Positive Self-Image: Preparing for Birth

by Ann Douglas

A woman who feels good about herself will celebrate the changes that her body experiences during pregnancy, look forward to the challenge of giving birth, and willingly accept the physical and emotional changes of the postpartum period. Ann Douglas, author of The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby takes a look at emotions behind labor and birth.

Confidence in your body

Having a positive self-image and confidence in her own body is crucial for the woman who is approaching delivery. Unfortunately, in our society, many women approach the birth of their child with tremendous anxiety and a sense that they are not quite up to the task at hand. "There is so much fear about childbirth in our culture," says Hunking, "because the birth stories aren't getting passed on anymore. Grandmothers and mothers traditionally passed on birth stories in a way that we don't anymore because there's a whole generation there - our mothers - who totally lost control of what happened to them, and don't have memories. All those memories are erased, and when you don't have the memories, what replaces them is fear. Women are then left with a sense that "somebody else has to control it; somebody else has to do the delivery because that person knows what's going on."

Society's role

Author Carl Jones agrees. In his book After the Baby is Born, he describes views about childbirth in Western society, and their impact on women's self-image. "The way birth has been viewed in this society affects a new mother's self image, as well as the way she thinks about childbirth during pregnancy. In this country [the U.S.A.], birth has been approached almost as if it were an illness. The overall effect of such an approach to childbearing may leave the new mother feeling more awkward, more isolated, and less sure of herself than she might otherwise."

Encouraging a positive self-image in preparation for birth is one of the caregiver's most important responsibilities. "We talk about fears that come up, especially fears around pain," says Hunking. "That's really important to talk about prenatally." She believes that women should work towards gaining an understanding of what the pain means in labor, and that they should plan their births in a way that ensures that they will have abundant support and be surrounded by people they want around them, and who feel positively about the choices they have made about the birth.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.