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Learning to Lean in to your Intuition in Pregnancy, Birth and Parenthood.

Updated: Apr 3

Written by Desiree Dougherty | b-earth-mama



Birth is an instinctual process, one that is guided by thousands of years of evolution and that has been shaped by trial, error, and adaptation. For this reason, your intuition is your greatest ally when it comes to giving birth - greater than your care provider, your doula, or even your partner. Your intuition is your connection to that vein of ancestral knowledge that is embedded in your DNA, handed down by the generations of life givers who have come before you. Your intuition is more powerful than any monitoring device, because it literally exists to ensure that you, and your offspring, survive and thrive.


Cambridge Dictionary defines intuition is "an ability to understand or know something without needing to think about it or use reason to discover it". And I would say this describes the beauty of birth and parenthood to a "T".

When it comes to pregnancy and birth, modern medicine presumes it can predict everything through testing and monitoring, but there is so much more going on inside of your body when you are growing and birthing a human than what shows up on an ultrasound or can be picked up by a fetal monitor. Only you and your baby truly know the full extent of what is unfolding in your body at any given time. And your intuition is what tells you how support your body's unique process of birthing your unique baby in the unique positions you both find yourself in.


What makes it tricky is that intuition does not come to us citing sources. As defined above, it comes to us without a thought or reasoning to support it. It is just an unshakeable communication of our inner truth. Because of this, tuning into our intuition is something that many of us are out of practice at. In a world driven by immediacy, by hard numbers and "show me the money" mindsets, it can be hard to justify basing life changing decisions on an intractable, untestable feeling.


Our society does not encourage us to take the time to tune into our bodies, let alone allow it to guide us in making "baseless" decision. We run on empty tanks chasing productivity and accomplishment, meanwhile suppressing our body's messages and ignoring our own fundamental needs. But for most people, pregnancy is the thing that breaks this cycle. Because in pregnancy, you cannot ignore the needs of your body, and you don't really want to because the needs of your body are synonymous with the needs of your unborn child.





Whether we choose to hear it, or not, our bodies speak to us. Quietly at first, and then louder and louder until we can no longer ignore what they are telling us. And in pregnancy, your body will communicate louder and more directly than ever before. At first, this may feel uncomfortable, inconvenient, or just downright awful! But this communication is a gift, an invitation to connect more deeply with the miraculous process of creation that is occurring within. And it can help us reconnect to the instincts that we will need to birth and parent our babies.


For birth to unfold as nature and evolution intended, it requires that you to tap into this connection to your own instincts. It requires that you drop out of communication with the outside world and instead turn inwards to your inner most self. And by accepting this invitation, you give yourself a greater chance at achieving an outcome that reflects the perfected process we have evolved to follow.


So how can you begin strengthening your connection to your own intuition?


The easiest place to start is by getting comfortable sitting in stillness with the inner workings of your own mind. When your energy is unfocused, it is harder to pick out what your intuition or your instincts are telling you. Building a practice around sitting in openness with your thoughts, without passing judgement or chasing them away, will start to give you a sense of your gut reaction to different things, which should lead to an awareness of you instinctual response to things. You may call this meditation if it suites you, you can also just call this "you time" if the term "meditation" feels too loaded.


At first, this may be difficult and may not feel anything at all, especially if it is a new practice for you, but overtime, you should be able to start getting a sense of your instinctual response, or your gut reaction, to things.


You can start by doing this for a few minutes every day, maybe 3 to 5 minutes for the first few weeks, and slowly build up to a longer and more focused practice. If you notice themes arising in your practice, you may want to prompt yourself with words, phrases, or visuals that relate to those themes and track how your mind responds.


The most important thing is to be consistent. So find the right amount of time that allows this to easily settle into your daily routine.





Once this starts to feel comfortable, you might graduate to exploring how your thoughts and emotions manifest as physical responses in your body. Incorporating body scans can help you get in touch with how your body communicates with you on an intuitive level. To perform a body scan, find a moment of stillness and connect with your breath. Using your inhale, trace your body from head to toe. Notice if you are holding any tension in any part of your body. With your exhale, try to release that tension.


While you are sitting in stillness and tracking your thoughts, try running through body scans at different times in your practice and see what you notice.


