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Suffering from pregnancy anxiety & childbirth fears? Use these tips to calm your mind during labor.

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Swaddling blanket, hat and a Moses basket perfect for newborns
Baby Oliver | Wild Honey Photography

In today's world, couples are busier than ever. Expectant couples are pulled in various directions daily from binge watching late night tv shows, listening to podcasts, shopping online and keeping up with social media; thus robbing them of their precious time and needed sleep. When it comes to pregnancy, labor, birth and beyond, we must first...

~stop and prioritize the best use of time to prepare for baby's arrival and beyond


The challenge is short and simple. Use your time wisely. Moms, YOU WILL have a baby out of your body. Dads/ Partners, hopefully YOU WILL learn how to be an excellent labor coach and someone who can incite your spouse/partner to both practice both physically and mentally for childbirth. Her body has been designed for this challenging athletic event, but it takes knowledge, preparedness and emotional support for her to properly relax during contractions and do what she can to lessen discomfort. We do not have any control over the uterus. We must simply be present, move the air in their bodies, and allow this giant muscle to help our baby down and out. We have only a short nine months to prepare. Well, maybe five to eight days over or even less than nine months for some who go early.


In my professional opinion, the best time to educate and train your body to "give birth" is in the second trimester. During weeks one through twelve, get lots of rest and focus on meeting your nutritional needs each day. Morning sickness can be quite a challenge, but nutrition is very important for your growing baby. During pregnancy, there is so much we do not have ultimate control over. Focus daily on what you DO have control over like eating clean, exercising, staying centered and as calm as possible especially if you struggle with anxiety.


There are so many unknowns during pregnancy -free your mind of this additional stress. Keep it simple. Add a full minute of meditating on your healthy baby and target birth experience by clearing your mind of all the "what if's" for a full sixty seconds each day for a week. Then, two full minutes the following week and so on for the remainder of your pregnancy, conscientiously releasing stress of the unknowns and keep focusing on the positives (thank your body for what it did well this week and visualize your baby within you perfectly protected, growing and becoming stronger. The same for you and your body). Each baby deserves what I like to call "selfish time." The ultimate goal by the last trimester is 20 minutes of relaxation practice daily. Coaches be sure to practice with Mom also. Mom will have to endure contractions independently, but she needs you to be a relaxing presence to assist her. Practice is key to both of you doing your individual jobs well.


Take an active role in coaching your wife through childbirth
Together, they prepared for their childbirth experience| Photo by Greg Bennett

I asked Renato and Elizabeth a series of questions. Renato answered honestly as the husband (and now an accomplished) labor coach. I will share their tips throughout this Blog story.


Here is Renato's response regarding being better prepared...

The past several months were exhausting and a lot of work on top of the normal stresses of work and life. But in all honesty, every aspect of what we prepared for was used during labor and because of the prep work, help from you (Pam our doula), and God’s grace, we were able to have a 100% natural and unmedicated birth. I will say, that I count us both as blessed and lucky, because we did not do everything perfectly, nor always had things under control, but made baby preparations a priority. As a man, I find it absolutely crucial to have a shared role in pregnancy, labor, and postpartum preparation. It has truly made me a better man, son, husband, Child of God, and now father. Just like we were taught in The Bradley Method® that laboring for women can represent submission and surrender, I believe fatherhood helps activate every aspect of what is means to be a man - a provider, a support, and a leader. I promise if you come alongside your wife/partner in baby prep, you will not regret it.


~choose your childbirth education and practice


The challenge for couples, (post Covid) is finding a quality childbirth class or course that actually meets in-person. A local group class that meets once weekly is always the best choice. This format allows couples to soak up the information and digest it. In addition, couples have some form of accountability in regards to practicing what they have learned. This allows for couples to interact and empower one another, make new friends and be active participants in class. Couples can try out techniques and resources like peanut and birth balls, rebozo, various massage tools, etc., while being surrounded by likeminded people with similar goals.


www.bradleybirth.com/pamelasauls
The Bradley Method® a 12 week course for natural childbirth

Renato and Elizabeth chose to prepare for drug-free labor and birth, by training in-person with us at M2b Family Farm located on the east side of Athens, Ga. Both educators themselves, they understood the importance of learning and practicing "before the big day." They desired a deeper level of childbirth education and trained locally for twelve weeks in The Bradley Method® course. Each week they reviewed the course material, completed their workbook assignments and each learned their individual roles.


You can find an outline of the twelve segments of study and more information about this course at www.bradleybirth.com/pamelasauls as well as, other childbirth options on our website (www.yourbirthhelper.com) and be sure to select "lessons" from the services page and check out our full list of in-person and virtual training options. Any training is way better than none. Education can make anything easier. A good childbirth workshop, class, or course will also teach the importance of practicing relaxation techniques, teach slow controlled breathing, proper positioning, and techniques to reduce discomfort (as described below). Together, the couple can calmly work together to keep labor progressing.


