Two Techniques to Manage Labour Pain

Visualization and birth mantras for staying calm and relaxed
pregnant woman in lavender dress standing in field of tall grass
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You're looking forward to the moment your new baby emerges from your body, but maybe you're apprehensive, anxious, or even terrified of labour pain. Whether you're planning a natural birth or expecting medical intervention, visualization and birth mantras can help you cope!

About visualization and birth mantras

Mantras are words or sounds repeated to help focus the mind or meditate. Deepak Chopra calls mantras “instruments of the mind” that contribute to achieving deep meditation. In fact, the word itself is said to originate from a Sanskrit root meaning “to protect the mind”. Fans of Ina May Gaskin’s books on midwifery will know that she often shared stories of her clients using mantras on the farm in Tennessee.

Visualization is a way of using pictures and mental images to remain calm, focus on your task, and show yourself you are capable of achieving goals. Being able to still the mind and slow your breathing through a birth mantra and visualization is a wonderful skill to possess going into childbirth. There will be moments when you doubt that you can go on, you will be exhausted, and equipping yourself with creative tools can help you cope quite effectively with labour pain.

Create a personal birth mantra

What I like the most about mantras is that they are completely customizable. They can consist of one word, a series of words, a sound, or even vibrations. They can reference someone you know, a historical figure (there are lots of references to specific Buddhist figures with their mantras) or be utterly nonsensical.

While chanting, close your eyes and picture your new baby. Try to clear your mind and focus on the mantra. When you chant out loud, the sound will command your attention, but you should also attempt to concentrate on the vibration of your voice or the rhythm of your breath.

Try to think of a mantra that makes you feel strong, calm, safe, and ready. A little self-empowerment is a good thing here; build yourself up, and when labour pain starts to push you over the edge, tell yourself you’ve got this. “I can do this” is a powerful yet simple message. Sometimes by addressing fears in a mantra we can alleviate them. For example, if you are afraid of the pain you can chant something like, “My body knows what it is doing. My body can do this.”

Remind yourself of past achievements: “I climbed Mount Everest”, “I survived high school”. Because if you did that, you can do this!

Pro tip:

Do not wait until you are in active labour to start! Practice beforehand for best results.

Visualize a better labour

If mantras aren’t really ringing your bell, you might consider visualization. You could imagine a flower opening softly, a peaceful landscape, maybe bring a favourite postcard or photo, your baby’s ultrasound image, or whatever it is that will help you relax your mind and your body, and provide a distraction from the pain.

Many athletes use visualization before a big event. They will picture themselves suiting up in the locker room, putting on their helmets, skating out onto the ice, and scoring the winning goal. Take a few moments to “see” yourself giving birth. Imagine the process from the first contraction to finally meeting your new baby. Proponents of visualization say that by first seeing yourself deliver your baby you will better trust your body to do it in real life.

Labour is an event that is never without challenges, expected or unexpected, but there are many ways to reduce the impact of labour pain. Birth mantras and visualization are great items to include in your birthing plan—try one or both to find out if they’re right for you.

*originally published on April 4, 2016