You may have heard the phrase “positive affirmations” or “positive birth affirmations” and thought, what the hell are they?!
In this post, I’ll take you through what positive affirmations are, the science behind them, how we use them in birth and I’ll even give you some tips on writing your own birth affirmations as well as some ideas to get you started.
Let’s dive in…
What is a positive affirmation?
Positive affirmations are a powerful tool associated with Hypnobirthing. They’re statements that can help us to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them frequently, you can start to change your thought patterns and come to believe them.
Repeating positive affirmations is for our brains like repeating physical exercise is for our bodies. By repeating these positive thoughts, we can reprogram our thinking patterns and over time we’ll begin to think and act differently.
How do positive affirmations work?
Well the first thing to note is that although we listen to and read and think about them consciously, the repetition gets into our subconscious. It’s our subconscious that determines how our bodies react to situations (e.g. birth!).
So the area of our brains involved with affirmations is called the Reticular Activating System. This area allows us to notice things that are important to us. Or are related to the beliefs and values that are currently stored in our subconscious. We often don’t notice things until they become relevant to us. Like when you get a new car and suddenly you start seeing that make and model of car everywhere! Or you get pregnant and suddenly you start noticing pregnant people everywhere as they now mean something to you.
They’ve always been there, but your brain didn’t pay any attention. So with positive affirmations, we need to be repeating them to allow our brain to start paying attention to the positive things we want to feel.
A Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb came up with a theory termed “Hebb’s Rule” which states “neurons that fire together, wire together”. Or to put it another way, imagine the grooves on a hill that get deeper as more water flows down them. If we continue to think negative thoughts, these thoughts are ingrained deeper into our minds. If we can turn this around and start to consider and think about positive thoughts about ourselves and our abilities to birth our babies, we can really start to establish those thoughts in our brains. The more we do this, the easier it’ll be for our brains to return to those positive thoughts.
How to write your own positive affirmations
Okay so you know what positive affirmations are and how they work, now where to start! If you’re doing a Hypnobirthing course, you’re likely to get a whole series of suggested affirmations or a quick search on Google will throw up lots of ideas. This is a great starting point BUT even more powerful is to write your own affirmations based on your own fears and worries. By writing your own, you’ll use language that is more natural to you and your brain will therefore be more receptive.
So the best thing to do is to write down a concern or worry you have and then turn it into an affirmation.
Here are three things to consider when writing your positive affirmations:
Write affirmations in the first person (I, me, my)
Write affirmations in the present tense (am, is etc)
Consider your use of language and be selective in your word choices - the more positive the better
Positive birth affirmation ideas
Here are some of my favourite positive affirmations which you may want to use or adapt…
My body and baby are healthy and strong
Each surge brings my baby closer to me (you could use contraction or wave instead of surge, whatever sits best with you)
Where my mind leads my body follows
My baby is the perfect size for my body
My courage is stronger than my fear
I become more relaxed as labour progresses
I trust my instincts and make the right choices for me and my baby
I am a superhero
My body knows what it’s doing
I believe I can and I will
How to use positive affirmations in pregnancy
Now you’ve written your affirmations, what can you do with them? Well the more we can see/read/listen to them during pregnancy, the better!
Create positive affirmation cards
You can create little cards or signs to put around your house. You could use your favourite colours, decorate them, have fun making them. Or feel free to keep it simple.
Put them in places where you’ll see them. You don’t necessarily have to always be actively reading them, your brain will be subconsciously taking the information in if you see them frequently.
Ideas of where you may want to place affirmation cards:
Next to the kettle
At eye level in the loo
On your desk
Next to your bed
On the fridge
Next to where you relax in the evening
Record a positive affirmation track
Record yourself saying your positive affirmations. It doesn’t have to be fancy! You can just record yourself saying them using your phone’s voice note function. Recording it as one continuous track is probably best so you can listen while doing something else.
Ideas of when you could listen to your positive affirmation track:
While getting ready in the morning
On your commute to work
While showering or in the bath
When you’re cooking dinner
As you fall asleep - yes even once you’re asleep, the information will still be going into your subconscious mind!
Change your computer desktop background to an affirmation or affirmation montage
Change your phone wallpaper to include an affirmation
If any of your phone apps have an editable welcome message (e.g. banking apps), you could include an affirmation there too
How to use positive affirmations in labour and birth
So as you can tell, most of the legwork with affirmations is done in pregnancy. In birth, you may choose not to use them at all. Or you may decide to display your affirmation cards or signs round your birth space. If you go into spontaneous labour, it’s likely you’ll be labouring at home for a while so you could display them in the room you’re labouring in and then get your birth partner to pack them up and transfer to the hospital if that’s where you’ve chosen to have your baby.
You could listen to your home made affirmation track or you could get your birth partner to read them out to you. Or ask them to subtly use them throughout labour as words of encouragement. There really are no rules, everyone is different. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your birth partner in advance and include it in your birth plan but you can always change your mind on the day.
So there you have it!