It has always astounded me how sometimes the simplest and cheapest things available to women throughout their pregnancy can make the biggest differences. Just like that odd shaped pillow behind your back or between your legs at night. Or that funny old book your aunt gave you with all the herbal recipes for constipation through to haemmoroids. Or perhaps just a simple prenatal yoga class!
In a recent study it was proven that the practice of prenatal yoga decreases the discomforts, minimises the complications, reduces the length of labour AND improves birth weight and fetal outcome. Quite astounding isn’t it! (Complimentary therapies in clinical practice 2008 May;14(2):105-15. Epub 2008 Mar 4)
When you stop for a moment and think about the money that’s poured into pain relief creation, machines that go ‘ping’, which have been proven to decrease women’s birth satisfaction and increase c-s rates it makes you wonder. Or even just poured into strollers, cots and nappy change tables it makes good antenatal education and prenatal yoga seem like a bargain!
Now birth satisfaction is something that might sound a little selfish or ancillary to some of you who are saying it’s about the baby and their health and safety. Absolutely, it always is! But as the creator of an antenatal education course She Births®, now being studied in a massive randomised control trial I’ve learnt that birth satisfaction is incredibly important in the both the short and long term.
Birth satisfaction sets a mother up to feel confident to face the new challenges of motherhood and lets her be in a joyous space so that she can connect and bond with her baby. As we all know those first few moments and hours are incredibly important and lay imprints within the mind.
Many of the medication given, such as syntocin for induction and the CTG for continuous monitoring add to the stress and increase risks to mother and baby greatly. With the introduction of CTG (continuous cardiotocography) caesarean section rates and instrumental deliveries rose significantly. (Cochrane Review, Continuous cardiotocography (CTG) as a form of electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) for fetal assessment during labour by Alfirevic Z, Devane D, Gyte GML). Now sometimes these tools are essential but a good antenatal course should also help you to distinguish when and how to use them in a more comfortable and less stressful way during your birth.
The one thing a mum can do to help herself and her new family on top of good antenatal education is the regular practice of prenatal yoga. Prenatal yoga trains mums in how to breath and how to move for the labour. It gives mum time to consider what is coming and a time to connect with her baby.
Yoga as we know has huge physical benefits throughout pregnancy but truly, the greatest gifts come in the mental transformations that can take place. Via the physical challenging, we as teachers can guide and evoke within each mum that connection to her inner strength and her resilience. So that then she knows without a doubt …”if I can get through this on the mat then I know I through each one of those contractions”.
As well as strengthening her body and resilience, yoga also allows a woman to de-excite her mind and relax her nervous system which is already being greatly stimulated by the pregnancy. That wholeness or sense of stillness she feels in class is the true yoga! It is the union of body, mind and soul. It is the expansion of consciousness. And luckily the more one practices and connects to that ‘space‘, the more grounded they become in that state.
De-exciting or expansion of awareness brings about an ability we all have..’to witness‘. To be able to watch sensations come and go. Watch fears or doubts in the mind come and go. To become stressed but then return back to the silence in an effortless and natural way. Just like the return of a baby’s heartbeat back into its normal range after each contraction.
In my mind, yoga really is also the foundation of any worthy antenatal education course because yoga acknowledges nature’s supreme design of the body and the innate wisdom a woman has within her mind also.
In yoga, birth is seen as a miraculous and joyous rite of passage. Labour is considered a very deep meditation – equivalent to about 10 years of sitting in a cave! The purpose of your life whether you are in the monastery or paying a mortgage is always to grow, change and evolve. Pregnancy, labour and parenthood are wonderfully orchestrated by nature to challenge us and to help us evolve. They should be relished and supported within our community or at least within yourself.
Every woman needs to find her inner resilience – her ability to be grounded and calm whilst experiencing stress, fears or discomfort. And contrary to popular belief the most expensive health care cover may give you a momentary peace of mind but it will never give you ALL of that! Because that is only ever found inside of YOU…and prenatal yoga and good antenatal course will definitely guide you there!