Birth Prep Cards

To birth naturally is to let go of control, to allow the the very busy thinking brain (neocortex) to surrender and allow the more animalistic (hypothalamus) part of the brain to take the lead.

This is of course, the very opposite of how we tend to live every day as humans.

In the same way as we can ignore our bodies signals to sleep, eat or drink (also from the hypothalamus), we can ignore our bodies natural pull of how to how to manage the often overwhelming discomfort of being in labour.

I have treated a number of women in the past 15 years who have managed to use skills learnt in hypnobirthing classes to feel almost no pain during their labours. For many of us though (myself included), our brains are too hard wired to over analyse and be on the constant look out for danger, to allow a full surrendering into a hypnotic like state while labour unfolds.

Which is why I think a ‘tool kit’ for birth can be so helpful. A plan of different strategies to help you to overcome the bodies compulsion to ‘freeze’ rather than ‘move’ through the pain of contractions. I do also 100% recommend hypnobirthing courses.

What should happen when we are in labour, is the following.

The baby’s head puts pressure on your cervix, which triggers the brain to release oxytocin (the safe and loving hormone that lets our body know we are in a safe environment to give birth). This increased oxytocin, boost the contraction power of the uterus which pushes the baby’s head deeper into the cervix and the process continues.

And all can go beautifully well, unless, oxytocin’s enemy hormone, adrenalin arrives on the scene.

When adrenalin shows up, this whole beautiful cycle is interrupted. Labour can stall or even stop, if the neocortex brain wasn’t already on very high alert of imminent danger, it is now.

Mother Nature is very clever in that she doesn’t want you to give birth if there are lions nearby in case your new baby is eaten by the perceived lion.

Listening to birth stories over the years in my work as a Pelvic and Women’s Health Physio, some of the stories ladies have shared about their labours stopping or stalling have included:

The lights at the hospital being overwhelmingly bright on arrival.

Loud drilling from a construction site.

An extremely good looking Gynaecologist who was standing on for someone else. He was so strikingly handsome that the lady felt so subconscious about how she was groaning and moaning in her dishevelled state in labour that her active labour stopped!

A rough and impatient midwife doing an internal exam (so many cases of this) which was painful and caused labour to cease.

A family member who was supposed to come over and care for the toddler not answering their phone in the night.

Intrusive messages from a family member wanting to know when baby would be born.

When ADRENALIN gets involved, either from the nervous system perceiving external threats to safety OR from the intense PAIN and DISCOMFORT from contractions, the lovely labour cycle is interrupted.

Adrenalin is known as the fight-or-flight hormone. It’s released in response to a stressful, exciting, dangerous, or threatening situation.

Adrenalin arrives to give you the energy to run away from the lion that is chasing you.

The problem with Adrenalin showing up in labour, is that it doesn’t dissipate on it’s own.

If adrenalin could talk, it would say ‘ready steady GO’ and not ‘ready steady FREEZE’.

Adrenalin needs to shift by us moving our bodies and engaging our muscles, by moaning and groaning and swaying and stamping.

Which is often the very opposite of what we want to do when in pain.

To get adrenalin out of the way so that our beautiful cycle of oxytocin allowing labour to unfold can resume, we need to be ACTIVE. And not freeze up as another surging wave of a contraction overwhelms us.

Over the past 15 years in my work as a Pelvic and Women’s Health Physio helping women to prepare to birth vaginally, I have developed some prompt cards of what to do when adrenalin arrives at the Labour Party.

These cards include tools on how to try and move back into the flow of the birth process unfolding when our thinking brain feels overwhelmed. Wether it’s been an actual or perceived lions that have interrupted your flow.

I found these tools helpful while birthing my own (big!) babies with no pain medication, and they have helped many many ladies who have come to workshops and to see me for birth prep Physio sessions.

I say to every pregnant lady I treat “there is no perfect or easy way to birth a baby”. It is all hard.

But what I do know with 100% conviction, is that there is no-one on earth better suited to birthing your baby, than YOU. Which is why your baby has come to YOU.

If you are hoping to have a vaginal birth, the tips and tools on these cards will hopefully help you to navigate the discomfort of the actual contractions.

I found that the ante natal classes I attended while pregnant talked at length how I would dilate and how I would know when I needed to go the hospital, but didn’t actually equip me to deal with the ACTUAL pain and discomfort that I would feel in a contraction.

I knew what signs to look out for when labour was starting, and I knew that there would be a gap in between the contractions but I didn’t feel equipped for what to do during the contractions (spoiler, freezing up is not what we want to do).

In labour, contractions are either ON or OFF. You aren’t in some pain and then more pain. You are either feeling ALL the pain in your belly or lower back, Or you are pain free.

A friend told me a story once of her friend in labour. While having a contraction her husband read her a message “Karen sends love and says you are doing such a great job”, in the throws of the contraction the friend replied “well Karen can F-K off”, and then a moment later as the surge ended, she said “oh how kind, please tell her thank you for thinking of me”. And the almost split personalities in the replies sums up labour so well for me!

The cards give movement prompts, and breathing and visualisation tips for during the contractions in labour.

I encourage you to practice all these movements and prompts in the weeks leading up to your birth. You may be surprised by which of the techniques you draw on while in the throws of active labour.

I remember practicing the loud gaaaa type noises while heavily pregnant and thinking ‘there is no ways I will ever make sounds like this in labour’ and then almost gaa-ing and growling the house down as my labour progressed.

(I also forgot all about the top I had planned to wear to look appropriate while in the birthing pool and instead took my nightie off mid contraction in the hospital corridor!)

To birth really is to surrender control of the thinking brain and allow our more primal deeper animal brains to take over.

The cards also include what I suggest you take to the hospital to try and enable your sub conscious to feel more ‘safe and at home’ if you aren’t having a home birth.

Think about where a cat chooses to have it’s kittens, it’s usually at night, in a cosy sock drawer in a quiet room. We need to try and recreate that environment as best possible for you to deliver your baby.

I hope you enjoy the cards if you choose to download them and that you feel safe and empowered in your birth <3

Love from Lulu