1. Find a Soothing Environment

If you can request a tour of your birthing suite before.Your birth setting must feel safe to you. It should have space to walk and bathe, as well as a variety of furniture and devices to enhance movement and pain relief: an iPod doc or CD player, rocking chair, birth ball, low stool, squatting bar and soft bed. It should also have policies that encourage you to try a variety of positions. Access to appropriate medical care is crucial if problems arise.

2. Choose Your Team Carefully

Knowledgeable, caring midwives, doctors, nurses, partners, loved ones and doulas create a supportive birth team. When you're treated with respect and patience, stress and inhibitions decrease, and you can more easily find your best coping mechanisms.

3. Learn About Labour

Attending childbirth classes is the best way to find out about labour. Read everything you can about labour from books, magazines, Web sites, videos, classes, a hospital tour and discussions with your health-care provider, doula, family and friends. Familiarize yourself with the procedures and customs at your hospital or birth centre, and ask about flexibility. Such discussions are best had before labour. More knowledge means fewer surprises. Ask lots of questions of your friends who have given birth and also at your childbirth class!

4. Express Your Fears

Are you worried about pain and labour, needles, medicines or losing control? Speak with a knowledgeable and trusted friend, childbirth educator or doula. Voicing your concerns can bring relief as well as practical solutions to your concerns. Stating your preferences in a birth plan can also help calm fears. There are wonderful organizations such as Calm Birth (https://calmbirth.com.au) or Lamaze (www.lamaze.org) who can offer you guidance on having a positive birth experience.

5. Practice Rhythmic Breathing

Breathe fully in a slow rhythm during contractions. Release tension with each exhalation and try moaning. Also try taking quick breaths, about one every 2 to 3 seconds (20 to 30 per minute). If you lose your rhythm, your partner needs to help you regain it with eye contact, rhythmic hand or head movements, or by talking you through contractions.

6. Use Imagery and Visualization

Focusing on something that makes you happy (like your partner's face, an inspirational picture or favourite object) engages your senses and decreases your awareness of pain. Listen to music, a soothing voice or a recording of ocean waves, and imagine yourself in a relaxing environment.

7. Take a Warm Shower or Bath

A warm shower is soothing, especially if you can sit on a stool and direct a handheld showerhead onto your abdomen or back. Bathing in warm water can relax you, and it may even speed up labour.

8. Keep Moving

Move around as much as you can. Walk, lean, sway, rock and squat. Some positions will be more comfortable than others.

9. Seek Relief with Warm or Cool Compresses or a TENS machine.

Place a warm pack on your lower abdomen, groin, lower back or shoulders during labor. A cold pack or latex glove filled with ice chips can soothe painful areas. Cool cloths relieve a sweaty face, chest or neck. You can either buy a TENS machine or hire them www.tenspainrelief.com.au/TensMachines? or hire them from several places such as www.sweetbeats.com.au/TENS-Hire? or www.activlifetech.com.au

10. Indulge in Gentle Touch or Massage

Whether it's someone holding your hand, stroking your cheek or hair, or patting your hand or shoulder, touch conveys reassurance, caring and understanding. Have your partner or doula massage you with light or firm strokes using oil or lotion.