No epidural? Pain management and alternative tips – Part 5: Yoga, Mindfulness and Breathing Techniques

Photo courtesy of Clare Island Yoga Retreat Centre, Mayo, Ireland

Science now broadly recognises that the practice of yoga, which includes breathing exercises and meditation, can “actually reverse the physiological signs of stress [and can] provide dramatic and lasting pain relief in a variety of conditions” (Diane Post, MD – Harvard Health Publications)

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A first birth for a mum in Cork University Maternity Hospital

Given that my little man is now eight months I think it’s about time I finally get his birth story down on paper!  I had a fantastically easy pregnancy and pretty much sailed through the nine months.  I did the Gentlebirth home study programme and listened to the tracks daily, did pregnancy yoga every week and had regular acupuncture.  I also did lots of research into birth in Ireland, interventions, hospital protocols, natural pain relief and so on.  The Gentlebirth Facebook group was my go-to for any questions.  I drank raspberry leaf tea from 34 weeks, used evening primrose oil from 38 weeks and bounced on my birthing ball for hours.  So by the time my due date arrived I was fully prepared and ready to go! Continue reading

Taking the birthing world by calm

More and more Irish women are coming to the realisation that it is possible to birth comfortably and peacefully, even in a busy hospital environment

By Claire Maguire

When positive birthing stories begin to outweigh negative ones, you know you are doing something right. Being relaxed and self-assured are the main reasons why so many mothers are birthing their babies with zero drama nowadays.

However, don’t be misguided, to come to this point where a comfortable easy birth is possible preparation is key. First-time mothers tend to have long labours and many factors contribute to this. The unknown means they do not know what to expect of themselves or their bodies, which often means impatience sets in. Constant monitoring and waiting for the one to 10 dilation period adds tension to the body.

Adrenaline (the fight or flight hormone) gushes through the body, preventing the natural oxytocin hormone from releasing. When fear or panic takes over a woman’s body, even at a subtle level, labour can slow, contractions cease and out comes the term ‘FTP’ (failure to progress).

Being on a hospital timeline means that women who are having normal healthy births are often induced. Being ‘on the clock’ means that first-time mums feel unable to birth at their own pace. Their ‘zone’ I often talk about at my yoga classes is lost even before it’s begun.

Oxytocin (the love hormone) releases naturally, adrenaline nowhere to be felt. The cervix is relaxed, as is the baby, and with some patience and support from the midwives a content relaxed baby is born and the mother gets the rush of endorphins, giving her a natural high.

What is becoming more apparent is the emergence of second-time mothers having very positive birth stories. Most come to my yoga and birthing conscious classes with a very different frame of mind. An outlook of doing all they can in their womanly power to make sure their first birthing experience is not repeated. These women are more confident in their bodies and through the physical practice of the yoga postures get to know their bodies and its boundaries very well.

Training their breath, which can often be a harder task, lends them the power to be more relaxed and in tune with the growing life inside them. Knowing that by using their voice, be it deep sighs or low tones or vibrations, contractions are far easier to handle since their bodies are relaxed as well as their minds.

Oxytocin (the love hormone) releases naturally, adrenaline nowhere to be felt. The cervix is relaxed, as is the baby, and with some patience and support from the midwives a content relaxed baby is born and the mother gets the rush of endorphins, giving her a natural high. That natural high is something that every birthing mother deserves and must experience. It simply never leaves you and is one of life’s great pleasures.

Birthing preferences give mothers a voice that otherwise get lost during the labour process. Requesting dim lights in the labour suite, or a calm atmosphere or no to intervention makes a world of difference.

During my pre-natal training with my wonderful Canadian teacher, Janice Clarfield, finding and remaining in ‘the zone’ was spoken about in depth. She said many times over how possible it is to stay in a calm, relaxed state whether birthing in a busy hospital or at home. If ‘the zone’ is lost during the car journey to hospital or on arrival, it is possible to retrieve it once supported by a calm relaxed atmosphere.

In the 1980s, monitors were originally introduced to hospitals in the US for high-risk birthing women. What evolved over the years and fed out to other countries was the emergence of these monitors in all-labour suites. The rate of increase in surgical births here and abroad is not just happening to women who are deemed to be having complicated pregnancies but those who are deemed ‘healthy’ with ‘normal pregnancies’ are included in the rise and rise of Caesarean births.

Viewing the birthing process as a natural occurrence rather than a medical issue is key to changing attitudes to how we birth in this country.

Claire Maguire teaches pregnancy yoga and birthing conscious classes at The Yoga Room, Ashbourne.

A second time mum’s positive birth story: when plans change unexpectedly

When I was 38 weeks I had an appointment in the midwifery-led unit (MLU) where we discussed my birth preferences, only to be reassured that everything I was talking about was considered best practice there. At home, as the birth approached, we reevaluated who should accompany me for the delivery. Charlie found the whole experience very traumatic last time around, and he felt it affected him for days afterwards. So when he developed a bad chest infection, we took it as a sign and asked my mother to step in as birth partner instead, something she was excited to do. Continue reading