Sarah Lavonne, Founder of Bundle Birth, believes that there is no “formula” or “right” way to create your own birth story. Your right way is one where you feel that every decision is yours to make, one where you never feel alone and one where you are empowered with education so that your fears can be replaced with confidence in your abilities, your body, your partner and your baby.
Hi Sarah, welcome back! Let’s dive right in and talk about ways to deal with anxiety as a pregnant couple. How big is anxiety during pregnancy with your clients?
Anxiety is number one! I mean that’s for sure why people find me. I would even say fear, they’re the same, but also very different, particularly related to pregnancy and then birth. Once you get pregnant it’s like you’re stuck in your body and you’re facing delivery, there are so many misconceptions. Everyone wants to tell their birth story which is great and that’s therapeutic but it’s not always helpful. I think that’s probably the number one emotion that I am tackling with people. I see them going from freaking out and dreading delivery to “I’m actually excited for my birth and I can’t wait for whatever the experience might bring”
Labor can be flexible, but not always concrete and you don’t know what’s going to happen but if you could imagine holding your hands open and be able to be flexible and go with the flow. I call it “flex and flow.” No matter what you experience, vaginal, cesarean, or have all your birth preferences, long labor or short labor, you can have an amazing Happy Birth Memory. This, of course, can launch you into a more fulfilled parenting journey.
Sounds like a plan filled with many possibilities! What are some ways to deal with anxiety during pregnancy in particular?
I think no one is prepared to deal with the anxiety and don’t want to deal with it, so they shut down or they close themselves off. I hear many times at the bedside. “I’m just going to wing it.” “I’m just gonna check in with my doctor.” In fact, I had a conversation with a woman recently on the phone who said she never considered a doula until she talked with her friend who was my client. She shared her experience and realized the value of having a doula. I explained you can trust your doctor with their expertise and I’m not going to tell them how to do their job. However, this question is linked back to anxiety, how about saying I’m going to trust my doctor because I also trust my body. I feel totally prepared and I know we’re on the same page because we’ve had this conversation.
I agree, trusting your body is key! Every birth story is unique right?
I would argue that you know your body best and that Labor isn’t just a textbook! Your labor is unique to you and different from everyone else’s and it’s important that you actually do your own education and engage with a source that is going to help build your confidence. This is where I challenge people to think about and consider how many blogs they view, how many birth stories they watch while they’re pregnant. Sometimes, I hear my clients say, “I need to stop watching birth videos about other people’s birth stories.”
Amazing! We have some much digital content available today and it can be overwhelming! What do you recommend to decipher information?
I do think there are times and a place for that. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn from others but I say be cautious about where you’re finding your information because there’s information that is helpful and information that is going to probably cause more anxiety. It’s finding that trustworthy source that’s going to give you up to date evidence-based information and not going to scare you more. When I talk about certain pregnancy or delivery complications that are scary I’m totally frank! You certainly don’t want a cord to prolapse, that can be fatal and that’s not fun to talk about. However, at the same time, my personal approach is you’re an adult, this is your body, this is your baby, let’s talk about it. If you want to know about it, let’s talk about it! This is the message I want to convey to a client. I don’t want you to look back and say, “oh my gosh, I wish somebody would have told me”.
I agree, I wish I knew some of these things when I was preparing for my births! Do you believe this is also true for parenting and all that follows?
Yes, this goes for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, postpartum, parenting, and self-care during and after. I believe in a more holistic approach rather than prep work, meditation, and prenatal yoga. While I love those methods I prefer movement like walking and getting up especially the more uncomfortable you are and push through but not to the point of discomfort just getting up and moving. This helps release endorphins and when combined with breathing it slows your vitals, lowers your blood pressure and calms your mind. Many times you’ll realize you’ve been running on adrenaline which is what was causing anxiety your entire pregnancy. Now when it’s time for the birth you’re super stressed and anxious.
Great insight! So many times we are causing our own anxiety during this eventful time? What do you recommend to get ourselves under control and prepare for the birth process?
I recommend to my clients to slow down and nourish their tissues with proper nutrition that’s going to set the foundation for homeostasis in the body through labor and birth, postpartum, and parenting etc. After all, you’re growing a healthy baby. Research shows a link to refined sugar, refined food, and refined carbohydrates contributing to anxiety and mood. Therefore, watching your sugar intake and replacing refined sugar with healthy sugar like some fruits in moderation can be super beneficial. I think pregnancy is a really good time to stop and think, “hey what am I feeding my tissue and how am I building my body for this baby?” This also goes for labor, birth and recovery afterward. It is worth it for your health and your baby to eat a balanced diet with adequate protein, nutrients, and prenatal vitamins.
Great! What about mental health during pregnancy?
I think there’s so much stigma surrounding mental health but we’re actually doing better with the awareness of mental health because we’re talking about it more in the birth world. For example, there is a push towards maternal mood so being real saying, “I’m nervous about this.” It helps if you have that resource list of friends and family, along with a doula that can walk you through your pregnancy journey. I recommend to couples to talk about the truth behind the anxiety, which is partially what I do as a doula or a labor nurse and birth coach.
What about the unexpected anxieties? What do these resources look like?
Yes there are unknowns with pregnancy, but at the same time, we also have to focus on the positive and be grateful for what we do know. For those who really need it there’s professional help. Many times women feel isolated and alone through pregnancy, labor and birth, parenting and postpartum. There are PeriNatal Psychologists and psychiatrist that specialize in this area should you need one. They have training and in mood related to pregnancy and the hormonal changes that happen so no harm or shame in reaching out for help. Anxiety can be debilitating it can leave such a deep impact not only you but on your experience of being pregnant or your birth experience.
Anxiety can come in many forms for different reasons, I personally have struggled with some anxieties and it’s not fun. However, I’m all about living your best life! So if you’re struggling with anxiety you might take some practical steps towards helping yourself so it’s not so debilitating and potentially be healed from the things that contribute to it especially before becoming pregnant.
Lots of great information to digest here! Stay tuned for our next segment with Sarah when she shares with us how to create a birth plan in 5 steps. For more information on the doula services offered by Bundle Birth visit her website, UTube Channel, Facebook, or follow her on Instagram.