I knew when I got pregnant with my first son I wanted to give birth naturally. I felt strongly that the conventional approach was not for me. I did not want an IV, an epidural, a fetal heart monitor, Pitocin, or a Cesarean. I’d much rather deal with the intensity of the contractions and be unencumbered, than be stuck in a hospital bed during labor. I was very lucky with both of my pregnancies. I was low-risk, dilated easily, both babies had a steady heart rate throughout labor (monitored with a Doppler), and both babies were able to descend through my pelvis with ease. I had smooth flowing birth experiences due to a perfect mix of genetics, luck and dedication to making it happen. Many aspects of pregnancy and labor are completely out of our control, but I firmly believe that my yoga practice had an impact on my ability to deliver naturally. Here are a few tips that I highly recommend for all women who plan on having babies the old-school way:
Learn how to breathe. For me this means a regular yoga and meditation practice. Knowing how to breathe through intensity is ultimately what enabled me to labor calmly and maintain a sense of control.
Mental and physical strength will help you to sustain through a long labor. Labor can take a long time and is an athletic event! It can be exhausting not only physically but mentally as well. Some women sometimes feel that they just cannot push any harder or go any longer. The physical postures in yoga challenge both the mind and body and help to develop the mental and physical endurance needed for a natural delivery.
Being flexible is a big bonus. Yoga helps to open the hips, legs, shoulders and spine so that it’s comfortable to labor and deliver in a a variety of positions. Not every woman is meant to have babies on their back. Squatting, all fours, resting the arms and chest on a yoga ball, and a supported standing position are just a few of the many different ways women have babies. Practicing yoga will enable you to be at ease moving in and out of all sorts of laboring positions.
Don’t be scared to get wild. Childbirth is a primal, messy and raw experience. Let go of what you look like, sound like and act like. Embrace this moment to be completely uninhibited. Invite only those that you are completely comfortable with to witness your birth. Yoga helps to foster a positive relationship with the body and will familiarize you with the feeling of letting go.
Give in and go with the flow. A consistent yoga practice will help this become second nature. Be open to the process and let it unfold as it is meant to be. The breath is your anchor and will help you to stay calm and (relatively) relaxed. The overall sense of ease I had through my labors helped them to flow smoothly with no complications.
It’s very important to understand that you have very limited control of how your labor is going to play out. Yoga will help to prepare you physically and mentally for the experience, but it will not determine the outcome. Besides the preparation that you do, genes and luck are also factors to keep in mind. The most important thing is that mom and baby are safe and that shouldn’t be sacrificed just to prove something to yourself or others. Childbirth is totally unpredictable and should be approached with reverence and respect. Always listen to the medical professional that is attending your birth and know that whatever happens is meant to be. However your baby enters the world, you have just received one of life’s greatest gifts.
Photo by SAO Photography