It is a pretty natural thing for pregnant women to be apprehensive about the labor process. It’s the unknown, right? Whether you are having your first child and are completely unsure of what to expect and how to prepare, or even if you are set to deliver for the third or fourth time, the uncertainty of how your delivery will go can cause understandable labor jitters.
No two ways about it, giving birth can be tough. It’s a beautiful experience, but physically and mentally exhausting none the less. And it’s undeniable that giving birth is an altogether different adventure for each and every woman. Every delivery, if you have more than one child, can be on all counts, like night and day from the first.
How you approach the delivery, and your mindset going into it, can have a major effect on how you get through it. Learning the practise of meditation, and becoming educated in the application of mindfulness, can bring you a well grounded peace of mind as you look towards your delivery day.
Deep breathing and mind conditioning are just two of the aspects that we’ll look at as we explore the concepts of meditation and mindfulness. Both of these disciplines can not only ease your labor, but can also bring a calmness to your parenting style after your precious babe is born, as you navigate the early days of mommy-hood.
Meditation is concentrated focus through the use of visualization, breathing techniques and increased awareness of your mind and body.
It can be done by anyone, regardless of cultural or religious background. For certain, when some of us think of meditation, we assume that it has religious connotations when it fact, this is not a necessary component to using breathing techniques for easing labor, for example, or for bringing a sense of personal control over other life difficulties.
Some experts feel if you want to receive the full benefits of meditation, and correctly learn the steps and methods, it is best to seek the help of a meditation teacher. In addition, the daily practice of meditating is recommended.
Meditation is More Than Just Closing Your Eyes
Meditation can be just what the doctor ordered during labor. Many moms-to-be want to achieve a medication free childbirth and use meditation as a tool to help them accomplish it. By no means, though should you feel any less accomplished if a drug free birth is not in the cards for you. No one can foresee their ability to manage pain. And hey, birthing is beautiful whether you have the assistance of medication or not.
The Mindfulness-Based Childbirth And Parenting Program was created in 1998, and is a 9 week program of classes which are attended by both parents-to-be. While these classes may not be accessible to all due to geographical reasons, there is plenty of great literature available and an excellent book to read called Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond, to give you insight on the idea of a mindfulness birth.
Nancy Bardacke, the founder of the mindfulness birthing movement says, “Mindfulness does not give you the birth experience you want, but it gives you a way to fall in love with the birth experience you get.”
More than that, she feels that mindfulness can make a difference in being able to manage the stress associated with your nine month pregnancy journey, along with the pain associated with childbirth.
Breathing Techniques Can Help You Through Your Pain
Whereas meditation is a form of control over pain and stress that is practiced by you alone, mindfulness can be done with your significant other, essentially to help them feel like a full partner in the birth.
Bardacke knows that stress is a big factor in preparing for parenthood, and the believes the knowledge you gain from studying and practising mindfulness during your pregnancy will help you deliver a healthy baby.
Stress in pregnancy can result in a higher risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and lower birth weight, to name a few. Mindfulness and meditation can alleviate intense pain, reduce the natural anxiety that many of us feel during pregnancy (thus giving your baby a healthy start in the womb), and decrease the chances of postpartum depression.
We all know how a good night’s sleep makes us feel like we can conquer anything. Getting plenty of shut eye before the big day gives us the physical and mental energy we need to focus on the wonderful task ahead.
Why not try meditation to help you get the zzzz’s you need? Improvement in the length and quality of sleep, and the ease of falling asleep are the goals we have here.
To be perfectly honest, I was one of the lucky pregnant women who could sleep anywhere, anytime. But other moms in my prenatal class weren’t quite so successful in banking up their sleep hours before baby came along.
Get Better Sleep Through Meditation
A few moms-to-be tried propping their body up with pillows to beat the heartburn that was keeping them awake. Another spoke with her doctor and upped her vitamin intake on his recommendation.
Sleep focused meditation was the answer for some:
●Train your brain to relax for 20 minutes every day. This will help you master the technique for night.
●Daytime practise should be done sitting up.
●Use a positive word such as “relax” while you inhale and exhale.
●Step by step, relax your muscles from the tips of your toes to the top of your head.
●Concentrate on your abdomen rising and falling as you fall asleep.
●Write in a journal before bedtime and meditate on the positives of your day.
●Keep your room cool.
Not every woman likes to have music playing during labor; some of us prefer a very quiet, serene environment. For those of us moms-to-be who find music to be soothing to the soul, serenity can come alongside by listening to a favorite artist or musical form.
Music during labor can be enjoyed either as a soft background sound only, or as a full accompanying aid to meditation. Music has been proven to promote relaxation and therefore cut down on pain.
If you choose to practise meditation before labor, select a song that will be helpful to you when you need to relax yourself mentally. Having a familiar song that instills relaxation upon hearing it is a good way to use meditation and music together.