Renato's tips for readers regarding childbirth education...


The Bradley Method® classes were very informative and the homework was helpful. The homework was incorporated into our nightly routine and usually started with our physical exercises with practicing squats, butterfly resistance training, pelvic rocks, and forward leaning inversion. Then we would go to the bedroom and practice relaxation for 20 minutes. Sometimes, I would fully lead the relaxation by following the Bradley techniques of massaging, verbally telling Elizabeth to tighten a muscle and then relax it, leading her through visualizations of random scenes like floating on rivers or a peaceful meadow. Other times, I would try my own approaches like praying out loud for the full time or repeating affirmations I knew Elizabeth needed to hear (such as, your body was made for this, Oliver is in the perfect position, God is sovereign and your pregnancy and labor are not a surprise to him).


Lastly, we would listen to pregnancy and labor affirmations (like the Christian Hypo Birthing and Bridget Teyler’s YouTube videos). These were really helpful because it would give me a break on nights where the routine was challenging and inspire ideas for other ways to lead relaxation (we used both of the YouTube channels during labor). Honestly, we were really good about doing our Bradley homework every night but there were obvious exceptions here and there. Like, if we went out of town, we would skip relaxation practice, but we would still try to do some of the exercises. On occasion, we would be too tired to do the full nightly routine so, we would pick and choose what we wanted to do on those nights. The most common compromise would be to do squats for a little bit, then pelvic rocks, and then if we chose to also practice relaxation, it would be for less time.


Some of the other ways that we prepared included going on walks, chiropractic care (Anthony Chiropractic), working out (I did HIIT training and Elizabeth did her pregnancy workouts), reading books (Dr. Bradley's book, Husband Coached Childbirth for men and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way for women, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and The Vaccine Book, listened to podcasts and then prayed daily for baby Oliver.


You both did an amazing job achieving an unmedicated birth experience. Looking back now, is there anything you would do differently?


If I were to go back in time, I still would have done all that we did and honestly just a little bit more to better prepare for the intensity of labor. As much as Elizabeth did her leg exercises, she wishes she had done a bit more upper body strength building, because she used those muscles more than anticipated. Also, I wish I had better prepared my own body for coaching. I should have done ALL the squats with her. After labor was over, my quads, hamstrings, lower back, feet, and definitely my calves were all sore. Additionally, working out my core, arms and back would have greatly helped in taking care of Oliver postpartum.


Lastly, during relaxation practice, I would have led Elizabeth to relax while there was a negative stimulation (like ice on her back) to better prepare her for contractions. Elizabeth was able to learn how to separate her body and mind during relaxation (which was crucial during labor), but when there were actual contraction pains, it was harder to see her relax. Some advice I have for coaches is to mentally prepare to see your wife/partner experience labor pains as I found this harder than expected. Once experience I had to face was staying positive and hopeful while knowing Elizabeth was progressing slower than we had hoped.


In the photo, YBH Advanced Doula apprentice, Anniston Eberhart, also a Cappa Doula, applies counter-pressure for Elizabeth's low back pain as her husband positions himself where Mom can lean into her contraction to lessen discomfort naturally. Elizabeth and Renato had made a great decision to walk the North Oconee River Greenway to speed labor.

Doula Anniston Eberhart applies counter-pressure
Relaxing through labor contractions

As childbirth educators, we often say, "bags packed with one month to go" for a reason. For example, Renato and Elizabeth woke to an early morning water break two weeks prior to their due date. It happens. So, at the very least have your bags partially packed in advance, with a last minute list on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror of anything that cannot go in the bag yet. It is always less stressful to be overly prepared than get to your birth place and not have what you needed or wanted for one to three days. Be ready for this possibility, however unlikely, should it happen to you. Cover cloth seats in your car, consider purchasing a bag of Depends disposable undergarments. Remember, if you experience PROM or premature labor, there are a lot of things you can do without, but you must also have a carseat in your car. Renato and Elizabeth had completed most all their homework and they wrapped up last minute packing and began using all their learned techniques to help progress labor naturally.



Any man who desires to really step up and rise to the occasion, not just witness, but actively assist their wife through such an ennobling work should take some lessons from Renato. He came prepared with written letters to read to Elizabeth when she was exhausted from laboring and contractions were consuming her.


Maternity photo by Greg Bennett
Together, we will "give birth" and I will I help you

~embrace your support system


Renegade Mama labor and postpartum cards
Birth Affirmations encourage relaxation

When you are tired and want to throw your birth plan out the window, it is important to surround yourself with those who not just try to support you, but will actually encourage you to achieve your birth your way.


