This is a post in my series on owning your birth. It is my strong belief that your birth experience profoundly impacts your early days with your new child. The way you feel while birthing your baby can inform how you feel about yourself as a person, mother, and partner. If you feel respected, strong, and supported during pregnancy, labor and delivery, you will improve your chances of beginning your mothering journey with confidence and hope. If you feel disrespected, controlled, or unheard during pregnancy, labor and delivery, you may enter your mothering journey with fear and sadness.
Birth is normal and breathtakingly beautiful. But it is also mysterious and unknown, sometimes overwhelming and scary. With any labor and delivery, you can have an experience that is woman- and mother-centered. Feeling respected and heard, and experiencing your own strength and power during birth, comes down to owning the experience, even in its uncertainty. And often still, things won’t go as you expected. If you are surprised, overwhelmed, or sad about your birth experience, you will be better able to confront it and work through it if you feel prepared, strong, and confident enough to reach out for support.
You cannot plan your birth. Birth will takes its own course and we do best when we can let birth happen. But birth can happen best when we are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at our best. In this series, I’ll share ideas about what you can do to own your birth experience.
#5: Prenatal Yoga
Imagine that you are 20 weeks pregnant. Maybe this is your first child or maybe it’s your fourth. Either way, you are super busy with work and family and don’t feel like you have much time to devote to preparing for birth and bonding with your baby. Then, you see a flyer for prenatal yoga classes in your community. You’ve never done yoga before and you’re skeptical that you would enjoy it. You’re even a little worried about being embarrassed around others who surely know the moves better than you, but you convince yourself to give it a try.
You walk into your first class and immediately feel safe. The instructor gives each mother time to introduce herself briefly and the class gets started. The poses and breathing exercises are gentle and it feels so good to move your body, slowly stretching out your sore, tired muscles. The Savasana, or Final Relaxation, is heavenly. You rest on your back with a warm blanket over you while the instructor comes around and rubs your temples with soothing lavender oil. You know you’ll be back next week!
As the week go by, you find that you look forward to this time each week to focus on yourself and your baby. Your instructor talks about all the ways you can use the breathing and poses to help you cope during labor. You’re still a bit skeptical about that, but you’re willing to give it a try. Throughout your pregnancy, you notice that your body feels pretty good despite the extra weight and changing center of balance. And when labor hits, you feel confident, prepared, and ready. You use your connection to your baby, strengthened by your yoga practice, to fuel you through difficult sensations and you find that lunging and breathing like you did in class really helps you cope. Birth is hard work, but you owned it! Your baby is born and just days later you send your birth story to your yoga instructor to share with the class and you cannot wait to share it in person with the other mothers you met during your time practicing yoga.
A dear friend of mine is a prenatal yoga instructor and I have seen the benefits of prenatal yoga practice through the amazing work she does with mothers in her community. There is a ton of information about the benefits of prenatal yoga. I’ve included a few links with more information at the end of the post. Thanks to Sarah Oakley of MamaBirth Yoga for sending me some of her favorites!
According to the Mayo Clinic, “studies have suggested that prenatal yoga can:
- Improve sleep
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
- Decrease lower back pain, nausea, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and shortness of breath
- Decrease the risk of preterm labor, pregnancy-induced hypertension and intrauterine growth restriction — a condition that slows a baby’s growth”
If you can’t find a class near you, or can’t find time or money for a class, you can practice at home. Check out these 12 prenatal yoga poses from Birth Without Fear. You can also find videos and DVDs to use at home.
More information on prenatal yoga:
As always, I want to remind you that I’m not a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor about prenatal yoga for your specific pregnancy. Most experts agree that if you don’t already practice yoga, it’s best to wait until the 2nd and 3rd trimester to start as the 1st trimester is a time when the fetus is still fragile.
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