As I approach my own third birth, my mind drifts back to the amazing interview I did with the incredible Dr. Sarah Buckley, during the Pregnancy Wellness & Empowering Birth Online Summit.
If you haven't heard of her before, Dr. Sarah Buckley is a world-renowned author of the internationally best-selling book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, and in the summit, she discusses how our hormones are programmed to enable us to have an empowering birth but also to instinctively care for and love our new little baby...among many other amazing benefits.
Sarah wrote an ebook (which I'd highly recommend you all read), and the opening line is: "Giving birth in ecstasy: this is our birthright and our body's intent". I asked her to explain what she meant by this. She started off by talking about how an ecstatic birth is 'Mother Nature's superb design' - it's hardwired into all mammals. Really, what follows is mindblowing. Sarah talks about how the orchestration of hormones during birth...
Ah, lovely hormones! You are probably sick to the teeth hearing about hormones during your pregnancy. They seem to be the answer to all our ails...morning sickness...hormones; constipation...hormones; pelvic pain...hormones! However, what if I told you that understanding the role of hormones during your labour and birth can have a profound impact on your birthing experience. That's a pretty bold statement! So let's delve right in and discover how to make your labour smoother, and your birth easier.
There are 3 main hormones involved in the labour journey and they are oxytocin, adrenalin, and your endorphins.
The hormone of love! Oxytocin is a magic hormone and plays a crucial role in the birthing journey. In birth, oxytocin production increases as labour progresses, but interestingly it is also released during sexual activity, male & female orgasm, breastfeeding, and is also responsible for uterine contractions, and protects against postpartum hemorrhage. So it...
Good question! It's one I get a lot :)
So I would break this into 4 areas - Physical, Mental, Breath and Community.
I'm not a believer in doing very little exercise just because you are pregnant. In fact, if you exercise for about 30 minutes a day, it is proven to help you have a more comfortable pregnancy, a shorter and therefore easier labour, and a faster recovery. So a 'shorter and therefore easier labour' should bring music to your ears mamas-to-be! Focusing specifically on labour and birth, prenatal yoga will help you stay strong, toned and open, therefore making your labour easier and more manageable, and helping you have the strength and stamina required to keep you upright for as long as possible. Sometimes, and of course not all the time, labour can be a long process particularly for first-time mamas, whose bodies haven't gone through the experience of childbirth before. The majority of first-time mamas who come to my classes in Dublin, can be quite surprised...
Well, congratulations my dear, this is super exciting! It's what you've been waiting for, for 9 months.
Very often, early labour can be challenging to identify, particularly if you have been experiencing Braxton-Hicks like tightenings for a few weeks. One of the easiest ways of distinguishing true labour from this early stop-start labour, is when you get into a warm bath, the surges won't really get any more intense or increase in length. Any surge, tightening or contraction will all be helping your body to get ready to birth your baby, so think on it as a very positive and exciting event!
So if you think you are in this early stage of labour, here are some things to do:
Quite the controversial topic, I admit! But with more and more women becoming more and more overweight, it's really important that we address it so we can take control of our health and understand the impact it has on ourselves and also on our children. A recent study by the World Health Organisation forecasts that by 2030, 57% of Irish women and 48% of Irish men will be obese. I know most women understand they don't actually have to eat for two during pregnancy, but there is confusion over exactly how much extra you need to eat, and how much weight you should be putting on during each trimester. So I'm going to do my best to answer all those questions now.
What happens to our metabolism when we are pregnant?
During the first half of pregnancy, when baby’s growth is limited in size, the mother’s metabolism is in an anabolic phase, meaning it is building itself up. Glycogen stores (energy storage) are increased in the liver and the muscle, and protein synthesis is...
Congratulations Mama, you are almost there! Within a number of days, you are going to be snuggling with your beautiful little one, breathing in that gorgeous new baby smell :)
That is exactly what I want you to focus on. It's generally at this stage when heavily pregnant women who are right near, or have passed, their 'estimated due date', get understandably really frustrated. They just want this baby outta here! I totally understand, I do.
However, I'd like you to flip your mindset for a moment, and instead of thinking negatively, and feeling incredibly impatient, I'd love you to start looking forward to your baby's birth. Understand that within days, or weeks, you ARE going to be a new mama. Take a moment to bring your hands down onto your belly, and take a big deep breath in, and a very long exhale. Do that three times, with a half smile on your face and repeat quietly 'my healthy baby is coming'. Understand that right now, baby is doing exactly what baby is meant...
If someone told me when I was pregnant, that the way I sit or stand can affect the length of my labour...I'd be listening to them with each cell of my body! And that is what I'm here to share with you today.
As well as the type of labour you could have, your posture alone can also have an unbelievable influence on the levels of comfort / pain in your pregnant (and postnatal) body.
So let's talk about labour first. Having a short and active labour (which is what we all want, right?!) is a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, requiring different pieces to slot in nicely together. Your posture and lifestyle during pregnancy is one of those crucial puzzle pieces. It's never talked about, which blows my mind, so let's get into it.
Something as simple as slouching back into your chair in the evenings, during those last important few weeks of your pregnancy, can have a huge impact on how your baby lies inside you. Our lifestyle does NOT encourage baby to get into a 'good' birthing position....
After the 30-week mark of your pregnancy, ask your doctor or midwife to check which position your baby is lying in. Most of the time, they'll be able to give you a very good indication of how your little one is positioned. Why is it important? Well, the quick answer is that once a baby is lying in a 'good' position, you will have a shorter and easier labour, as the narrowest part (smallest diameter) of baby's head is coming down through the pelvic rim, and is in great alignment.
What you are looking for ideally, is for baby to be lying with their back towards the front of mama's abdomen, and slightly to the left. The position where baby's body is lying with their back pointing forwards is called OA - Occiput Anterior. The occiput is the lowest bone in the back of the skull. It's important to also note that the cervix is positioned towards the back of the uterus - it's not just a straight chute to the exit ;) So when baby is lying in the OA position, particularly to the left,...
You’re 38 weeks pregnant, you feel enormous, in fact you feel a bit like a whale, a sweaty whale, a whale who can’t put her socks on anymore (if whales had feet), a whale who finds it really hard to turn in bed at night and keeps waking up to pee, a whale who adores her little bubba inside but can’t wait until the thing comes out…any of this sound familiar?
Even though pregnant mamas have been waiting patiently for the arrival of their precious bundle for 9 months, those last couple of weeks seem to take F.O.R.E.V.E.R. Mamas-to-be can tend to feel so impatient at this stage as obviously they feel big, uncomfortable, achy and blooming irritable. Sometimes this can lead to a negative mindset, and potential conversations with care givers about how to maybe get a ‘helping hand’ in the hope of starting labour early (this generally ain’t a good thing (unless medically necessary) and rarely works, particularly on first time mamas).
I recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post about Exercising in Early Pregnancy. It was always something I felt unsure and even nervous about, particularly having experienced 3 miscarriages.
As well as being a Prenatal & Postnatal Fitness Specialist, and Prenatal Yoga instructor, I'm a keen runner and exerciser in general. I've always had so many worries and queries myself, so I've gone through all the areas of concern and answered all the questions you could possibly have inside the blog!
You know that I'm going to reassure (and advise ;-)) you that you should be exercising, all throughout pregnancy, but there definitely are important things you need to know about.
So if you'd like to know more, please delve in...
If you have any questions at all, just comment below or get in touch on email or social media links.
Helen Plass is a Pre & Postnatal Fitness...