How to Have an Empowering Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when a lot of people have thoughts about what you should be doing with your body. People at the grocery store might comment on the size of your bump or your annoying colleague at work may have all kinds of advice for you. You may be able to brush these opinions off, but it’s more difficult to disregard things your healthcare provider says, even if you don’t feel they’re right for you. It can also be difficult to adapt to changes in your body and to changes in your life, family, or self-concept that stem from becoming a parent. In this post, we’ll discuss how to cope with all these things in order to have an empowering pregnancy.

Have a mantra. Be prepared with a comforting, empowering phrase when doubts start to creep into your thoughts. If the thing that’s making you feel disempowered is other people commenting on your body, tell yourself, “My body is growing this baby exactly as it’s meant to.” If you’re overwhelmed by change, try, “I can handle this.” Mantras also work during labor. You might say to yourself, “My body is strong.” The repetition of a mantra can help you get through hard things by giving your brain something to focus on other than the hard time you’re having or how much pain you’re in.

Choose a care provider you trust. Depending upon where you live, you likely have a choice of prenatal care provider. As you receive prenatal care, it’s a good time to gauge how you feel in their presence. Do they listen well and take your concerns seriously or do you feel dismissed or ignored? Do you feel supported and calmed in your interactions with your provider or is your anxiety higher after you talk with them? You can switch care providers at just about any time during pregnancy if you have issues with the care you are receiving. It does become more difficult to switch the closer you get to your estimated due date, but many care providers will accept transfers of care if there are extenuating circumstances.

Do your research. While it’s true that an internet search or two is no substitute for the specialized training of a physician or midwife, there is a lot of valuable, evidence-based information online if you know where to look. The Pulse is a good place to start, and my other favorite website for pregnancy knowledge is called Evidence Based Birth. EBB is run by Rebecca Dekker, a nurse researcher with a passion for sharing research with pregnant and birthing people. Dekker has compiled a huge amount of research-based information that’s presented as accessible articles on the EBB website, which also has a great search function.

Surround yourself with help and support. Supportive family members—especially a supportive partner—go a long way toward helping you find your power during pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. Be explicit with your partner about the type of support you need or want, and check in with them often to make sure that support continues. Another great option are doulas, who provide emotional support and knowledge before, during, and after birth. Typically you have to pay for a doula’s services, so if that’s something within reach for you, it’s definitely worth looking into.

Be an advocate. Once you’ve picked your care provider, done your research, and gathered support, speak up for what you—and your baby—need. If you don’t understand something about your care, ask questions and request clarification until you do understand. Don’t be afraid to annoy your care providers or your doula with questions because they are there to help and support you. Once your baby is born, you are their best advocate because you and your co-parent will likely know them best. 

Tune in to your intuition. As your body changes, it can feel scary and like you don’t know yourself anymore. On the other hand, pregnancy provides an opportunity to connect with your body and the signals it sends to you. Practice checking in with your body and sensing whether it’s sending you any messages. Do you feel any pain or a sense of peace? Getting to know your body really well can help you track the changes of pregnancy, as well as know when something isn’t right.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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