Whether I’m teaching a yoga class, speaking with a client at a prenatal meeting, or in the midst of attending a birth, the concept of mantra is bound to arise. In birth, a mantra functions as a positive affirmation that helps a mama and her partner find strength, positivity, and focus through labor and delivery. It is an extremely helpful tool that I’ve encouraged women to find at nearly every birth I’ve attended. I suggest that any mama-to-be think about mantra during pregnancy, find the words that speak to them, and practice using them in the time leading up to their baby’s birth.
Traditionally, a mantra is a sacred word or phrase in sanskrit that is believed to have a special spiritual power to focus the mind. The word or phrase is thought internally over and over, or said aloud on repeat. It is often used in concentration and meditation practices with the ultimate goal of reaching an enlightened state of consciousness. If you think about a yoga practice, you might think about people chanting in sanskrit or “ohm-ing”. The intention behind this is getting the group’s focus attuned to the present moment: the breath and mindful movement on their mats.
In birth, a mantra focuses much the same way as it does in a yoga practice. It serves to focus a mama’s attention on the sensations within her body and tune out external distractions. In this way, the mental chatter turns off and she is wholly present. The trick is to find the words she needs, the ones that speak to her at her core.
Finding the best mantra or positive affirmations for you might take some trial and error, or the best phrases might hit you when you least expect. To discover what you’ll need to hear, you might think about the following:
What are my fears about birth?
What do I believe about my body?
How have I overcome obstacles in other areas of my life?
What makes me feel successful?
What makes me feel at ease?
Here are some mantra or positive affirmations that I’ve witnessed at births:
I am strong.
I am capable.
My body knows how to birth my baby.
My baby is the right size for my body.
I am safe.
I am supported.
Down and out.
I will meet my baby soon.
My body is wise.
I am connected.
Again, the “right” mantra for you might not hit you until you’re in the midst of your labor. A word or phrase you never expected might come rolling off your tongue and it’s exactly what you need. Or, you’ll develop a series of phrases during your pregnancy and will have practiced them so much you automatically fall into them when labor intensifies. If you choose to use mantra, let your partner and doula in on your key words so they can repeat them and encourage you when you need it most. Even though the goal is to turn inward, you will feel even more safe, supported, and capable if your care team is speaking your own words back to you.