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When having a baby is often an event far beyond your control, how can you feel prepared, calm and ready for whatever might happen? We put together some tips.

Having a baby can be the single most exciting, and terrifying, experience you’ll ever go through. It’s a huge, life-changing process, and it’s impossible to predict exactly how your birth will unfold, no matter how many plans you make. So it’s no wonder many mothers (and fathers) feel anxious as the big day draws closer. How can you prepare for the unexpected? What can you do to make your birth experience as calm and enjoyable as possible? We gathered some advice for soon-to-be parents.

Let go of the idea of “perfect”

You probably have an idea in your head of how you want your birth to proceed. Whether you feel more safe and secure in a hospital surrounded by doctors, or you would prefer to be in your own home environment; whether you would like pain relief or not; whether you want several people with you or just one. There are a huge variety of ways to give birth, and the choices we make are highly personal. However, when baby decides to make an arrival, whatever choices you may have made, your little one might have other ideas. Complications might make it necessary to go to hospital, or baby might arrive too quickly for you to get there. There might be no time for pain relief, or it might be impossible to proceed without it.

The best thing you can do as an expectant parent is to let go of the idea that there is a “perfect” or “right” way to give birth. It’s good to have an idea of what choices you would prefer to make if the options are available, but then surrender yourself to the flow of the event when it comes. Your body and your baby will determine what needs to happen, and it might end up looking very different from what you planned. If you’re willing to accept that “perfect” is a myth and that the only “right” way to give birth is the one that is safest for you and your baby in the moment, it will be much easier to relax and make the most of the experience.

Prepare your body

Your body is about to go through the biggest challenge it will ever face – never mind if you’ve run marathons, climbed mountains or swum the English Channel; this is the big one. If you haven’t done all those things (like most people!) then don’t worry, but being as fit and healthy as possible will make it more likely that the birth experience will go more smoothly. Try to go for a short walk each day, and regular swimming is a great, low-impact exercise during pregnancy. There are also many fitness classes designed specifically for pregnancy.

In addition to getting your own body ready, you can also start to prepare your baby’s. From around 34 weeks, kneeling on the floor over a birthing ball or a chair can encourage your baby to get into the right position. As your due date draws closer, there are also a variety of gentle exercises that you can do to help prompt labour to start – although be aware that baby won’t come until they’re ready!

Seek out positive stories

For some infuriating reason, as soon as you get pregnant, a steady stream of people queue up to tell you a birth horror story. These people probably mean well, but it can be incredibly frightening and overwhelming to hear about all the things that can go wrong. Whilst it’s good to be informed about potential complications, don’t fixate on them. Plenty of people have positive and happy birth experiences – look for those. Listen to what worked well for other people, and consider whether that might be a good choice for you. Stay focused on the enjoyable experience you want, and fully expect, to have. Be prepared for decisions you might have to make and things that might not go exactly as you wanted, but remember that the likelihood is that your birth will be absolutely fine. Approaching birth with a positive, and flexible, mindset will help you to be more relaxed and calm throughout.

Relaxation techniques

It’s not just your body that needs to be prepared for birth – your mind needs to be ready for this challenge too. Practising mindfulness can help you stay calm before, during and after birth, and will also help you to be in the moment while this miraculous event is taking place, no matter what twists and turns it might take. Another great aspect of mindfulness, meditation or yoga practice is that it teaches you a range of breathing techniques – breathing slowly and deeply not only helps to relax your mind but it releases tension in your muscles, which helps the labour process. Breathing into your contractions can also help you to know when to push.

From around 25 weeks, you can take a hypnobirthing course. Hypnobirthing will help you to create a positive mindset and learn methods that will keep you calm and centred no matter what life throws at you. You’ll learn useful breathing techniques and ways to release endorphins in your body that help relieve pain. Your birthing partner can also join the course so that they’re equally informed and prepared. Because this experience is about you and your family above everything else.

We have a range of wellbeing services, from hypnotherapy to acupuncture, that can support your pregnancy journey – visit our Therapies section to find out more. We wish you the best of luck with your birth, and a lifetime of happiness with your new baby.