5 Tips For a Calm and Positive Birth Experience

I have been teaching pregnancy yoga for 15 years now so sometimes it does seem a little bit like ground hog day! I get to hear myself tell my students the same things as one group of women leave class to have their babies and another group joins. 
 Despite that, I love what I do and I have a strong motivation to keep on sharing this valuable information because I have seen so many times just how helpful these techniques and tips can be and what a difference they can make to a woman’s experience of birth and how well she copes. 
There are definitely some things that I say more than others as they are especially helpful.  I thought I would share with you my top tips to encourage your birth to be a calm and positive experience.
It may sound obvious but I say to my students all the time!  “If you forget everything else, just remember to breathe and you will be ok!”  is certainly a popular phrase of mine. How we breathe affects how we feel, so if you are able to breath in the right way this will help you calm your nervous system and create the right environment and conditions in your body to encourage the process of labour to unfold in a normal and straight forward way.  Allow your inhale to be full and your exhale to lengthen to keep you calm and focused.  This will allow the body to produce lots of helpful labouring hormones - such as endorphins, the bodies natural pain relief, as well as oxcytocin the love hormone which speeds up your contractions and makes them stronger and more effective.  It will also keep any adrenaline and other stress hormones out of your system which can potentially slow down and inhibit the natural process of birth.  I cannot emphasise enough how beneficial it will be to put time into learning breathing techniques for birth. 
If you have no previous experience of yoga or meditation it may well be a completely new concept for you to be aware of your breath. Without practise it is perhaps an unrealistic expectation for many women to be able to connect and use the breath so easily during birth.  This is why it is such a great idea to attend a regular pregnancy yoga class or learn about hypnobirthing as these will give you the breathing techniques for labour and also time to practice so it has become second nature by the time you birth your baby. They are slightly different but very complimentary approaches that encourage a positive birthing experience and it is great preparation to do both.
And if you can remember to keep moving that would be great too! Most women will find movement during a contraction will help them cope better with its intensity.  Generally rocking, swaying, circling and scooping movements are all helpful. Just as you would calm and soothe a baby by rocking them, you are also having a self soothing effect on yourself.  These movements are a way to compliment the calming effect of your breath and further encourage yourself into a quieter, more internal state of mind.  The calmer and more in control you are the more quickly the process of birth is likely to unfold.
Either being upright in a kneeling or standing position will mean gravity is helping to assist your baby’s journey out into the world as it will increase the pressure of their head on your cervix, which in turn will encourage you to dilate more quickly.  Positions where your pelvis is tilted forward, such as all fours or being upright and leaning forward will help to open up and widen your pelvic outlet which again is all about making your babies entrance into the world easier.  When it comes to the pushing or second stage of labour, any position other than being on your back will make this easier and give you more space.  
In terms of movement, as well as learning and practicing positions which will be helpful during labour, you really cannot beat pregnancy yoga classes.  Not only will you learn how to get baby into the right position for birth, you will also learn labour position to ease pain and birthing positions to avoid tearing.
This is another invaluable tip that just can’t be underestimated.  The pause between each contraction is an amazing  opportunity to rest and reconnect to your breath.  By deepening your inhale you will be drawing in increased oxygen and energy to help you to sustain and endure.  By lengthening your exhale you can let go of any tension, fear or doubt that may have built up during the previous contraction. It is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, refocus and face each contraction brand new.  
These pauses, even when they last just a minute or two once you are in well established labour are so beneficial in helping you to reset, conserve your energy and to relax more deeply.  Even though physically labour may be getting more intense, energetically you can become calmer, quieter and more internalised which can make a huge difference to how labour progresses and your overall experience. You can even fall asleep in those little pauses.  
When we are in pain or scared it is a very natural reaction to tense up and tighten the jaw. What many women don’t realise is that there is a direct connection between what happens in the jaw & throat and the pelvis.  Clenching and tightening the jaw also so creates tension in the pelvic floor so understandably during childbirth there is a real benefit to doing everything possible to release and soften the jaw so the pelvic floor can keep opening and releasing.  
Techniques such as sighing, yawning, making blubber lips and sound with an open soft jaw can all be really helpful.  
You cannot underestimate just how important the power of the mind is.  Using positive birth affirmations and intentions can really help get you through.  They can be hugely beneficial to help keep you focused and remind you to stay relaxed and on your end goal.  
During the birth of my second baby I had the words of my yoga teacher going around in my head – “The exhale is the bodies antidote to pain.” This just really helped me to stay connected to my breath, kept me focused and anchored to my breath. I found this really powerful and I stayed with it for hours.  A student of mine recently told me that she used the following affirmations directed at her contractions  to help her cope “Each contraction is taking me closer to you.  Nothing can stop me.”  
What will resonate and be meaningful from one woman to the next is really personal and individual but it can be very powerful and empowering.  
About the author….
Jennie Phenix is a yoga teacher, yoga therapist, mum of 2 and has been specialising in pregnancy and postnatal yoga and hypnobirthing since 2005.  She teaches regular weekly classes and workshops in South Bucks, UK.
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