In February 2013, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a list of five things physicians and patients should question, as part of their “Choosing Wisely” campaign. (Read More)
My yoga journey began after my fourth child. I joined a gym and thought I’d give yoga a shot. I loved it. I had finally found my exercise niche. And I didn’t just love the physical aspect of yoga but the mental/spiritual/emotional aspect as well. When I got pregnant with my fifth, I continued yoga all the way up until days before she was born (with modifications, of course). Yoga has so many benefits for you during pregnancy, such as flexibility, endurance, energy, and positivity. It also can greatly benefit you in labor. Here are five ways yoga can help prepare you for labor:
1. Strength. Holding yoga positions helps build muscle tone and strength. And let me tell you, you’re going to want it. Labor is hard work physically. Walking for miles, swaying on a birth ball, doing lunges, getting in and out of a hospital bed or birth tub, and squatting are all some of the various things you will do in labor that will require strength.
2. Flexibility. Yoga helps keep your body and joints flexible. Some labor positions, such as
kneeling on one knee while having your other knee up and off to the side (see picture below) require flexibility. Keeping your pelvis nice and flexible can also help baby properly descend and rotate.
3. Positioning. Baby’s position in utero is a contributing factor to how your labor goes. You know those cat and cow’s you do in yoga? Guess what? They help rock your baby into an optimal position. Other examples include butterfly pose which help keep your pelvis nice and open to allow the baby to find space to descend and rotate, and inversions which can help a baby flip head down.
4. Physical relaxation. One of my favorite things in yoga is a guided meditation including tensing and releasing. The yoga instructor tells us to tense and release one part of our body at a time until we are fully relaxed. How does this help you in labor? Tense muscles hurt more. If you are tensing up your muscles in labor, it will literally feel more painful. Learning to read your body and know where you’re holding tension AND knowing how to then release that tension will go a long way towards helping you with your pain coping skills. How else does physical relaxation help? Have you ever heard your yoga instructor say that your teeth shouldn’t be touching or your jaw shouldn’t be clinched? That’s because there’s a direct correlation between a clenched jaw and tense muscles elsewhere in your body, and this is especially important in labor. Tense jaw means tight pelvis. Tight pelvis means baby can’t descend, rotate, and exit so easily. Relax your jaw, release your baby.
5. Mental relaxation. Labor can be a big mind game. Slow labor, fast labor, no signs of labor all take a mental toll. The ongoing series of contractions can be exhausting to your psyche. Thinking too much in labor can impede your body’s natural birth process. Being able to turn off your thinking brain (neocortex) and dig deep into your primitive brain (amygdala) can allow your body to take over and do what it’s meant to do: birth your baby. Yoga can help you learn and practice this skill. Often instructors will give you visual imagery to help learn mental relaxation, such as, having you picture a river and if thoughts pop up, let them glide down the river and away like floating leaves. Some people find mental relaxation the most challenging part of yoga but if you can practice it often in pregnancy, it will help you in labor.
Yoga is amazing for every realm of your life: the physical, emotional, and spiritual. Yoga benefited me before my pregnancy and will continue to benefit me long after. So, why not give yoga a try during your pregnancy and enjoy all these amazing benefits? Namaste, my fellow yoginis.
- Cameo Sherman, BBC Doula
Labor! Countless books are written about labor and birth and how to do it “right.” In reality there are lots of labor positions that really work. And while we complicate labor and talk endlessly about birth, in a lot of ways it is pretty simple. The things that we would do for comfort and pain relief in real life often work in labor.
Many couples planning out of hospital births believe a childbirth education course to be unnecessary, understanding that the midwifery model of care encourages and promotes pregnancy and birth as normal, and tends to minimize interventions which would interfere with the natural progression of a labor. Prenatal appointments with a midwife tend to be much longer, and incorporate some childbirth education in them as well. So why should you take an independent course if you're not birthing in a hospital?
The subject of food comes up a LOT when you are raising three boys. How much do they eat? How often? How much does it cost? But the most important question to me is, "WHAT do they eat?"
HAPPY EATING, HAPPY BABIES
How do I fuel these little bodies so that they are healthy AND happy? For me, the days I begin with a bagel and a vanilla latte leave me feeling stressed, hurried, and agitated. But the mornings I begin with two eggs, an orange, and a cup of black coffee...what a difference! And it did not take long to realize this is just as true with my children. A whole foods diet is important for their mental health, emotional stability, and physical growth.
