Today we want to talk about how to mentally prepare for labor. As moms, it’s important to stay in a positive birth space and to feel empowered in our birth experiences.
We always hope the outside world will do nothing but support our birth choices, however, we know that’s not always the case. When a woman decides to try for a vaginal birth after a previous Cesarean (TOLAC), it can be even more challenging to feel confident and supported.
Birth is a major event in our lives, and we want it to be a positive one. We want to look back at the experience and be happy with how things turned out, even if we didn’t have everything happen on our birth plan.
A big question when preparing for birth is, how can we get ourselves in a positive mental space and stay calm in labor? If we’ve had bad experiences in the past, how can we not be scared of giving birth again?
It is important to learn as much as you can leading up to birth. Making a decision to have a VBAC or choose a C-section can sometimes be hard. You can feel more confident by doing your research and making decisions based on what’s best for you and your family.
In this article, we’ve put together lots of ways that you can mentally prepare for a VBAC. We’ve also included some tools and resources to stay calm during labor. If you are having a C-section, whether it’s your first choice or not, this mental preparation will help you have a more peaceful and family-centered birth experience.
Originally published in 2019, this article was updated and republished on February 15, 2021.
Simple tips to mentally prepare for vaginal birth after cesarean
Preparing for birth can look different for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re having your first child or you’re on your fourth baby — every time you are getting ready to give birth it is a good idea to mentally prepare for labor.
There are different ways to give birth and it seems like everyone has their own desires. It is important as you prepare to learn what way you would like to give birth so you can prepare most effectively.
Below are some simple tips on how to mentally prepare for labor and any kind of birth you might have.
1. Prepare your mind (release fear)
Birth doesn’t always have to be traumatic for one to feel fear. Although it happens daily, birth can be unpredictable. It’s normal to be scared of the unknown, no matter how many children we have.
If you are having fear surrounding childbirth or even the postpartum period, we encourage you to work through it. Dig into any past experiences or current situations that bring on fear, trauma, or doubt around your upcoming birth.
If you have given birth before, it may be a good idea to talk about your past experience with someone who is supportive of your decisions. Birth trauma isn’t uncommon in women who have had a difficult birth.
2. Listen to birth stories
Another great way to mentally prepare for birth is to read birth stories and listen to birth podcasts. Hearing about other people’s experiences can help inspire and hopefully clear some of your fears.
While I was preparing for my VBA2C, I found that hearing from other VBAC parents validated my feelings and empowered me to continue on my journey. I had a lot of people doubting me and my choice to VBAC. It was hard to hear when I felt so positive about my decision.
Hearing stories truly made me feel like I could take on the world. At the same time, I learned about what they did to increase their chances of a vaginal birth after C-section.
3. Gather a supportive birth team (family, provider, doula)
One of the biggest and most important things you can do to achieve a VBAC, and have a positive birth experience in general, is to get your birth team set in stone early on.
Having the team established can bring you comfort, eliminating any doubts that you’ll have support when you need it. Your team can help you as questions come up and provide education to eliminate your fears and uncertainties.
Your birth team will also bring positivity to your space when you need it. They can listen to you if you need to vent, hold you if you need to cry, and continue to support and educate you along the way.
Make sure anyone you ask to attend your labor is also educated and mentally prepared. We have some labor coaching tips that anyone can use to be an excellent supporter during your birth.
4. Get educated about labor and VBAC
Having all the facts can truly ease your mind when someone presents you with negative questions, comments, and stories. It’s especially important to educate yourself about VBAC. Another great source of information are VBAC books.
When I was preparing for VBAC, people would question my choice or offer opinions based on false information or fear. Being able to say, “Actually, this is what the evidence shows on VBAC,” brought me comfort.
We also encourage all birth workers to learn more about VBAC, so they can be on the same page as you during your birth. We have a VBAC course just for doulas, too.
If you have this knowledge in your back pocket, it puts power in your seat. It’s a tool to help you continue to educate those who are not supportive of the decisions you’re making.
5. Envision your birth space
Labor meditation is not for everyone, and that’s okay! However, it’s a good idea to take 10-20 minutes each day to slow down, close your eyes, and picture your birth.
Picture your body dilating and pushing your baby out of your vagina. Maybe there is dim lighting or maybe it’s a sunny day and the sun is peeking through the window–see yourself in that very moment.
