Spring has sprung! We are seeing so many beautiful pregnant mummas on the Surf Coast getting ready to welcome their babies as the wattle flowers and the smell of the air sweetens.
1. BREATHE: We all breathe without having to think about it, but using our breath in certain ways can help to regulate and calm our nervous system when challenges or discomfort arise. Preparing for labour is like preparing for a marathon, so knowing how to utilise your breath can support your ability to get through each stage of labour, especially if you are feeling fatigued. There are different types of breathing for different stages of labour but the relaxation breath is my favourite and can be used in daily life as well. Give it a try….
* Relaxation breath – This breath is safe to use anytime and great if you are feeling tense, anxious or starting a relaxation practice. It is also ideal between contractions to reset the nervous system and bring you back to a place of calm. Take a slow, deep breath in through the nose allowing the belly to expand, hold it for a slight pause, then exhale twice as long – also through the nose. This triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stressor hormones such as adrenaline from being released which may hinder progress during labour.
2. STRENGTHEN: If we are running a (birth) marathon, we need BOTH physical and mental strength!! Maintaining regular exercise to strengthen the areas of your body needed to drive the powerhouse for birth – (such as glutes, thighs and hips), as well as the ones needed to support your postpartum journey and early parenting – (such as pelvic floor, shoulders, neck and back – think of all that carrying and feeding), has proven to not only optimise the chances of an empowered birth, but may also shorten your healing and recovery time. Even if I don’t believe in ‘bouncing back’, the time and effort you put into strengthening your body before birth, lays the foundations for regaining your strength more easily afterwards.
* Squats – This simple exercise is one of the most functional movements we can do. How many times do you sit down and stand up in a day? Essentially, that’s a squat! It’s important to maintain good functional movement during pregnancy – especially in our hips, glutes and thighs as we need them to work hard for us during labour. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart, keep your weight in your heels, chest up tall and eye gaze forward – as you lower down into a squat. Reach your arms straight out in front of you as you lower, to help maintain balance.Try not to let your knees sneak forward over your toes, instead send your bottom further back in space and activate your glutes. Try to do x 8-10 reps 2-3 times a day, and if you really want to prepare for that birth marathon – add in a 1 minute hold at the end of each set. This is a favourite tool of mine and gives you the opportunity to practice your breathing techniques through the intense sensations as your muscles work hard (remember this is what they are supposed to do!). The more familiar you are with intense sensations in the lead up to birth, the more familiar you are with them as they arise in each contraction during birth. At their peak they last about 1 minute, so if you can mentally and physically prepare yourself using your tools to get through a strong 1 minute squat, you are on your way!
3. NURTURE: This is SO imperative and unfortunately mostly considered only during pregnancy – not prepared in advance for the early postpartum weeks when a new mumma really needs it. It’s much easier to book massages, take naps and read books on the couch with a cuppa during pregnancy – but it can be more challenging to fill your own cup with love when you’re still learning how to care for a new baby human! During your pregnancy, chat with your partner and map out some ways to support your personal nurturing and time out after the baby arrives, so you can keep showing up feeling nourished (albeit sleep deprived!). Consider things like a postpartum doula, meal delivery services, a temporary house cleaner, a mindfulness or meditation practice, someone to walk your baby once a week while you rest, a food roster with friends and family (meal train is a good one), scheduling appointments with holistic support services such as massage, osteo, lactation consultants, or perinatal psychologists if you are experiencing ongoing overwhelm. Whatever you need to support and nurture yourself, MAKE time and plan it ahead with your partner so it’s not a struggle with logistics when the time comes. I had a very wise client recently say she didn’t have much support around her during pregnancy and early motherhood – but that she ‘bought a village’ to support her instead!! I thought this was fantastic! Hopefully mums are changing the culture of putting themselves last to prioritise their own health and wellbeing as mothers first. It is imperative for the health and wellbeing of our next generation.