Giving birth is without a doubt the most life-changing thing you will ever do. Pregnancy is incredibly exciting, but it doesn’t come without its set of challenges.
Nadine Richardson, doula-turned-entrepreneur and founder of She Births®, is an expert in the field and knows exactly how to guide you through these challenges as you're preparing for labour. Following our introductory interview with Nadine, we’re excited to bring you her first guest post on the Boody Blog around positive ways to prepare for giving birth.
1. Find the right tools
At She Births®, we prefer to use the word ‘tool’ rather than technique. I think it’s really important to understand that there are actually no techniques for birth. You simply have to find your own way through.
I suppose my favourite tools are the ones that work best for my mums and dads – that would definitely be the breathing and spiralling for mums and the massage and acupressure for partners. Although all of our inner and outer resources are utilised during the birth experience by couples, these four always come up victorious in our post-birth surveys.
2. Start practising these tools ASAP
When to start practising the tools that will guide you through your pregnancy and labour? The sooner the better. When we feel centred from breathing practices, our lives become more manageable. When we do physical movements and exercise that help us build endorphins, we feel good, in better health and we become more positive overall.
Even taking on the dietary suggestions not only helps labour progress more easily but is also helpful in building confidence. And that is what we need for labour – total belief in ourselves and our bodies that we have got this. We have done all that we can and now it’s time to let go and trust!
3. Understand your body during labour
Apart from the mainly body-based practical tools that originated from yoga and other eastern traditions, I have found it critical for both mum and partner to have the knowledge of how the body is designed to work during pregnancy and labour – the anatomy, physiology and endocrinology. Our bodies are amazing and birth is so wonderfully orchestrated when we allow it.
Learning about the three bones of the pelvis and how they expand (when we’re not lying on our backs), or the three layers of the uterus and how they function harmoniously (without fear) plus the amazing concoction of oxytocin, endorphins and prolactin gives us sceptical westerners a deep trust in the process.
I see people's belief systems change in front of my eyes during these parts of the course... their bodies just relax more and more into their chairs as those deep subconscious fears dissolve. Oh and we definitely tell all our couples to stop watching all the terrible birth experiences on TV and at the movies. Good documentaries are fine and serve as great exposure therapy!
4. Focus on breathing techniques
Breathing is like a magic bullet because it has such a profound physiological effect. When taught well it changes our blood chemistry from adrenaline and cortisol to oxygen and endorphins very quickly. But it also works so well for focusing our minds and therefore settles our emotions.
Breathing cuts through the pattern of thinking – those thoughts always circling like a broken record – and allows you to start to dream a little bigger and brighter.
She Births® breathing techniques are also a little challenging sometimes – but that is part of their purpose. It gives the mind something to focus on during a contraction – a little bit of distraction can also be great pain relief. The Soft Sleep breath is very simple and what we utilise in between contractions when we’re not sleeping:
Simply close your eyes and bring awareness to your current breathing state – no need to change it or control it… just observe, be curious and continually bring awareness back to your nostrils and upper lip… the mind will wander and at some point, you will notice this… and when you do, very gently, just guide your awareness back to the breath… nothing else to do or focus on… just come back to your focal point, nostrils and upper lip.
If you prefer, you can also use a focal point in the centre of the chest or the rise and fall of the belly. It doesn’t matter really, just as long as you give the mind an anchoring point to return back to, the mind and heart rate will continue to settle and you will feel the benefits.
5. Involve your partner in the birth
Partners can be involved in birth in so many ways. What most people don’t understand is that reading a book, then marking a few paragraphs, leaving it on hubby’s nightstand for them to peruse is not enough! A partner has to know everything mum knows so that she can relax and so they can advocate for her during the process.
What is critical for birth is allowing mum’s neo-cortex to ‘shut down’ – her intellectual or analytical mind to switch off. Mum’s shouldn’t have to ask questions or request anything during labour or ask someone to leave the room – partners can do all of that for mum when they are well informed and this allows mums to relax even more.
Mums are often carrying secret anxiety about how their partner will cope on the day. She Births® allows a couple to get on the same page and this is a great relief. The added bonus is that by going the course together, your relationship is much more stable and intimate as a result of all the discussions and conversations we promote throughout.
We find that many couples choose She Births® because of the practical tools that partners learn. We are the first generation where men are in the birthing rooms and we prepare our partners to be daddy doulas. Our annual Daddy Doula Day takes place on September 2nd where we honour these special supporters.
6. Know the best birthing positions
In terms of positions, I would turn to all the postures and movements we do in prenatal yoga for the arrival of your newborn. We have found that women who take prenatal yoga along with She Births® also have easier births, possibly because of all the stretching and broadening of the pelvic diameter when we are on all fours and in the wide lunges.
Being active and upright during contractions is going to help your baby descend and rotate which will reduce labour time. Being active has also been proven to reduce the need for medical pain relief during childbirth. Our nutrition protocol and the overall elimination of fear helps to reduce labour time too without a doubt. In the study of She Births, our average labour length was approximately seven hours, which is fantastic.
To reduce tearing we need to do a multitude of things, but so do your caregivers. It is a real team effort to take care of this part of the body. We suggest firstly a pelvic floor assessment with a women's physio to check your resting tone – whether you over engage or not – so that you can learn how to release.
I am a big fan of perineal massage or using an EPI-no to prepare both physically and psychologically. Water immersion during labour helps to soften the perineal tissue as does a warm compress on the perineum near crowning. The most critical factor, however, is that when we are pushing we are not lying on our back. We need the tailbone to be able to move out of the way and our sit bones to widen.
There are studies that also say women who are not induced experience less tearing too – so patience and less syntocinon during labour may be a factor. When She Births® mums are compared to those doing standard hospital birth education they had less tearing and also shortened the length of the second stage (pushing) by 32 minutes – that is partially due to our amazing Coffee Plunger breathing technique!
7. Remember the fourth trimester is as important as the pregnancy
This is part of our own healing and repair post birth, our baby’s nervous system adjustment period is taking place and when we keep life simple it is also a very sacred bonding time that makes parenting so much easier in the long run.
You have to think about birth as a dramatic change to our bodies – almost like treating an injury. We know that the majority of healing and recovery will actually take place in the first few months just after. But, if we also care for ourselves during this time and slow down, we will be spending our days simply watching and learning about our babies and also avoiding their overstimulation.
Rest now and have more energy later. Learn now and have a better relationship later. Keep life simple and don’t do too much is the basic key.
She Births® is excited to share a special offer for the Boody community – 10% off the Full Online Program with the code boody10
And, as if that wasn't enough, we're offering 20% off Boody Baby this weekend! Offer ends Sunday, so be quick!