The Power of Positive Reframing

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Photo by Alyson Bowen

As a birth doula, mother and a woman who has been on a long journey to find a stronger connection to my womb space and in general, self-love — I feel deeply compelled to discuss the value of positive reframing. The beliefs we hold about ourselves and especially our bodies are very powerful. The words we choose, whether we are conscious of them or not, can shape our ideas and in turn foster strength or fear within us. This applies directly to childbirth outcomes.

We live in a time where women (and their partners) are expected to think about birth as a medical condition that requires a high level of intervention; we are told that we cannot trust in the wisdom of our bodies and that refusing to consent to procedures that have not been clearly or honestly explained, will be addressed as dangerous and negligent.

The media portrays birth as painful and scary, where women are depicted as out of control and helpless; these ideas are deeply ingrained in most of us by the time we become pregnant. Even if we are aware of more natural options, it takes time to reprogram our thinking and move towards reclaiming our power.

Our bodies grow and sustain small complex human beings, our bones soften and become flexible, the placenta attached to our baby holds a large portion of their blood volume so they are smaller and can move down our birth canal more easily (why delayed cord clamping is so important!) along with overlapping plates in their skulls that will later fuse together. All these little perfectly worked details that our body knows how to bring together so that our child will arrive Earthside safely! And we still question the wisdom of our bodies, why? Because we need a shift in thinking.

It’s also important to identify the connection between fear and the release of stress hormones that impact the progression of childbirth. Fear can slow and even stop birth in its tracks. This is a defense mechanism of the body, to make sure that our child is not born into a dangerous situation.

When we accept negative ideas about our bodies and communicate with other mothers from this space, we are perpetuating fear and stereotypes about birth. Change can start with our vocabulary; by replacing negative words that imply we are not capable or that we will have a difficult birth with more empowering ones, we begin to own our experience and can connect more strongly with our inherent intuition. By choosing our words wisely and reworking our beliefs, we can also begin a more positive cycle of empowering and supporting other women.

Here are a few examples of positive reframing:

Pain __________ Intensity/pressure/tightening

Contractions __________ Rushes/surges/waves/opening

Overdue __________ Post-date/past your guess date

My doctor is “letting” me __________ My doctor “supports” my decision to

My midwife “delivered” my baby __________ My midwife “caught” my baby

In addition to positive reframing, I like to suggest my doula clients watch natural home birth videos to inspire a shift in thinking about what childbirth can look like beyond the typical mainstream powerless birth we tend to see on T.V.   Here are two of my favorite birth videos:

“Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of the strength and power of their bodies, and of their capacity for ecstasy through giving birth.” — Dr. Christiane Northrup

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Categories: Nicole

Author:Nicole Donald

Hello MotherWise! My name is Nicole; I’m 30 and a Scorpio. I am a licensed hair stylist, photographer, prenatal Doula and Placenta Encapsulation Specialist. My husband and I have 5 children; three of them are my step children. We are currently trying for a sixth child :) In our home we practice peaceful parenting and gentle discipline. My family and I do our best to only eat organic food and avoid GMOs. We have a raised bed, organic vegetable garden too! My husband and I brew our own kombucha and make kimchi regularly – we love fermented foods. We are a fairly natural household. I continue to do research and replace products with more “clean” and healthier alternatives all the time. I consider myself an Intactivist. I regret having had my two sons circumcised with all my heart; my youngest child almost died from the procedure because I was misinformed and mislead by medical professionals into giving consent. I know better now and do everything I can to help make the truth about circumcision available to other parents.


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2 Comments on “The Power of Positive Reframing”

  1. July 5, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    Reblogged this on Adrienne Loves Babies.

  2. December 9, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    Love this, and couldn’t agree more. It is also important to ‘reframe’ our thoughts on body image, especially during pregnancy. It is a great time to rethink what beauty truly means. Beauty isn’t the absence of stretch marks or curves. It is the ability to give life!

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