Who is with you, what is being said, and what type of touch do you want as you go through labor? Our minds are powerful, and visualization helps create a positive, uplifting space. If you close your eyes every day and picture your ideal birth, it will help you feel positive when it’s happening.
6. Slow down
This is the best gift you can give to your baby and yourself. Try and avoid overthinking and overdoing, and allow yourself rest and downtime.
The last couple of weeks as you’re gearing up for the big day, your mind tends to race and may even start doubting.
Providers may cause a sense of urgency for scheduling another C-section due to size, due date approaching, or another reason. If you’ve done your research, you’ve already discussed VBAC induction with your provider and you know the options around delivering a large baby vaginally.
It may be hard, but try hard to slow down and stay in that positive space.
7. Make a birth plan
A birth plan is something that has become very popular these days. It is a document that has a list of your preferences for your labor, birth, postpartum, and newborn.
Some people worry that making a VBAC birth plan is just a road map for a C-section, because you will be viewed as difficult. Although long birth plans are not ideal, having a short, concise list of preferences can be very helpful when you arrive at the hospital.
Making it easy for your nursing staff and care provider to know your wishes does not mean they will see you as a difficult patient or find reason for C-section.
Birth plans can be called different things such as a birth preference sheet, birth map, and birth desire sheet. It is a great idea to have a birth plan or preference sheet for any birth location, including a home birth.
8. Write positive birth affirmations
Having positive birth and labor affirmations posted around your home on the walls, mirrors, or anywhere you’ll see them often can help you mentally prepare for birth. When the day comes, display your affirmations in the birth location to keep your mind in a positive place.
I loved being able to look around and be reminded of the things I knew, but forgot in my weak moments. Some of my favorite birth affirmations were:
- She knew she could so she did
- My body is stronger than I think it is
- Birth is normal and natural
- You were meant to do this
- Your body can birth this baby vaginally
- This is all temporary
9. Prepare with your birth partner
Besides making sure you have done all your own mental preparation for labor and VBAC, having the support of your partner is incredibly helpful. My husband, although he didn’t understand the reason why I wanted to VBAC, supported my decision.
Your partner being involved in the process will likely bring comfort and that ease, knowing that they are there for you. We have 11 great ways your partner can help support you in another blog post.
The more your partner can be involved at every step of your journey, the better. My husband wasn’t super excited to learn about birth and all of my desires. But, when it came to the day I was in labor, he was an incredible support, and I will forever be grateful for his presence.
How to stay calm during labor
Now that we’ve covered all the ways you can mentally prepare for labor and VBAC, let’s talk about keeping calm when it’s happening. It’s helpful to learn and practice these techniques in advance, so you have the tools when you need them.
1. Labor meditations
Staying calm in labor can be very challenging to accomplish. However, it is not impossible, and having extra tools like meditating and focusing on your breath can help you stay in the present moment.
Having your birth team and doula by your side with affirmations and other words of encouragement can get you through what feels like the impossible.
If you are interested in meditating, check out meditation apps, or even working on your yoga breath.
Here is a list of apps to learn more about mindfulness and practice meditation:
- Insight timer
2. How to prepare for labor pain
As mentioned above, it is super important to learn as much as you can along the way. Knowing what to expect, you will be better prepared from your first contraction to the end, when your sweet baby is born.
One of our favorite ways to prepare for the discomforts or pains of labor is taking a hypnobirthing class.
Does hypnobirthing really work? It definitely helped me in my labor with my son. In the early stages of labor, I would turn on my tracks and it helped me stay in a great headspace looking forward to what was coming next.
During labor, I remembered what I learned in the class, and found comfort in knowing the sensations I was feeling were positive. It was my body helping me bring my sweet little boy into my arms. I found trust in my uterus when during pregnancy I had doubts and worries of uterine rupture.
My best advice would be to find what works best for you, and remember that you are strong.
More resources to mentally prepare for labor and VBAC
There are so many great tools and resources to help you mentally prepare for birth. When you need encouragement, check out The VBAC link Community on Facebook.
Be sure to check out episode 39 of our podcast to hear about Caitlin, a perfect example of mentally preparing for VBAC. You will never guess what her mantra was!
We are excited for you! Stay positive and know we are here for you along the way.
Enroll today in our Ultimate VBAC Prep Course for Parents, the most comprehensive course you’ll find about what to expect from a VBAC