It’s said that giving birth can be one of the most exhausting experiences of a woman’s life. Some say it is like running a marathon. No one would even think of entering a marathon without some serious physical and emotional preparation! When it comes to meeting your baby, spending some time to prepare your body and mind for birth with these top tips is time well spent.
Learning how to breathe during birth, particularly during your contractions/surges, will help you and your baby remain calm and ensure that your uterine muscles are working at their optimum. Remember, your uterus is just a muscle. Like all muscles in the body, it needs a steady flow of blood and oxygen to work well. If you’re breathing is short and shallow it’s likely that your uterus isn’t getting enough oxygen and, therefore isn’t working at its optimum. This is when it can be uncomfortable or even painful. You also want to ensure that a healthy flow of blood and oxygen is reaching your baby too.
We recommend learning two breaths:
- Up Breathing for when the uterus is drawing upwards and the cervix is dilating.
- Down Breathing for the down stage of birth when your muscles are pushing your baby down the birth canal.
Practice your breathing daily so that it is habitual to you on the day and you’re not having to consciously think about a breathing technique. You’ll even be surprised how useful your Up Breath can be when your baby arrives to keep you calm and to help you release oxytocin – the happy hormone!
Recognising and then removing any fear around birth makes it easier for your body to perform in the incredible way it was designed to. The more relaxed you are, the easier your birth will be. It also enables you to stay calm and make decisions from a rational perspective, rather than from a highly emotional one, which can only be a positive thing. Throughout your pregnancy, feed your brain with positive reinforcement – positive birth stories and videos (you’ll find lots on our blog!), positive birth affirmations, birth relaxation scripts and MP3s, and awe inspiring birth photography. Make sure that everything you associate with birth is positivity. These will help you to feel confident and excited about your baby’s birth.
Perineal massage involves loosening the muscles between your vagina and anus (perineum) from around 34-35 weeks, to prepare for giving birth. This will help the opening of your vagina to stretch as your baby emerges into the world. It’s also been shown to reduce the likelihood of tearing during birth, and needing stitches or an episiotomy. See Babycentre for how the massage is done.
Dust off your Exercise Ball
Sitting on an exercise ball is great for stabilising your core, keeping your pelvis in correct alignment, and helping to move your baby into an optimal birthing position. Try practising your breathing whilst sitting on the ball so that you associate all that calm and positivity with this great position for birth. It will all feel so natural and relaxing on the day.
Take a moment now to think about how mammals give birth. Let’s take a cat for example. Will you find her in the middle of a brightly lit room, lying flat on her back with strangers watching her? No! She’ll sneak off to a warm, dark and comfortable space where she won’t be observed. Like our mammalian relatives, human females are designed to give birth safely in the wild without supervision or medical intervention. It is as natural to us as eating, breathing, digestion and sleeping. It’s in our genes. Whether you’re giving birth at home, a birth centre, labour ward or theatre, make sure you’ve planned for making it a calm and relaxing space. You might want to think about:
- Playing music
- Low lighting if possible, or you could use an eye mask to block out any distractions
- Using essential oils to calm and relax you
- Picking a few photos of people or happy memories to have around you to help you release that all-important oxytocin.
The NCT have a useful article on how to set up the ideal environment.
Meeting your baby will be the most important meeting of your life. Take the time available to you now to prepare for this meeting. The benefits will be more than worth it. Plus, time spent preparing for birth, is precious time to bond with your baby and birth partner.