Many couples do not understand the psychology behind giving birth. Giving in and giving up is also part of labor and thus built into this process of bringing forth life. When couples better understand the labor phases, they can better support their mate. It works both ways. For husbands/ men/ partners, who truly desire to best support Mom to achieve her wishes for her birth, labor can also take a toll on them. Long hours, lack of sleep, severely fatigued state of minds can also bring labor coaches to a point they may want mom to consider medicine or alternative means of getting a baby out of mom's body. Simply put, for many and especially with a first baby, it can be a longer process full of unknowns and every single heart string of yours can be pulled. It is sometimes challenging not to abandon ship aka "mom's birth plan" midstream.


Dad braces himself to allow mom to lean in during her contraction
Renato supports Elizabeth during contractions


Here are some doula tips:

- Remember, ask for a natural birth supportive nurse (if mom's goal is natural childbirth) sometimes reassurance from the staff can make all the difference in a mom who meets her goals for her birth.

- When coaching gets tough, don't forget she chose YOU to help her get through this. Believe in yourself and mentally, emotionally and physically step up to the plate.

- Ask the right questions. We teach labor coaches the questions to obtain true informed consent. Be aware of the medical reasons for c-section. Be aware of the danger signs. Ask for time to discern and discuss the information. Labor does sometimes bring hurdles the couple must work through together. By being an active part of the decision making, together Mom and Dad/ partner can make the very best decisions you feel best for mom and baby.

- Don't be afraid to step up and literally coach her through difficult phases of labor. Remind her you are present to help in any way possible and you believe her body can do this. As long as mom and baby are both fine, we will just take one contraction at a time focusing our energy on what we can control (i.e. good positioning, deep breathing, sinking pelvic floor and releasing every muscle not being used to hold her into position). Relax her mind and body and allow her body to release fear and release the baby.

Emotional support is key to successful natural childbirth
Dad prays over and for Mom during hard labor

There are many ways you can communicate and empower Mom. It doesn't necessarily have to be in written form, but few men have the ability to find enough words to talk mom through hours of labor contractions. You may be one of them who can simply recite something similar off the top of your head during labor, if so, good for you. Just keep in mind, you will also have a tired brain, and it is okay to have a previously written letter or list of things/ ways in which you can better help mom stay focused, especially when her goal is drug-free. Coaches have to get creative at times.


Any goal can be made easier to achieve when the entire birth team is on board to empower a woman through the difficult stages of labor until time to push. This is what I call #SymbioticBirth, meaning two different mindsets of how to best manage contractions (the medical way and normality -natural minded), both working together to help MOM birth her way.


Many trained women, like Elizabeth, never even ask or inquire about epidural or other pain management. They understand as long as she and baby are okay, it just may take more time or some longer stronger contractions to complete the process. Women who practice achieving a deeper level of relaxation and proper positioning, in advance, often do not have to purchase their relaxation in the form of a shot. There is more than one way to have a baby. Do your homework, it pays off no matter how your baby exits your body.


~Don't forget to exercise your Faith during labor


By planning ahead, like Renato, you can pull out a written note of encouragement and read aloud to Mom in an effort to help re-focus her. Hard labor is called "hard" for a reason. The transition phase can be overwhelming, but what follows is pushing her baby out and finally being able to hold baby in her arms! Husband Coach Renato shared his letter to serve as an example for other labor coaches below.


To my wife, my beijos, my compliment, my love,

Words cannot express how much I am so proud of you, so thankful for you, so infatuated by you. I cannot believe I get to have the privilege of calling you mine. Praise God for that blessing! It’s a little crazy that we are here at this moment. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were having conversations about what we wanted our relationship to be and look like. Now, we are almost five years in it and about to have our son. That fills my spirit endlessly because I know that God was with us every step of the way. He has taken care of us in the hardest of times and celebrated with us during the victories. And now, at what feels like a climactic moment in our story, you get to go through something God specifically designed your body to do for His glory. You get to labor through various experiences that all productively leads to us meeting Oliver—someone who was hand-knitted together by the one True Father and choose to use us to do it. As we go through this journey together, know that I will be there every step of the way providing you with everything I can; support, comfort, encouragement, and love. I have absolutely no doubt that you are going to do amazing in this journey and that it will end with so much celebration and unfathomable joy.


Throughout our nightly routines during this past season, I would save any Psalm that seemed positively impactful for a variety of reasons. Included in the envelope with this letter is all the Psalms I saved that I will read throughout your labor experience to help you continually be aware that God has been here the whole time and will not abandon you. There is victory in His name because He is a good God always. Remember…


James 1:2-4 says to

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.


Romans 5:3-5 continues with

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.


And 2 Corinthians 12:9 says

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.


You can do this Elizabeth! It's GAME TIME!

Husband Coach da prepares to help catch his baby
Renato and Elizabeth welcome their first born into the world

Remember, surrendering is a huge part of the process. Invite and call upon a higher power to help you release fears and release your baby to enter the world.


