A pregnant woman lies in a chair and appears asleep.
A calm mindset is essential in the months leading up to your baby’s delivery. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

When your baby is born, your body goes through an incredibly demanding physical process that can last quite a while.

That’s why it’s called labor, right? The physical demands are considerable.

And yet, there are also plenty of emotions involved.

In a recent segment on WZZM Channel 13 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a reporter interviewed Spectrum Health psychologist Sylvia Malcore, PhD, on the topic of pain management and chronic back pain.

At one point, the reporter mentioned how people sometimes describe pain as being “all in your head.”

Dr. Malcore, of Spectrum Health Medical Group’s Spine & Pain Management Center, explained how pain affects the body as well as the emotions, and the role of cognitive behavioral therapy in these areas.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the way people think and their actions, and how this impacts how they feel,” Dr. Malcore said. “(It’s) an evidence-based treatment for a variety of mental health concerns, including helping patients to cope with their chronic pain.”

The interview focused on chronic back pain, but it still made me think about the relationship between the mind and body during labor—more specifically, the way the mind interprets the pain of labor.

It’s that concept of mind over matter.

I know there are some women who say they didn’t have any labor pain. Based on my own experiences in the deliveries of my children, however, I can confidently tell you I did experience labor pain.

And yet, I discovered it’s a pain you can cope with. You just need to learn how.

Eliminate the negative  

We know our mind is a very powerful thing, probably more so than you realize. Your mindset truly affects your labor experience and your body’s reaction to it.

You know, of course, that your mind affects your body and its responses. A good example is when you’re thinking about something happy or funny.

Try it right now: Imagine something funny.

Typically, it’ll make you smile and you might find your body begins to relax. You didn’t have to say, “This is really funny, so I will smile or relax.” Your body just reacts to what you were thinking.

This also holds true with fear.

If we are fearful, or if we perceive fear, our body responds appropriately. This is great if we’re in a serious situation, like getting a child out of the road when a car is coming.

This response is fight or flight. Our heart rate increases and our breathing quickens, allowing us to react faster if need be. In a situation where this response is needed, it’s a great biological reaction.

But think about labor. What reaction do we need—fight or flight, or calmness?

We need a thought process that emphasizes mind over body. This requires calm.

During labor, we need to reach a place in our head that accepts this idea of mind over matter. One way to do this is to limit negative thoughts as much as possible.

What do I mean by that?

Here’s a quick example: You’re out shopping and someone sees your pregnant belly and starts telling you a not-so-great-story about labor. You can hold your hand up like a stop sign and say, “You know, if you have a great story to tell me about childbirth, I’d love to hear it—but if not, I don’t want to know.”

You’re trying to keep your mind positive about labor.

The thoughts we allow into our mind will determine how we feel come time for delivery.