How can you reduce stress levels before giving birth?

Childbirth is a big deal and can induce loads of anxiety. Here are the ways to best prepare.

Before giving birth for the first time, women may be nervous about what contractions and the birthing experience will be, as well the recovery and the initial care of the little baby. For some, this can be paralyzing.
Chen Akerman, a birth mentor and doula, breaks down common fears and the best methods to deal with them. Here’s what you need to know:

What can I do?
Embrace the fear of the unknown. Knowledge is power, and the lack of knowledge feels like a lack of control and power. If you feel that you don’t know what you’re going toward and feel anxious, you aren’t alone. Here are tips for dealing with these feelings.

Many women are afraid of the pain of contractions and childbirth and think they won’t be able to cope. Some say that they have a low pain threshold and won’t be able to tolerate the pain, and of course, the stories of friends with negative and painful childbirths don’t help.

Some women who are bringing their partners for support fear that he or she won’t be up to the task, won’t know what to do in the moment of truth and won’t help them. Other women know that their partners, in general, aren’t supportive and will have a problem with being at the birth.

In addition, many women fear that they’ll have complications during labor. They may worry and suffer from disturbing thoughts about the possible risks of childbirth for them and the fetus. This fear mainly stems from reading too much about labor and birth complications.

How can you handle your fears before giving birth?
One solution is to practice everything you’ll do during the birth to ease the pain and open your body to the birth process. This will give you a bit more confidence in at least knowing what you’re walking into and what to expect.

There are birth preparation workshops available where you can delve into the stages of the process and learn how to labor naturally while keeping your body calm. Arriving at the birth with this knowledge will allow you and your partner to feel more secure.

It is also important to keep up physical activity during pregnancy to strengthen your muscles for birth.

Filter your information
Don’t be as attuned to bad birth stories. Stay away from the forums and online chatrooms, especially if it is making you more anxious. Not everything written about another mother will happen to you.

Chen recommends watching nature videos of animals proving that they don’t need anyone else in the birthing experience.

Adopt positive language
The way you speak and the words you use have a direct effect on your thinking. Try not to say “I’m going to the hospital” but “I’m going to the birthing center;” you’re not “sick,” you’re at your peak and you’ll arrive in the delivery room in due time to give birth.

When the pain does come, try to reframe it as “this is getting me closer to meeting my baby.” Also, try replacing the word “contraction” with “wave.” The structure of a contraction is similar to a wave, which reaches its peak and then goes down.

You won’t be in continuous pain throughout labor, and between peaks you’ll rest and store your energy until the moment the baby arrives.

This article was written in partnership with the JAMA parenting app.