Active Birth

“I am halfway through my pregnancy, and really starting to think about this concept of active and alert birth.  I am keen to find out what worked for other mothers.  My husband is really keen to be well armed with practical things he can do too.  What are some ideas?”


Claire Hargest Slade, Timaru – It’s easy to get hooked into creating labels for how we want to birth.  Instead, think about creating an environment where you and your partner feel safe, secure and at ease to do and be how you really are.  The actual venue is without consequence, but the relationship of trust and partnership you build with your birth attendants will help this.  When women have freedom to move, to position themselves in any manner, to be held as they want or conversely have the peace and privacy they desire at any given moment; then they birth in the instinctual way that is right for them.  I created an eight point guideline for birth support people that goes a little like this.

  1. Be her support person, offer comforts, drinks, touch or don’t touch as she needs it.  This will change throughout her labour.
  2. Privacy and intimacy enables the love hormone oxytocin to create effective contractions.  Try to keep disruptions and worry at bay for her.
  3. Be a tree. Let her hang off you in weight-bearing positions to help weather the storm of each contraction.
  4. Care for yourself well during the labour.  Eat, drink and emotionally refuel as need be; so you can stay strong for her as she is swept along by the power of her labour.
  5. Create an atmosphere of quiet confidence in her ability to birth.  Smile at her, hold her.
  6. Praise is a wonderful tool in any circumstance.  Warmly praise her to encourage her efforts.
  7. Be her advocate, be willing to ask for things you have already discussed she wants. Ask again about the birth pool being filled.  Know her birth plan, support her wishes.
  8. However she births, validate her strength and courage. Giving birth is a huge achievement.

A great book you may enjoy is Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley.

Rosemary Roberts, Hamilton – This may not be for everyone, but for my second birth I used childbirth hypnosis. It was amazing. I was able to keep myself deeply relaxed through self-hypnosis and since the programme includes a special part for dads; my husband was able to be very active in keeping me relaxed and diverting my focus when needed through cue words and firm touch.

Phoebe Quinlivan, Wellington – I had a beautiful home birth experience with our first son, and a big thing for me leading up to and during it was my wholehearted belief and trust that my body knew what to do, and that I was not mentally going to be ‘in control’.  My body would just do its thing and I just had to concentrate on keeping as calm and relaxed as possible.

When the contractions started amping up in the early stages, I imagined my cervix as a big thick rubber band that had to be slowly stretched to let the baby through, so each time I began to feel uncomfortable, I imagined pulling that rubber band slowly more and more open. Once things were a little more intense, I stopped thinking anything and just concentrated on breathing through it (and squeezing the bottle of lavender essential oil that I was holding in my hand!). Staying as calm as possible is important in order to let all those lovely pain reducing hormones flow.

Your husband can be a big part of that by staying really calm himself and reassuring you.  I really wanted my hubby to stay up near my face and leave the midwife to do the delivering which worked well for me.  I found the pressure on the two points at the base of my spine during contractions really helped, then ice cubes fed into my mouth, and a great big hand to hold (squeeze!) while I was at the pushing stage.

Being at home, everyone was able to potter about, help themselves to food, read and relax and slip in to be with me when I needed it.  I think this also contributed to me managing well and being able to just focus on what I needed to do during the contractions (be in the zone).  Because I didn’t have everyone focusing on me all the time, I wasn’t feeling self conscious.

Having said that, some mothers feel more relaxed in hospital and so that’s where they choose to be and that’s good too. I was ready to go to hospital if we needed to, and had decided before the birth that I would be okay with whatever happened. Once I was fully dilated; I got into the pool –  I was loath to move at first because I had found a good position (squatting on the floor with my elbows on the couch) where I was managing, but once I was in, I felt the pain ease off by about 30 to 40 percent.  Lovely!

Your body was made for this. I am sure you will have a peaceful and empowering birth experience.

Jillian Grant, Wellington – Yoga ball, lavender oil, tens machine were helpful, but an emergency caesarean meant I had to leave all that behind, quite literally! But the thing I could take with me was in my head – the visualisation and relaxation techniques from the hypnotherapy CD I’d casually listened to through pregnancy.

I hadn’t taken it too seriously as it kept sending me to sleep, but something had filtered through. It helped me get through the medical procedures as calmly and alertly as was possible. My partner had listened to the CD too, so he knew what I was doing. There are probably local hypnotherapy CD’s or
classes.  I hope your birth and breastfeeding go well.

Stephanie Gudgeon, Te Awamutu – Relaxation and positive affirmations is a great place to start. Get super comfy with cushions and a blanket if needed. Doing this everyday is the ultimate and as you get into the groove, you will be able to call upon this technique when you have a spare moment or need some reassurance if you come across negative vibes.

Create a space of ‘you time’ every day, use this time to relax with some deep breathing.  Breathing from the stomach with big belly breaths, feeling each breath relax you into the floor. Imagine each new breath bringing in new energy for you and your baby within.  Send your breath around your body soothing any anxiety and creating a state of calmness and confidence. Visualise colour, either red for love, blue for healing flowing around your baby bringing it love and strength.

Create a positive affirmation that is focused on you, or look up online for some help.  It might be, “my body is growing a beautiful healthy baby and I am going to birth this baby with ease and joy.”  It could be shorter, or have a different meaning; but it is important that it is significant to you. On your exhale, think to yourself or quietly say your positive affirmation.  Do this for as long as you can. Start with maybe two to five minutes and who knows where it will take you.  Positive affirmations wire the cells in our bodies and our mind, helping our desires and dreams to become a reality.

Once you are well practiced, you will be able to use it during birth to keep you going and to bring you into a state of calm. Your husband may even say it with you. It’s a great way to focus together  during birth.

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