It’s time to take a stand for pregnant women everywhere.
We hear so much about how pregnancy takes a toll on the female body, and hear how women are told they just have to put up with back ache, hip ache or any other pregnancy symptom, or that the only way to deal with pelvic pain is to rely on someone else to provide what they need to feel more comfortable or be able to function; whether that’s bodywork, painkillers or support belts.
If we tell women to just trust their bodies that their bodies are built for birth but don’t help them figure out why their body is hurting during pregnancy we are doing them a huge disservice.
We need to look at these common pains as being a symptom of a larger problem, and something that they definitely have the ability to do something about This is such an important message to give women.
Birth is hardwork, women are strong, powerful and capable and we need to be giving them that message right through pregnancy not just on an emotional level but a physical one too.
It is so easy for a woman to feel her body is weak and can’t cope with pregnancy to snowball into thinking it can’t cope with birth and caring for her baby.
We have been given the message for centuries that women are the weaker sex, that their bodies are not trustworthy, ( wandering wombs causing hysteria),that they are dirty, and need high maintenance care, that they need to be attractive to people viewing them and this is achieved by removing bits, covering up smells, highlighting ‘best’ features, colouring, plucking, reshaping.
Women have been made to feel reluctant to take part in exercise because of the shape of their bodies, or they’re not as good as others, or they might get red faces (as the wonderful This Girl Can campaign states)
Big fears for women during labour are the noise they make, or they might poo or how dirty and messy birth will be. That they will feel observed and feel reluctant to let go and surrender to the process.
The message they have been given all their lives is to be good, be quiet, stay clean, look nice for others. It creates a feeling of disassociation from their bodies – just the thing they are then told to trust and to surrender to.
What birth preparation needs now is to support women to understand their bodies not just how the birth process works, but how her body works. How it reacts to stress, what tensions she holds in her body and why and how these common pregnancy symptoms are happening. We need to help her feel confident in her body to be proud of it, or at least not to feel like it in some way let’s her down or is the wrong size, shape or whatever.
We need to make birth preparation more than just modified exercises but to see the deeper purpose of an exercise and how it helps that individual women create strong foundations for her body to work from.
We need to show her that it isn’t just coming to an exercise class once a week that will prepare her for birth, but like a hypnobirthing programme teaches it is the regular, daily practice that really enables her to feel confident, calm and prepared.
As well as sign posting to physio, chiropractors, osteopaths and support belts which can further instil the feelings of being out of control and needing to look outside for help. We need to show her the power she has, give her the strength and the tools to restore her own body so she knows she can birth her baby. Can trust her body and surrender to allow it to do what it needs. She needs to see those professionals who can help her be more comfortable in her body as partners, that they are working with her not on her, and this can help her in making decisions about her birth and antenatal care Rather than thinking ‘am I allowed’ instead how can I work with my maternity team to get the care and make the decisions that best serve me and my baby.
Learning to respect and enjoy being in her body, by listening to it and understanding what it needs can have an impact on how she thinks and treats herself postpartum too. She will see rest time after birth as essential and be less inclined to fall into the ‘get your body back’ and ’ get back into the swing of things’ trap.
She can respect her wonderful, powerful birthing body feel confident and amazing step into her role as Mother fully ready to embrace all that motherhood brings.
So let’s start making dynamic, whole-body, lifestyle and mindful physical birth preparation as important as we have made mental and emotional preparation.
Rosie Dhoopun is a Pregnancy & Postnatal Exercise Specialist, Movement Teacher, Massage Therapist, Antenatal Teacher, Pregnancy Coach and Sling Consultant. She runs Pregnancy Elements and Your Pelvic Matters classes, private sessions and workshops in Suffolk.