How do stressful thoughts manifest in your body?


Do you notice certain zones of your body holding tension or tightness when certain concepts enter your mind?


What happens when you intentionally try to release they tension?


Does your body fight back?


Does your mind?


Journaling is a great way to keep track of anything that may be coming up for you in your practice, especially when it comes to pregnancy and birth related issues. When preparing to make big decisions, or even small ones, pull out a pen and some paper, and free write your thoughts.


How do your options register in your body?


Do you have a clear sense of the right path forward, even if you don't have evidence to support it?


With a consistent daily practice, it should become easier to sense your intuitive or instinctive response to things, and over time your confidence in following your intuition will grow. But trust is a two way street. So the third step in developing your connection to your body's intuitive communication systems after being able to track your mind and body's intuitive responses is to be open to responding with whatever your body is telling you it needs. So not only are you practicing listening to your body, but you also need to grow a practice of responding to your body when it needs something. If you need nourishment, rest, movement, finding ways to make space in your routine to care for your needs.


How does this translate into a strategy for labor and birth?


In labor, the high levels of oxytocin coursing through your body will take you out of your thinking brain into the primal corners of your mind. This is something we want to encourage because oxytocin is what strengthens your labor, and its is also connected to the production of beta-endorphins, which is your body's natural pain medicine that keeps you in a pleasant euphoric haze as the sensation of your surges increases.






Now, I am a proponent of saying that your body is fully capable of doing the work of labor without any assistance. And that is, in part, because intuition will force you to get into positions or begin moving in the ways that are necessary to allow your baby to move through you. This is why having a practice of being attuned to your intuition, and responding without thought or question, is so important.


The unfortunate reality is that the maternal healthcare system, at least in the United States, has largely fallen out of communion with the natural process of childbirth. Birth is held to unrealistic expectations and treated as if it has failed if it falls out of step with the textbook outline that most physicians have been taught. The overuse of medical interventions has taken life-saving technology that was designed to be used in the extreme cases where loss of life or injury was imminent, and made it standard of care for all regardless of if it is necessary or not.


While I will not dispute that these interventions can be miraculous if used in appropriate circumstances, it is important to call out that when you invite interventions into your birth, necessary or not, you are making a trade. Something from the process that nature intended will be lost. In the case of an emergency, the tradeoff may be worth the risk. Yet again, you can call on your intuition to help you decide. More often than not, the result is a dulled connection to the body, and thus the intuition, which leads to harder and more traumatic birthing experiences.


If an intervention-free birth is a part of your plan, and you are giving birth in a hospital setting, then leaning into your intuition may be your most powerful tool in avoiding unnecessary interventions by impatient providers. Allowing your body to speak to you about how it needs you to move and align yourself so that your baby can descend easily can help you find positions that will support your body's progress. Following your body's cues can help you find your power in the pushing phase, and can help you birth your baby without undue stress to your body in the process


Instinctual Parenting


The final point I want to make is that birth is not the pinnacle of your life as a parent. It is not the finish line, and you will need your intuition for far harder battles than just birthing your baby. Bringing your baby home from the hospital, keeping them alive and thriving, teaching them how to exist in the world, all of this requires you to be firmly in touch with your instincts. Five years into my own parenting journey, I can honestly say I don't know any other pieces of advice that I would give new parents other than just trust your instincts. There are so many ideologies out there, so many theories and approaches to raising children. Even the wisdom that comes from our own parents and grandparents.



The fact is, your child is 100% unique. So there isn't anyone in the world who can tell you definitively the best way to parent them. But your intuition has known your child since the first moment they were created. It knows every cell in their body, every line written in their DNA. If you can find it in yourself to put your trust in your instincts, in your intuition, you cannot possibly go wrong.


If you are looking to build a personalized mindfulness practice as a part of your preparation for birth, or even in postpartum, I invite you to check out my free Building Daily Practices Workbook. This downloadable PDF workbook incudes a step by step guide for crafting your own practice for sitting in stillness, including visualization, journal prompts, and conversation starters for you and your partner. Your download includes the Mindful Laboring Birth Space Checklist, a complete checklist of things to make your hospital room feel as serene as a day spa.





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