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:
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,...
On my first baby, when I found out I was pregnant, I stopped running in my first trimester. Why? Because having experienced a miscarriage a few months beforehand, there was just something in the back of my mind thinking "God I wonder does all this running and bobbing up and down somehow affect this tiny baby's ability to grow and cling on to life? So in essence, fear stopped me, and I guess also a lack of knowledge. I kept walking all the time throughout and eating healthily, but looking back, I really wished I kept my fitness levels higher.
Fitness and supporting women on their journey into motherhood are both big passions of mine. So, I committed to learning more about it. Learning the facts, the guidelines, the safety aspects - I recently completed my qualification as a Prenatal & Postnatal Fitness Specialist, (I already hold pre/postnatal yoga, Hatha Yoga, and several other qualifications in the related field).
In a nutshell, the question everyone wants to...
I'm so fascinated by the holistic world of herbal medicine and alternative therapy. When I got the chance to interview Marina Kesso, Herbalist and Naturopath, I was so excited! She's an incredible lady and helps so many Pregnant women, and new mamas cope with their ailments, and improves the quality of their lifestyle, all through the wonders of Herbal Medicine and Naturopathy.
HP: Marina, thanks so much for your time today. Can I ask how you got into the Herbal Medicine world?
MK: Thanks so much Helen, I'm thrilled to chat to you. I was living on a small farm in Leitrim, growing lots of different herbs and plants for years. Living on the farm, we tried to live sustainably and ate only what was in season. Even though my background is Fine Arts, herbs and plants were a big passion. Living in the countryside, lots of locals knew I grew them on the farm, so they kept coming to me to get different plants for them. It came to a point where I wanted to know more about...
We were chatting in class the other day and the subject of following your gut instinct came up. The one thing that has served me in life has always been my gut instinct. I always go by it. I try never to make a decision if it just doesn’t feel right…but what do I mean by that? How can you go with your gut instincts when you really aren't sure about what is happening...particularly in labour and birth? How can you really get 'in-tune' with your gut and really, really trust it?
Let me give you a relevant example… I’ll set the scene…I was in labour with my 2nd little boy. It was early morning. My waters had started to break the day before but my contractions weren’t doing the business yet. My husband wasn’t allowed stay with me that night as I wasn’t in established labour…so couldn’t go to the delivery suite. I spent several hours that night walking up and down stairs, combined with a little rest,...