Like most moms, the moment I began caring what went into my children's body started way before I even saw their little selves. I paid close attention to my diet while they were still in the womb. I thought about the formation of their nervous system, their brain development, even how many fingers and toes. Isn't it amazing to think that all of the building blocks for this little person are coming from you? A good childbirth class is going to make healthy eating a priority (surprise! It's class #2 in Birth Boot Camp).
A WHOLE, HOLY FOODS DIET
Eating a whole foods diet - one that focuses on vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and plant/animal protein - eliminates processed, sugary, white, and junk foods. Starting this diet even before you are pregnant helps you to avoid pregnancy complications and will help you lead by example when your mini-me is learning to feed himself. It's pretty easy to help your children avoid bad foods when they just aren't in the house.
Birth Boot Camp also stresses the importance of an integrated nutrition plate that includes balance in relationships, spirituality, and physical activity. This goes back to the "happy" part. That's great if you and your children are getting plenty of protein during the day, but are you getting a chance to burn it off? Or as it sometimes happen in our home, are they getting a chance to just sit still and talk with you for a moment?
A FEW FAVORITE RECIPES
So what are some of the foods I enjoy with my boys now that I ate even while I was pregnant? Here are a few quick meals that are healthy, delicious, and always remind me of spring!
Strawberry Banana Protein Smoothie - fast and versatile
Energy Bites - a great on-the-go snack
New Parmesan Chicken - packed with protein
Mango Salsa Salmon - a quick and healthy dinner
I really loved what my fellow BBC instructor in South Austin had to say about rockin the VBAC last week! If you haven't seen her post, here's some great info...
For me, the natural birth of my third son was like fireworks. And I mean in a good way. A symphony playing, firework bursting, gold-medal winning, touch 'em all kind of experience. I finally understood what the fuss was all about.
Let me rewind a bit. I actually became a parent four and a half years ago with the birth of our son, Christian. The invitation from his birth mother to be present for his birth was incredibly humbling. She was absolutely heroic, and I fell in love with Christian (even more, since I had loved him without knowing him for years) the moment I laid eyes on him. I had no problem telling biological parents that I felt EXACTLY the same as they did about their children.
Twelve months later, and I am pregnant. A miracle, to be sure. I feel I am doing everything right to plan for a beautiful home birth. And I am secretly pleased that I DO feel the same love for this baby as I do for Christian.
But then something happens. An emergency c-section. I barely get a glimpse of Ivan before he is whisked away to the NICU. I spend nearly three weeks trekking to and from the hospital, pumping precious breastmilk to keep my little guy fed. Exhausting. Frustrating. Disappointing, like I failed somehow. And defeated. I had pictured our meeting so serene, so gentle, and instead he was literally cut out of me under flourescent lights. Our mojo was off, so to speak. I didn't know this little person the way I wanted to, and when we brought him home I felt I had to work doubly hard to make a connection. Not that I didn't love him. I did. I do. Like a Mama Lion. And I was so PROUD of how he came through when the doctors doubted. But what stands out the most is that I had to find a whole new way to connect with him. (Five weeks later, when he finally breastfed, this connection was brilliant.)
So back to the fireworks - baby #3. When I went into labor with Leo, I never felt alone. It was me and the baby, working this thing together. I'd squeeze a little, he'd push a little. My body relaxed around him, and I worked on finding different positions to coax him into the world (nevermind that lying on my side was both our favorite position). And I WORKED. This work reminded me I was transitioning from pregnancy to motherhood. It reminded me my body had grown this baby, my body would birth this baby, and my body would be strong enough to care for him after birth as well.
I think every mother needs this kind of positive reinforcement. And THAT is why I have become a Birth Boot Camp instructor. Birth Boot Camp is a ten-week course that gives you the EDUCATION you need to have an amazing birth. I went into none (read: zero) of my births just wingin' it. I read, I practiced, I worked over and over with my husband as to what our great birth experience would look like.
And it when it all came together - amazing. Out of the park, touch 'em all, y'all. So I may be new to birth, and only the second Birth Boot Camp instructor in the greater Austin area - but I know good when I see it. For me, third time's the charm, and I hope it's even sooner for you.
I'm Adria -
A Birth Boot Camp instructor, fan of natural birth, a mother to 3 busy boys, wife to my best friend, and just trying to keep up, y'all.