Let's talk about birth plans

Feb 17, 2019, 10:36 AM

When you are used to being in control of your life and at work it can be difficult to let go and accept that birth is a process that cannot be 'managed' like a work project and a large part of this process involves letting go of negative beliefs, limiting beliefs, cultural conditioning and factors out of your control. 

A positive birth experience is one where you confidently participate in all the choices and decisions during pregnancy and birth. 

You can control your attitude and your ability to be flexible in the face of unexpected circumstances. You can control your mind, your thoughts, your beliefs and your expectations. 

Letting go of factors that are out of your control might be a bit daunting at first, but between every event or circumstance that arises and the final outcome, there is a potential space that contains your freedom to choose how you will respond. How you respond greatly influences the outcome and how you feel about the outcome which is also important (its your everlasting memory). What you want ultimately is a positive birth experience where you confidently participate in all the choices and decisions during pregnancy and birth and emerge transformed by your experience. This episode will highlight the steps to get there. Please join me in the Virtual Midwife Cafe where I do weekly live mini workshops and offer you a space to get answers to  your questions about pregnancy and birth. 

What is an expectation? 

In the case of uncertainty, expectation is what is considered the most likely to happen. An expectation, which is a belief that is centered on the future, may or may not be realistic. A less advantageous result gives rise to the emotion of disappointment. 


What is a belief?

Belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty. 


Researchers have been able to show direct links between a mother’s expectations around birth and how she experiences labour. One such study concluded that:  “anxiety about the pain of labour was a strong predictor of negative experiences during labour, lack of satisfaction with the birth and poor emotional wellbeing postnatally. Women tended to experience what they expected to, whether that was a lot of pain or a little.”(1)

The reason for this is that humans (like any other mammal), need to feel private and safe during labour for our birthing hormones to work as they were intended. Feelings of anxiety and fear activate the sympathetic nervous system putting us into ‘fight/flight/freeze mode’, which not only slows labour, but also makes it a great deal more painful.

In our society it is a miracle if a woman gets to adulthood without taking on the belief that childbirth is inherently painful. We have been taught this since a young age. It’s the way childbirth is portrayed in the media, and it’s reinforced in all of the horror stories that people love to tell us (particularly when we are pregnant).

Reducing fears about childbirth is a highly effective way to reduce pain and improve birth outcomes. While physical preparation helps immensely with stamina and strength, in my view it is the emotional preparation that has the most impact on how childbirth is experienced by the mother, both physically and psychologically.

One reason our beliefs are so important is because we all suffer from a cognitive bias called the ‘confirmation bias’. This bias causes us to preferentially seek out information that supports our underlying beliefs while also ignoring or misinterpreting information that would disprove those beliefs.

Because of this, two people with differing beliefs can experience the same exact scene in very different ways. Behind the scenes, our brains are subconsciously on the lookout for information that supports our belie...