Every few months I teach a Partner Yoga for Birth workshop that helps pregnant folks and their partners explore how yoga and breath can help prepare for labor and also ways they can explore together what support looks like during labor.
With restrictions in place on the number of support people currently allowed at hospital births, many folks have been inquiring about how to better prepare their birth partners for supporting them in their labor. Here are some key takeaways from that workshop that will hopefully be of service to you nd to them.
While pregnant with my first, I went to nearly weekly acupuncture appointments, got regular massage and saw a chiropractor or PT when needed. I was also teaching 10 yoga classes a week and regularly walking around the lake near our Seattle home. I had what felt like an easy pregnancy, with relatively little discomfort and pain. Granted, I have also been teaching prenatal yoga for over 10 years and have seen students truly dealing with the aches and pains of pregnancy and myriad of issues that can arise from debilitating sciatica to hop pain that kept them from sleeping to discomfort walking more than a ½ mile. So, I also set my expectations low for what my experience would be, but also made it a point to do as much self-care as I could.
The most significant muscle stretching in the core happens along the rectus abdominus and impacts the connective tissue called the linea alba. The linea alba runs along the midline of the rectus abdominous from the sternum to the pubic bone connecting the muscle bellies (think of the muscles we see in six-pack abs) of the abdomen. As the uterus expands, the muscle bellies can separate and the linea alba stretches thin. This creates what is called a diastasis recti. In its most scientific sense, diastasis is a musculoskeletal injury, where the rectus abdominus tears at the connective tissue, separating it from the linea alba.
This one is another doozy that new parents are often unprepared for in terms of bodily discomfort. We often don’t think about the fact that holding baby for an extended period of time can cause forearm tightness and compression in wrist joints. The combination of these two things can lead to inflammation of the tendons running through the carpal tunnel and out to the hands and fingers. As a result, folks often have debilitating wrist, hand and finger pain that is hard to manage because they can’t stop holding their babies, so it is difficult to mitigate the inflammation. Especially with new parents who may not feel completely at ease holding their new baby, there is a tendency to want to curl in and hold the baby extra tight. What often happens is they curl their hands in and around the head or the baby’s bottom creating extra pressure on the wrist joint
We may think this fun little side effect of pregnancy wouldn’t show up until the third trimester when baby is taking up a great deal of space in the abdomen and pressing on the internal organs, but for many folks, it shows up right away in the first trimester. Increased levels of progesterone slow down the soft muscle contractions of the intestines, which slows digestion so more nutrients can be absorbed. When food moves more slowly through the digestive tract, constipation and gas are natural side effects.
We often think about pelvic floor as relegated to the postpartum period. But working the pelvic floor during pregnancy is also extremely important. During pregnancy, the weight of the uterus increases, putting more pressure and weight on the pelvic floor muscles. Maintaining strength in the pelvic floor helps to ensure that, as the weight increases, pelvic floor muscles can continue to support the weight of the organs and maintain functionality. If pelvic floor does not remain healthy and strong we may notice a decrease in function as it becomes harder to hold urine in when we need to use the bathroom. Not only that, but studies have actually shown that doing pelvic floor work during pregnancy actually decreases the level of pelvic floor dysfunction postpartum, so we're also setting ourselves up for much better postpartum pelvic floor health too!
This is Part IV of a four part series on how yoga can support you doing labor and childbirth. Haven't read the first parts? Go back and visit, Part I, Part II and Part III.
As I mentioned in previous posts, there’s no magic yoga pose that you can do in labor that will make things easier or less painful, but what you can do is yoga poses during pregnancy that will help better prepare your body for labor. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but think of it this way: you wouldn’t go out and run a marathon one day with no prior training, labor is the same thing. Yoga poses can help build strength and create opening in areas that will be post impacted by labor and childbirth. Here are the places of focus that yoga poses can help with to prepare your body for birth:
This is Part II of a four part series on how yoga can support you doing labor and childbirth. In the first and second parts we discussed how yoga can help connect you to your breath and your strength Haven't read them yet? Be sure to check it out Part I and Part II.
Relaxation and labor seem to be polar opposites right? The trick with labor is that there are moments of relaxation, even in active labor. Between each contraction there is always a resting period. We might think about contractions as a wave that rise, peak and then ebb. Following the ebbing of a contraction is an opportunity to rest. The closer contractions get to one another, the shorter this rest period is, but taking advantage of these rest periods can make a world of difference in labor, particularly in longer labors.
This is Part II of a three part series on how yoga can support you doing labor and childbirth. In the first part we discussed how yoga can help connect you to your breath. Haven't read it yet? Be sure to check it out here.
Our own strength can surprise us sometimes, and nowhere more so than in childbirth. However, it often takes our yoga practice to help us understand that strength and how we can push through something even when it is physically demanding or difficult. Here are some ways that yoga can help us explore how strong we are as we prepare for the physically demanding reality of birth:
Yoga is amazingly helpful and effect to help address so many of the aches and pains of pregnancy and also offers a powerful time for you to connect with your ever-changing body and bring balance to energy and emotions during this roller coaster ride. People often look to yoga to help support them during birth as well. The thing is there is no magic yoga pose that will be helpful in birth, but what yoga can help you do is learn how powerful your body is, strengthen your body in preparation for the physical needs of birth and help you connect to your breath which is the one thing you will have with you as a tool throughout your entire birth.
Here's Part I of a four part series on how yoga can support you during birth...
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.