Having a baby is a miraculous thing, but it also does quite a number to a woman’s body. I don’t say that to take away from just how incredible it is, but simply because the whole person-coming-out-of-your-body aspect can sometimes be forgotten. I mean, women are flipping amazing, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little love now and then — especially during the labor process. So if you’ve been wondering, “how can I feel empowered during labor?” then here are four experts who can help you with your game face.
First and foremost, says Francesca Marini, a NYC-based certified labor and postpartum doula, registered yoga teacher, and Reiki practitioner, you have to be willing to let go.
“Exploring how to let go of control can be a difficult practice for many women, but may be necessary to feel empowered during birth because ultimately, despite plans and preparation, no one knows how a birth will go,” she tells Romper in an email interview. “However, if a woman feels prepared, feels supported, and learns how to be present and surrender to the process, the result is often a positive birth experience even if it doesn't go according to ‘plan.’”
Dr. Nichole Mahnert, OB-GYN at Banner-University Medicine Women’s Institute in Phoenix, Arizona agrees, adding that women should basically expect the unexpected.
“Labor is a mysterious and amazing process that can leave us feeling like we are not in control,” she tells Romper. “We don't know when it will start, how long it will last, or what it will be like. It is super important to leave the expectations aside and be prepared to be flexible.”
Having a plan can help make the process feel less intimidating, Dr. Allison Hill, a board-certified OB-GYN and author of Your Pregnancy, Your Way, tells Romper in an email interview. That should include talking to your doctor about a birth plan (e.g. what you hope for your family during birth), what your birth support system will look like (e.g. whether or not you are using a doula or midwife), and learning about what your provider will cover in terms of hospitalization or a birthing center. Valerie M. Kading, doctor of nursing practice and Interim Chief Medical Officer at Sierra Tucson says it’s also important to attend a childbirth preparation class.
“Communicate your needs to your loved ones, labor nurse, and medical provider,” Kading tells Romper. “Become educated on the labor process, and talk with your medical and nursing team about the labor process and your wishes for medications used. Be familiar with the potential risks and complications of labor and birth.”
As for the actual labor, Marini says a great way to practice surrender is by taking 10 deep, slow, evenly paced breaths.
“As you inhale, silently repeat ‘let’ and as you exhale, silently repeat ‘go,'” she says. “Focus on the sensation of the breath and simply observe any changes that take place with you or with your baby as you move through the practice.”
Most importantly, Mahnert says, “trust that your body and mind will take care of you. You are a strong and capable woman.”
Just keep chanting that.