Anxiety and stress will not benefit laboring moms, it will slow the process. Here is a helpful Tip for reducing stress from Elizabeth...


Couple prepares for natural childbirth in Athens, Ga

I struggle with anxiety and honestly, I was very anxious about labor and birth leading up to it since being relaxed does not come naturally to me, even when I am not in labor. In the moment, being relaxed was not instinctual, but because of the support of my husband, family, birth team (doula, nurses, midwife), and God, I was able to get to a point of surrendering to the pain and the God-given natural process of childbirth. During labor, I was told often that this is a temporary and productive feeling and that eventually, I would see all of the hard labor as well worth it. I can truly say it was definitely worth it now holding my sweet baby. And honestly, there is nothing wrong with praying, “IN THE NAME OF JESUS, GET THIS BABY OUT OF ME!!!” Lastly, to anyone who desires to have a natural birth, know that God is in control and whatever happens, even if it is not what was in the plan, there is a purpose for it. Renato mentioned the Christian hypnobirthing meditation, I found it extremely helpful. Here is a quick link for readers:

Christian Hypno birth: https://youtu.be/MXDoUchRGYA


Mom kisses her first born

Elizabeth would like to publicly thank her husband, Renato, for all his support before, during and after childbirth. She would also like to recognize her family, the St. Mary's staff (especially LDR nurse Abigail), her Your Birth Helper doula (Pamela Sauls, CCE, CD, CMT) and Bradley® birth class members for all of their encouragement along the way! And, lastly, a very BIG special thanks to midwife Jerri Walker, CNM, IBCLC of Women's Healthcare Associates in Athens, Ga for all the TLC and making her childbirth even more special by allowing Dad to help catch!


Dad helps catch his first baby
Renato assists midwife Jerri in catching the baby

Childbirth is truly such an amazing event and fully embodies a vast range of emotions. Here is some more good news for women who tend to be more high anxiety: immediately following the birth of the baby, (no matter how long or challenging the labor process), the birth climax occurs. The body expels baby and a rush of hormones flood her body. Particularly important is the hormone, prolactin, which is also known as the mothering or parenting hormone. It helps perk up mom and give her needed energy to interact with her newborn after such an exhausting athletic event. It also aids in milk production. Dad doesn't get happy hormones after you give birth, he will need a nap so, cut him a little slack if he has been up for days. Most women will have their milk drop in around the third day after birth.


If you suffer from anxiety, know that breastfeeding will challenge you. It is a learned function made easier with education and support. Just because we have breasts, does not mean we automatically know what to do with them to successfully breastfeed. In addition, baby has never breastfed before and just like you, each will have their individual role. Proper latch, handling issues like engorgement or supply issues, such as too much milk or too little milk are common issues. Give yourself some GRACE. You can't possibly know how to breastfeed and be an expert when you, nor baby, has ever done this before. Don't allow frustration to consume you. Get into a comfy position, relax your shoulders, put baby in a good belly to belly position and be patient. It takes practice.


Set a realistic goal of getting through the first two weeks of nursing. Your newborn is depending on you to help protect themselves from infection the first two weeks of life. Don't hesitate to reach out for help. Organizations like

Le Leche League, have been around for years, supporting women across our nation and beyond. Online support is also available in many communities, in addition to, local breastfeeding groups and lactation consultants. In Athens, Ga., I personally recommended Lucia Massey. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and often even makes house calls making it easier for postpartum moms to get the support they need within these crucial early weeks. In addition to Lucia, Elizabeth also connected with Kate DeWolf, IBCLC for additional breastfeeding support and would recommend local moms to her also.


For readers who are interested in exploring more ways to better prepare, here are some links mentioned above. Renato and Elizabeth found education in various forms like books, Bradley®classes, their chiropractor, podcasts, etc. all very empowering and helpful in reducing overall fear.


Bridget Teyler’s podcasts: https://www.youtube.com/c/BridgetTeyler


Nichole McCloy’s online course: https://www.nicholemccloy.com/


Anthony Chiropractic Care: https://www.anthonychiropractic.com/


Le Leche League: https://www.llli.org/


In closing, be aware that childbirth and postpartum may affect family pets in interesting ways. Some pets will act out when the new arrival enters the family home. Be encouraged. Just because your pet initially seems anxious or jealous around the new baby, does not mean they are technically unhappy with the baby. More needy pets are technically more jealous of the lack of time you are spending with them. Mumford, the adorable dog shown above (would literally out loud eye roll and move away from the baby when he would cry). However, as the above photo illustrates, dogs can eventually learn to share and find their happiness again too!


Congratulations again Renato and Elizabeth on your achievement of natural childbirth! And, a very special thank you to the entire Ferreira family for taking time to share with our YBH Blog readers your personal tips of making the journey into parenthood a little easier and enjoyable!

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