself, a powerful technique that halts anxiety and fear.
Dance and Sing
Music not only can boost your mood, but it can also alter it. Using music during your birth is an obvious choice for many people. You just have to figure out what type of music suits you and create a fun birth playlist. For example, I love classic rock and have a twisted sense of humor, so my playlist included songs like Strange Brew (Girl What’s Inside of You) by Cream and Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash.
For others, upbeat and funky music might be more your jam. Women’s fitness specialist Eleana Kaidanian says, “A way to make your birth more fun is to play adrenaline-pumping music just like you would when working out. I can vouch from personal experience since I pushed out my first daughter to Usher singing ‘Yeah!’ The music can help take your mind off some of the pain and craziness during labor and make the situation feel more normal. I always tell my clients that birth is like a marathon you must prepare for. You need to train right and eat right, just like you would for the biggest physical competition of your life. That heart-pumping music makes the experience to the finish line much more fun!”
Amy takes a more practical and evidence-based approach to using music for birth. “The Journal of Perinatal Education states that walking and moving around can be an effective way to speed up labor and help you feel more comfortable.2 During my labor and delivery, my husband and I turned on soft music in our hospital room, dimmed the lights, and danced slowly.
Movement and light activity during labor help the baby move downwards into position and push on the opening of the cervix. Keeping my feet apart and rolling my hips in circles helped relieve some of the discomfort I was feeling, and anytime a contraction came on, I let my legs go limp, and my husband held me up.
Keeping my body relaxed during contractions helped ease the pain and discomfort. On top of helping move my labor and delivery along, dancing was a fun way to pass the time and made my labor much more enjoyable than if I had simply stayed in bed,” she says.
Capture the Moment
We share our lives in captured time more often now than ever, showcasing these intimate and life-altering moments even with strangers. But using pictures during your labor and delivery can also be a fun activity for you and your birthing partner.
Olga Zakharchuk, founder and CEO of Baby Schooling, suggests taking Polaroid photos throughout the process. “Polaroid pictures are so special because they are timeless and tangible. Plus, you don’t have to worry about looking perfect in them as they’re more about the moment in time than quality. It’s a great way to capture emotion. You can even make signs before giving birth that you hold up in those Polaroid photos. The photos can later be added to a photo album or framed and hung on the wall!”
Combine this idea with using images to help you focus and ground yourself, and you’ve got a winning combination for a more enjoyable birthing experience that will help ease tension and boost your mood.
Create a Spa Environment
Sue likes to create a familiar spa-like environment. This will help those in labor feel warm, relaxed, and safe. Here are some ways to accomplish this:
- Decorate the room with LED candles.
- Hang pictures that can be used as focal points.
- Place positive birth affirmations around the room.
- Include essential oils ideal for labor in diffusers you like the smell of (be sure of preferences beforehand and have backups!)
You can even recruit your birth partner to give you a massage to complete the package. My doula helped ease back labor by pressing a firm ball into my lower back while my partner rubbed my shoulders and arms. It was heavenly.
Plan Your Post-Baby Chow Down
Every celebration worth its salt includes food! Why should your birth be any different? Most women can and should eat during their labor, especially if it is long and drawn out. However, planning your post-birth dining can be a fun way to look forward to the time following your birth.
Sue says, “Most pregnant women love to plan for their ‘first meal’ after the baby is born.” She helps them plan whether it can be delivered to the hospital or picked up and had at home.
Alex offers similar advice — “Plan a snack or a meal you enjoy after birth to celebrate your victory with your birth team. Think special cookies, chocolate, your favorite treat, or order pizza or sushi.”
It’s a Celebration, After All
However you feel about your birth now, adding some enjoyable elements to your delivery can improve your experience and even make your birth fun! You might even have a more comfortable birth as tension and fear melt away. Preparing for these fun experiences beforehand brings the focus to what’s important—celebrating new life and motherhood.