With the current situation, we are aware a lot of pregnant mothers and mothers to be maybe feeling a little bit anxious. We are happy to share with you some tips to help keep positive birth experiences during these uncertain times.
With maternity care changing all the time due to the spread of COVID-19, it’s easy for mothers to feel worried. Mothers are feeling out of control of their birth experiences with choices being taken away as hospitals change their policies on birth partners and place of birth. So Natalie Meddings and Jenna Rutherford, both doulas working in Surrey and London, have made a series of free youtube videos to support women to feel empowered for their births, whatever choices they have. They have specifically focused on hospital birth as more and more home birth services are suspended. With a deep understanding of what birth needs, how to pace yourself in labour, staying in your flow as you travel in and working with your body in the hospital environment, mothers can still have great positive birth experiences. Jenna Rutherford share her top tips on pregnancy and the Corona Virus.
What makes a positive birth experience
Most women have a pretty clear vision of what their birth experience might look like. Most mothers would have read up on their choices and got informed and written a birth plan for their birth wishes. However, looking at the evidence and in my experience as a doula, what actually makes the experience positive is not how it happened, i.e. vaginal or c birth, natural or instrumental but actually how the woman felt and how she was treated during the birth. Currently maternity care is under a lot of pressure but the midwives are full of compassion for birthing women coming into their care in the current situation. If you feel respected and feel each decision was yours, you will have a positive outlook on your birth. How do you make sure each decision is yours? You take a pause. You ask questions when a new choice arises and everything is a choice, ask why it’s happening and what if you waited? When you feel you have enough information to make an informed decision you can then take some time alone or with your partner to think it through. Taking a few minutes to catch up with any changes that might occur in your birth, can make all the difference to a more positive experience.
Reducing anxiety in pregnancy
As an anxiety sufferer myself, I have learnt over the years how to manage my own anxiety and when I am working with the mothers I support, I offer them tools to support theirs. Currently the media is swimming with coronavirus updates and with so many changes, it can feel very hard to keep up. The likelihood is when your birth is happening, there will be more changes again, so you don’t need to take in all the information along the way. My suggestion would be to not watch the news and take breaks from social media as much as you need to. Have someone you trust filter the necessary new guidelines or important updates relevant to you but otherwise it’s ok to look away. As a pregnant Mum, you are in a heightened state of sensitivity and things will affect you more deeply so you do need to protect yourself. Ask friends and family to talk about exciting things to do with your baby’s arrival rather than what’s going on in the world. It’s ok to practice radical self care at this time and look after your mental health. Some relaxing daily rituals can help give form to your day and help you connect with your baby and your birth. Gratitude journalling, mindful colouring, baking, nourishing meal times, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, a nice walk, a long bath, a good fiction book, will all bring calm to your mind and body and allow yourself to go inward rather than look outward.
Once your baby is here
So lots of mothers are also worried about when their baby arrives. Without the usual visitors or family around to support them, how will they cope? There are some real positives to being alone for a time with your new baby. It gives you both a chance to get to know each other, really know each other without any distractions. This constant connection can support bonding and feeding and you learning your baby cues and understanding them quicker with less interruptions. It also gives you a chance to properly heal, staying in bed for as long as you need to, only moving to the sofa and the loo as needed. No pressure to get dressed, host, no unwanted advice, you get to really experience your fourth trimester with your baby at your own pace. This going slow takes the pressure out of those early weeks and gives you a chance to really nourish yourself.
In terms of further support lots of doulas are now virtually supporting Mums over the phone so please take a look at www.doula.org.uk to find your local doula. Our How to Have a Baby during the coronavirus video series is free for you to access on YouTube and I have also written earthside, a new online postnatal course to support you in those early weeks in new motherhood.