Put Your Jams On While You Deliver
Some songs that moms have found to be A-OK to set the stage for peaceful birthing are:
●“Daughters,” by John Mayer
●“Blessed,” by Elton John
●“Lullaby,” by the Dixie Chicks
●“Baby, Now That I’ve Found You,” by Alison Krauss
Classical music can be calming; comparatively, music that may have the sound of waves or birds singing may bring some women relaxation and focus. If you are able, prepare your birthing room with a personal touch. Bring family photos, a pretty plant or a favorite framed print to bring a sense of home and comfort to your room.
Add an ipod, along with the above items, to your hospital bag and meditate to music!
Mental imagery is preparing our mind to respond to an event in the way that we want, at times when we may not be in complete control of our bodies. For a fact, your baby and even more so your body, will be in control of your delivery from start to finish.
As much as we say that we will follow our birth plan, not have an epidural for pain, or under no uncertain terms be aware of every stage of labor, sometimes our bodies take over and plans go in the opposite direction that we thought they would.
Remember to go with the flow - and just continue on with the birth progression. Your baby will arrive soon and the plan you wrote down on paper will happen, although in an order poles apart from your plans.
Picture Your Baby Coming Into the World Peacefully
Mental imagery can help moms-to-be call on a feeling of calmness during the activity of childbirth. Picturing walking along a beach; watching waves roll in and out again would be the perfect image for the waves of contractions, which rise and fall.
●Practise mental imagery 3 - 4 times per week in the last several weeks of pregnancy.
●Midwives and doulas are often trained in this area and can provide wonderful insight.
●Streams, waterfalls and flowers opening are terrific images related to childbirth.
●Reciting positive phrases while picturing your chosen image is constructive.
Some pregnant women have studied hypnobirthing, which is a more extreme form of visualization.
Learning to breathe properly is a wonderful aid to the birthing experience. To be truthful, because my labors were all of the precipitous form and my babies were all born in an hour or less, I did not have a whole lot of time to get the breathing down pat. But studies show that breathing is one of the key tools a woman can use in delivery.
Breathing is a healthful and wholesome way to work through your contractions. We can choose to use deep breathing in both mindfulness birthing and meditation. Mindfulness birth techniques teach us to accept the times between contractions as a rest. Try to relax all of your muscles, and your mind, during this time of stillness.
Imagine how breathing in a deep, relaxed form will bring oxygen to your baby as he prepares to work hard to enter the world.
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Patterned breathing refers to the act of breathing at any number of possible rates and breaths. As a result of the breathing, your objective is to find a pattern which is beneficial to you and helps you focus, which in turn assists you in feeling relaxed and in control. Combining breathing and pushing can help lessen the pain in delivery.
Owing to the fact that there are so many styles of breathing, recommendations of when and how to breathe during the stages of labor, I strongly recommend reading up on the subject of patterned breathing to see if you think you can utilise this all important tool.
However, some of us are unable to use the breathing as part of our meditative birth. No worries here, you can still benefit from what you have learned as you raise your child and grow as a family. As they say, take a deep breath and go with it!
We are taught to use mind conditioning for labor the way that an athlete uses it for an endurance event. There is a saying athletes use in training that applies equally to giving birth: “the mind will be willing to quit before the body.”
No two ways about it, preparing your mind for the intense adventure ahead is only going to make your experience a better one. And that is the aim of mindfulness and meditation, right? To help you truly enjoy your birth experience.
I think training moms-to-be to use mind conditioning as a tool in mindful birthing and meditation is aiming to empower us. To bolster our confidence and see us through the most miraculous event we will ever take part in. I personally feel blessed to be a woman and to have had the experience of giving birth. Awesome!
Condition Yourself to Think Positive Thoughts About Labor
Phrases to repeat to yourself as you train your mind for the big day:
●I am strong and grow stronger each day.
●My baby can’t wait to see me.
There is power in your words. As in visualization, practise this technique several times a day. Looking into a mirror as you speak will enhance the results. Smile!
Meditation and mindfulness can ease your labor, and they can also ease the stress and anxiety of being pregnant. Sure, being pregnant is beautiful and a gift and all that, but let’s be honest here. Not every day is a picnic and that’s for certain.
Extreme nausea, fatigue and mood swings as a result of our hormonal ups and downs can wreak havoc on any day. Using meditation, along with the everyday methods of snacking, taking naps and exercising can help to take our mind off of some of the bad that comes along with the good.
Meditation can help with depression. Truth be known, up to 20% of women suffer from depression after birth. Using mind conditioning (phrases such as, “I am an amazing mother), and uplifting music can help to push the blues away. Of course, never discount the fact that a visit to your medical practitioner is in order if your depression lingers or prevents you from enjoying and caring for your new baby.
You Can Continue to Meditate After Your Baby's Born
The Mindful Birthing movement is aimed not only at helping you to navigate delivery day, but to lay the course for the parenting days ahead for you and your husband. Self control, taking joy in every moment and recognizing that you are not perfect, will allow you to relish parenthood with complete happiness.
Labor is tough. But labor is exhilarating, satisfying and truly a miracle. Meditation and mindfulness in labor serve to help you realize that you cannot control every aspect of birth. Your baby will work in beautiful harmony with your body, she will work with your rhythms of strength and power to give you the delivery you were meant to have.