Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Essential 'How To' Guide for an EASIER childbirth!!!!!!!

DISCLAIMER - This post contains adorable pics of my first baby, for no real reason except that I'm feeling clucky :)

Well my baby is due next week!!!!  So what better topic to write on than breath and breathing - and the HUGE role it can play in pregnancy, childbirth and life as a parent if you learn about it and use it right!

I wrote the below article on this very topic for Nuture - Natural Parenting Magazine for their last year's Winter edition and have been re-reading it and, with my husband/boyfriend (I don't have one of each - he's the one person but husband sounds better), practicing our breathing for the big event.

Breathing is something we don't usually think about - we just do it automatically - but if you learn how to do it better you will be amazed at the difference it can make to your health and well-being!!! Check it out....

Breathing In New Life
We all know how important it is to allow ourselves to ‘just breathe’ - be still, have some ‘you’ time – especially when we are pregnant. It is drummed into us by friends, family, doctors of all modalities, therapists, counsellors and well-meaning strangers. But sometimes it seems nearly impossible, especially as a parent, to successfully achieve this monumental task!

Firstly, about 75% of women experience breathlessness during pregnancy. Increased levels of the pregnancy hormone progesterone change the way your body absorbs oxygen which results in much deeper breaths, though at the same respiratory rate as before. This, in conjunction with the weight of a growing baby pushing into your diaphragm, can make the task seem quite overwhelming. 

Gentle aerobic exercise such as swimming, yoga and walking can assist your breathing during pregnancy. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded or uncomfortable while practicing your breathing exercises either lessen the extent of your inhalations or take a rest and come back to it later. Make sure you discuss any respiratory conditions such as asthma or any concerns you may have about your breathing with your doctor.

The benefits of deep abdominal, or belly, breathing are numerous. Deep belly breathing allows more air into the lungs, which allows for more oxygen to be supplied to both you AND your baby. This enriches every single cell in your bodies – your vital organs, muscles, brain function, hair, skin and nails will all benefit. In addition more oxygen to your body will help you to relax, focus and sleep better.

In our normal, everyday breathing we generally find ourselves breathing shallow breaths into our chests and we can actually see our chests and shoulders rising and falling as we inhale and exhale. This type of breathing does not allow for the potential of oxygen we could be bringing into our bodies and will not help prepare us for breathing during labour.

When practicing proper belly breathing, imagine an empty jug being filled with water – the water fills the jug from the bottom up, filling every little nook and cranny before the water level rises. Our lungs work in exactly the same way. Put your hands on your belly, hips and lower back; imagine the air going firstly to the base of your core and feel your body move outwards as the diaphragm allows your lungs to expand, allowing more and more oxygen into your body.

Counting your inhalations and exhalations will help with keeping belly breaths controlled. Slowly count as you breathe in 1...2...3…4, then hold and exhale 1...2...3...4. As you hold you are allowing more time for the oxygen to be absorbed in the lungs and as you exhale you are eliminating carbon dioxide waste from your body. It does not matter what number you count up to though it pays to spend a little longer on the out breath than the in breath if possible. It is important to remember that you can not truly inhale unless you truly and fully exhale.
The further into your pregnancy you are the harder belly breathing will become, so if possible start practicing in the first trimester – starting with 10 deep breaths both morning and night. It may take a bit of practice to master but you will feel energised, refreshed and relaxed once you get the hang of it. Practicing with your birthing partner is recommended if you intend to co-breath during labour.

Using breath as a source of affirmation during pregnancy is adapted from the Buddhist art of practicing breath to become fully aware.

Writing affirmations can be personal and you may choose to do this alone. After some quiet reflection write down a list of words you believe will help you during your pregnancy and childbirth journeys, for example: strong, calm, alive, open. Now adapt these to fit with your belly breaths, for example: ‘Breathing in I am strong, breathing out I am strong’; ‘Breathing in I am calm, breathing out I am calm’; ‘Breathing in I am alive, breathing out I am alive’; and so on. Write your breathing affirmations down, illustrate them, make them pretty and then stick them on your walls, next to your bed, above the kitchen bench – anywhere you may be inclined to practice.
Make sure, as you practice, that you BELIEVE what you are reading. 

Take them to the hospital with you, allow your partner to read them to you or with you as you breath, believe in the words as you breath, look at the words as you breathe – however you choose to use your affirmation cards they will become invaluable tools for you during the childbirth journey.

It’s important to ensure your affirmations only contain positive words. Stay away from phrases such as ‘Breathing in I feel no pain’ and replace them with ‘Breathing in I feel my baby’ or ‘Breathing in I gain strength’.

Controlled belly breathing during the first stage of labour maximises oxygen levels for you and your baby and is a fabulous, natural method of pain relief. Take a deep breath, filling the base of your lungs with air first, at the beginning of each contraction and slowly exhale keeping your mouth, cheeks and jaw soft as you do so. Focus solely on your deep belly breaths and affirmations during each contraction and relax in between them. Using sound and movement in conjunction with your breath during contractions can really help – never mind how it may appear to those around you, birthing staff have seen and heard it all before!

Try not to allow fear or panic into your mind. When you are tense or frightened your body releases adrenalin, your breathing will become shallow and rapid, and your shoulders and chest will again begin to rise as you breathe. Panic-breathing is a common reaction to very stressful or frightening situations, especially during strong contractions, and though this is normal your body cannot continue in this state for long before becoming fatigued. Recognising panic-breathing and bringing it back to controlled belly breaths will help your body conserve energy.

Birthing partners have a very important task during this stage. They can make eye contact and breathe in time with you, give you water in between contractions to stop your mouth drying out, remind you to keep your jaw, mouth and shoulders relaxed, help you count your in and out breaths to maintain the control and most importantly – remind you to breathe!

When it comes time to push your breathing patterns will once again change. You will need to refocus your breath and mind and now use them to assist you push down through your body. Try not to hold your breath during this stage, but also avoid airy, controlled exhales as they will not help you either. Take a deep in breath before each push and use your breath instinctively, with guidance from your doctor, midwife or doula.

Having mastered the skill of breathing, you have on your hands an invaluable life tool. Once the journey of pregnancy and childbirth has passed and you embark on the amazing path of parenthood you will undoubtedly at times hear that little voice again - ‘just breathe’, be still, have some ‘you’ time.

Jana A. Czipin, Practice Manual Pranayama: Breathing exercises for Yogis, free divers and pregnant women (Kindle Ed), Books On Demand, 2012

Thich Nhat Hanh, Breathe! You are Alive: Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, Parallax Press Revised Ed, 1996

Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, Mother’s Breath: A definitive Guide to Yoga Breathing, Sound and Awareness Practices During Pregnancy, Birth, Post-natal Recovery and Mothering, Sitaram and Sons, 2006

Andrew Weil, Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing (The Self Healing Series) (Audio CD), Sounds True, Incorporated, 1999

Recommended Reading
Mother’s Breath: A definitive Guide to Yoga Breathing, Sound and Awareness Practices During Pregnancy, Birth, Post-natal Recovery and Mothering by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli


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  2. Fantastic article on breathing for pregnancy and birth ...effective breathing techniques really can help us have a beautiful calm and empowering birth.

    ps. Love the beautiful baby pics :)


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