Laura attended pregnancy yoga classes and Janet’s Couples Yoga for Active Birth workshop, at the Centre. Here she shares how yoga, breathing and affirmations helped prepare her mentally and physically for the birth of her beautiful baby boy.
I wanted to let you know I had a really positive birth experience, and think my yoga practice helped a lot. Thank you! The deep, calm breathing and humming were really helpful in keeping me focused and relaxed especially in the 3-5 days of early labour which I went through at home. The ‘in through the nose and slow, out breaths’ were especially helpful during all my contractions, both at home and in the hospital, and I also employed a lot of the active postures we’d practised such as hands and knees, leaning on wall and swaying / circling hips.
Yoga and swimming to build up the strength in my legs during the last few months of pregnancy were invaluable. In fact, I delivered my baby boy standing up, leaning forward over the edge of the birth pool and squatting to push him out! My legs ached a lot for the next couple of days – like I’d climbed a mountain!
My first contractions started at night on Monday. There was just a few at this stage but they were strong enough to wake me. By Thursday night, they were more regular (every 8-10 min) and stronger – the pain felt like clenching or stabbing and each one made me feel like I needed to get up and lean on the wall or birth ball. I did deep breathing and ‘up-visualisations’ which helped me get through each one calmly. I also used a Tens machine which was a good distraction and my partner rubbed and applied pressure to my sacrum (like we’d practised in the couples workshop with Janet).
Early labour continued for another two nights and it was painful but it didn’t scare me. I was actually amazed that I was able to stay calm at that time. I let my partner sleep whilst I moved around, ate and drank, went for walks, listened to hypnobirthing tracks and tried to stay relaxed. It obviously worked as by Sunday at 10pm – when we went to the birth centre – I was 4cm dilated.
We had our own room and the UCL midwives were fantastic. They read our birth plan, saw we wanted minimal intervention and respected that by not offering pain relief unless I asked for it. As such, I only used gas and air. As it was quiet in the birth centre, we had someone with us almost the whole time which I was surprised by but found very reassuring. We managed to create a really nice calm den in our room with an aroma lamp, electric candles and music playing. In this soothing environment, I used a bean bag and birth ball, leant against the wall and spent some time in the birth pool, until it got a bit cold.
Both at home and in the hospital, I recited the affirmations from the print out we’d received in Janet’s yoga class. I’d had them stuck up in my kitchen a few weeks before I went into labour and they were reassuring and motivating. My partner was calm and encouraging and reminded me of the affirmations when my energy was flagging. He also kept my energy up with snacks and drinks. He obviously did a very good job because I remember telling him I was actually enjoying the experience!
However, by 6am I was shattered. Luckily the midwife suggested I rest on my left side for an hour or two. I needed it! By 8am I started to feel the urge to push at the end of each contraction and the midwife helped guide me in how to make most efficient use of each surge. It was intense and sometimes I felt like the baby would never come out, but I kept breathing and stayed focused and he was born about 12-hours after going into hospital.
He weighed 8lb 3oz and continues to feed well. He’s a lovely baby and a few people have commented on how relaxed and calm he is – I think partly a reflection of the fact I did my best to stay calm, positive and look after myself during pregnancy.
I think yoga really helped me prepare physically and emotionally for the birth so thank you very much for helping us to give him the welcome into the world that we’d so hoped for.