Why is it so important to go into pregnancy and childbirth with a positive attitude? You may think that you are a slave to your situation, to your body, to the way pregnancy and childbirth has always been painted to you, but you DO have a choice in the experience you will have. This may sound cheesy, new age, or corny, but when you realize that your attitude could actually change your entire pregnancy: less aches and pains, less stress, less worrying, and most of all, less pain during labor and delivery….it doesn’t matter how cheesy it sounds anymore.
Expectation Shapes Experience
A 2007 study found that women generally tended to have the birth experience that they expected, both positive and negative . For women who had anxiety about childbirth, their experience tended to be more negative overall, while women who prepared with relaxation and breathing exercises and expected a positive childbirth reported a greater satisfaction with the experience.
Every single one of us has a set of beliefs and truths that we see every experience through as a filter. As we grow up as young girls and women, we are bombarded with images and stories that shape our beliefs about pregnancy and childbirth. In this country, a society that loves drama, sensationalism, and entertainment, we have most likely been exposed to a negative view of childbirth. From Katherine Heigl screaming and begging for drugs through her birth in Knocked Up, to medical shows dramatizing emergency c-sections and every complication imaginable, to even reality shows that have carefully chosen the most complicated, dramatic births to air to increase ratings. By the time it’s our turn to experience pregnancy and childbirth, there is a script already written in our heads for how it will go.
How To Re-Program Your Perceptions of Pregnancy and Birth
Since the subconscious is such a powerful tool, why not use it to have the best pregnancy and birth possible? Start by examining the script you have accepted as the truth about pregnancy and childbirth. Do you expect to be uncomfortable, tired, and sick during pregnancy, or do you think you’ll have lots of energy and feel great? Do you expect that giving birth will be terrifying and painful, or that it will be intense and joyous? Maybe a little of both?
By changing your expectations, you will shape your own experience. It’s not quite as easy as just changing your mind over how you want everything to go, that is a great first step. Next, you need to work on de-programming the negative messages you’ve received over the years. This is only done by controlling the messages you receive and saturating your brain with new, positive thoughts and images.
If you have been telling yourself “I’m so tired” “My body can’t handle being pregnant” “I’m too big”, try catching those thoughts, releasing them, and replacing them with “I have more energy than I ever imagined”, “My body was made to be pregnant and give birth”, and “My body is perfectly beautiful”. It will take some practice but you will begin to feel a difference.
Why Does This Work?
Your body responds to the messages your brain sends it by acting accordingly, as if the thoughts were directions. You also shape your experience by concentrating on specific details of your life. So many signals and sensations and feelings are experienced in the course of a day. If we notice only the negative ones, “My back is so achey” “I’m so tired” then this is the experience you have created. If you choose instead to pay attention to the positive signals and sensations, then your overall experience will be positive. This is a LEARNED SKILL, not a personality trait! You have the choice to control your thoughts and feelings rather than having them control you.
This skill becomes unbelievably powerful when it comes to the experience of childbirth – if you expect that you will only feel pressure, and you learn to release fear and tension thoughts that have been physically proven to actually CAUSE pain, you may experience a comfortable, pain-free birth. This re-programming of your thoughts is the basis for the childbirthing class that I am studying, Hypnobabies. If you just laughed at the suggestion of a pain-free birth, I encourage you to check out these peaceful birth videos I have been collecting to re-program my own preconceptions about childbirth. The most amazing one, to me, features a mother whose first birth was so traumatic and painful that she swore she’d never have another child again. She re-programmed her thoughts, used Hypnobabies, and had the easiest, most peaceful, comfortable birth I have ever seen in my life. Amazing how powerful the mind is over our bodies!
Another way to reprogram your perception of pregnancy and childbirth is to refuse to listen to, read, or view negative stories from friends, family, co-workers, television, movies, or even medical caregivers. Many people (including doctors) are well-meaning in their storytelling, they think that they are simply trying to prepare you. But someone else’s experience does NOT reflect or predict your own experience. Hypnobabies suggests surrounding yourself with a “Bubble of Peace”, a safeguard against any negativity surrounding pregnancy and childbirth.
This is my mantra for pregnancy and childbirth: “Expectation Shapes Experience”. I have the power to create much of what happens during my pregnancy and birth, and I am not taking that power for granted.