Relaxation How To: Breathing & Guided Meditations.
Firstly, it’s important to know why our body and mind need us to relax for birth – so go and read the ‘Science of Birth’ blog first… and then come back!
Now...if you’ve read that you’ll know that our bodies and mind need to feel calm, relaxed, still, safe and unobserved in order to birth our babies effectively.
If we start getting stressed, anxious or worried our brain is going to start producing adrenaline – the hormone designed to get us out of dangerous situations. In labour this is really unhelpful and can have a huge impact on our birthing body.
During session two of our Hypnobirth course we look at relaxation techniques for pregnancy and birth. What always becomes obvious is that we don’t actually know how to relax and switch off our brain.
How do you relax? Watch TV, scroll through your phone? You’re thinking brain is still very much engaged during these tasks and your not, on a physical and chemical level actually relaxing. It’s also unlikely you’ll want to relax that way when you’re in labour!
That’s why it’s KEY to practice relaxation in pregnancy. Finding out what works for you and what doesn’t, so that when you really need to remain calm and relaxed, you can do it easily, especially in labour and birth!
There are so many relaxation techniques you can practice, like movement, positioning (Rebozo is a great one!) breathing, meditating, using affirmations, essential oils – there’s a long list that we discuss in class.
Today though we’ll look at two of the most important and game changing techniques. breathing and using guided meditations. Master these and they will be a huge support to you in labour and birth.
The game changer for pain relief and easier birth! When we breathe correctly during labour our body is able to distribute more oxygen to our uterine muscles, which are working really hard during surges (contractions) if they aren’t getting enough oxygen they’ll become tired and stiff and this will make your surge painful.
Taking slow, deep breaths in through your nose allows your body to maximize it’s oxygen intake and distribute it to the muscles that need it. Breathing out, slowly through your mouth for a slightly longer breath enables your body to relax. On the out breath we produce oxytocin, the hormone our bodies need to birth our babies!
In Hypnobirth we teach two breathing techniques – UP and DOWN. Up is for the UP stage of labour, also known as early or latent. When our uterine muscles are drawing upwards to help our cervix to dilate.
So, close your eyes, sit comfortably and practice breathing in for 4 and out for 7. Just FIVE of these breaths will get you through a surge and once you’ve mastered it, you’ll find it will help you to work with your body to help your surges be more effective (so you wont have to do as many!) and more comfortable (because you wont be starving the muscles of oxygen)
Visualisation for UP Breathing
Sometimes we find it easier to follow the breath by using a visualisation. Whilst your eyes are closed imagine bubbles rising on the in breath and then being blown away by your out breath. Or waves, coming in to shore during the in breath and back out to sea on the out breath.
We have a series of breathing visulations that include positive affirmations. You can find them here. Download them and play them on your phone, tablet or TV. Follow the affirmation as it expands towards you and then deflates and move away. Find your breathing rhythm with them and absorb the positive messgaes. In labour ask your partner to put them on, or read them to you as you follow the breath.
Practicing your breathing will increase your lung capapcity (something that gets smaller in pregnancy!) so that in labour you’ll be able to longer, more effective breaths to get through your surges.
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to switch off sometimes. Tell me to take ten minutes to quietly breathe, clear my mind and just ‘be’ and I’ll be thinking about what work I have to do, what’s for tea and what clubs the little one has to be at the next day! It’s an art form clearing your mind and one that needs practicing.
In labour, it can be even more difficult to swtich off, with so much going on around us!
Guided meditations and relaxations are a great way to distract your thinking brain and help your mind to move in to the still brain (sub conscious) They often narrate a journey or story that is relaxing and easy to follow. If they are birth relaxations then they will also be filled with positive message about pregnancy and birth to help your mind feel positive, calm and ready for birth. Reframing previous perceptions. You can download a FREE MP3 relaxation here. If you take a course with us (online coaching, or face to face) you’ll receive access to a whole library of meditations and relaxations.
To use meditations and relaxations effectively your environment needs to be calm and relaxing. Doing them before you go to bed is perfect to practice. Or you can practice even more for birth by Building your birth nest. Put the MP3 on loudspeaker, so you and your partner can hear it (and baby!) it’s important you’re all on the same page and it can really benefit partners too (I’ve had a few dads drift off in class when we read relaxations)
Once you are comfortable press play and start your UP breathing. It’s perfectly okay to fall asleep and not get to the end, it shows you are relaxing! The key is to practice. It takes us a while to master a new technique and the more you do it the easier you will find it is to relax. It will eventually become a trigger, when you hear the tracks you’ll be used to feeling relaxed and calm and so your body will stat to react that way. Perfect for birth!
If you can, aim to repeat the track and use it often. This way, you will create an anchor, a familir sound that you can easily relax too. You can use anything, if it’s not the birth relaxations from the course that help, try Headspace or Calm and follow their sleep relaxations ( I use them often!) Or, you could ask your partner to record some of the relaxations. Their familiar voice will already be a calming influence on you and an anchor for feelings of safety and calm – so it’s worth asking them!
If you have any questions about the techniques, or want to know more about other relaxation techniques for pregnancy & birth you could book a BIRTH HOUR appointment with us, for a short, effective and informative hour of birth coaching. Details can be found here.