How Yoga Prepares You For Childbirth
A baby’s arrival is the ultimate gift—the treasure of nine months of bodily changes, hormonal-driven emotions, cravings and odd aches and pains. While the end of pregnancy delivers the ultimate gift of love, it also sparks more than a little bit of fear; because somehow that baby has to come out. Every mother knows that either option—cesarean or traditional delivery—comes with a fair amount of pain.
Childbirth is called ‘labor’ for a reason—every labor and delivery nurse will attest to this fact. Labor is work. Hard work. It isn’t comfortable. Contractions hurt…badly.
Preparing the body and the mind to open up to labor will help ease the pain and the labor for mom. Mind over body is real, and the way to control the pain of the body, the way to overcome the fear is by understanding the power of relaxation and the breath.
Most pregnant women will take a Lamaze class. Through Lamaze, women learn that by breathing the body can ride through the contraction. While it doesn’t make it hurt less, the breath does make the hurt more bearable and it helps relax the body.
Like Lamaze, yoga also helps prepare the body for labor and childbirth. The mindful and focused breaths of yoga allow the mind to overcome the body’s objections and pull into amazing postures. Practicing yoga while pregnant is a safe way to train the body to submit to the breath.
Prenatal yoga is incredibly popular for today’s generation of expectant mothers, and many moms can reap the relaxing benefits—but with a few precautions and modifications. Balance often is affected during pregnancy, so expectant mothers should use chairs or wedges to assist in balance during yoga.
Not all postures are recommended during pregnancy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist’s (ACOG) Committee Opinion on Physical Activity and Exercise During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period also urges against particular yoga postures and states that “motionless postures, such as certain yoga positions and the supine position, may result in decreased venous return and hypotension in 10–20% of all pregnant women and should be avoided as much as possible.”
Specialized prenatal yoga classes are ideal for beginners to yoga. Taking a class while pregnant will help build strength and increase flexibility—both will be vital during childbirth and labor. Of course, breathing also will be taught during the class, and moms-to-be will learn proper breathing techniques that also will help during labor.
According the American Pregnancy Association, prenatal yoga also helps pregnant moms sleep better, lessens stress, eases lower back pain and nausea and decreases headaches. Classes also provide a social support system for expectant moms.
“In the Yoga Journal article “Labor of Love: Prenatal Yoga and Birth,” writer Catherin Guthrie also addresses how prenatal yoga can help you “own your birth.” Guthrie points out that yoga helps mothers accept and overcome the idea of a birth plan not going exactly as expected.
Prenatal yoga helps prepare expectant mothers for the journey of labor in remarkable ways. Physically, yoga helps the body to become stronger and more flexible. Emotionally, yoga helps center the mind making birth plan changes less stressful. Psychologically, yoga teaches that the breath is vital to overcoming the objections of the body—even the painful waves of contractions. Through rhythmic breathing, the body relaxes and submits instead of fighting against the pain. The body and mind create harmony to set the stage for a beautiful beginning that welcomes a new life.