Active Birth is a phrase that I first heard in my first pregnancy. That pregnancy when I researched, and read avidly all I could about birth. In fact I made sure I knew about how to have a painless birth before I even let myself get pregnant – the image of a screaming sweating woman I had seen in a reproductive film when I was in primary school etched on my mind.
I joined a pregnancy yoga class, mainly in order to see if I got on with the woman running it as she was also running hypnobirthing classes which I wanted to attend.
It was there really i hard about active birth, how you needed to change positions a lot during birth to help with contractions, to help the baby descend and even to combat pain! Wow! I went to the classes from about 16 weeks when I had no bump) to the week before I gave birth (which was 38 weeks- the day my maternity leave started)
I practiced all the moves regularly each day and listened to my hypnobirthing cd and prepared for my hme birth, ignoring and not reading anything about hospital births as I wasn’t having one of those (yep was I in for a shock).
What I didn’t really think about was how I moved and sat and lived during the day when I wasn’t doing my pregnancy yoga moves. I had various part time jobs and they all involved being fairly sedentary (admin assistant, Meals on Wheels delivery driver, massage therapist and mucking out horses – so I could push heavy loads!)
So it was a shock when my contractions started that all the feeling was in my back and blimey was it uncomfortable. I couldn’t visualise the blue lace of my belly rising and falling with contractions it was all in my back. I was very confused. But I worked hard with my dilation rotations and breathing and was able to make the pain a niggling background noise.
Well to cut a long story short I ended up being transferred to hospital and having first a try at vacum extraction and then a forceps delivery. It was traumatic, I hadn’t any preparation for this and the pain and the indignity and having so many people rushing around. And recovery was long, really, walking was so tiring and my poor bits took a longtime to heal as I was so bruised inside.
It took 4 years of reading and thinking and researching to realise firstly what went wrong and secondly what I could have done to prevent this. First the most exciting discover was Spinning Babies and rebozo techniques – ways to turn a baby during labour (and even exercises to do during pregnancy to PREVENT) malposition.
Also on this path was thinking about mindset of preparing fro birth and not being set on one particular outcome but being prepared for whatever direction the birthing journey took – I think I have written about that before with my second pregnancy there’s a little about it here)
While I was teaching antenatal classes I came across a blog post on squatting (read it here), squatting is not something that these particular classes advocates, and so this was a very interesting piece to read. It really got me thinking about how we view what our bodies can and can’t do and how imposing restrictions can at times be less than helpful. Well it started a long learning process on looking at how we use our bodies and how they are designed to be used and how being sedentary seriously impacts on our overall health.
It’s started me thinking about how single classes are just part of how we should be preparing for birth. Learning about the stages of labour, breathing techniques, different positions to be in for birth are brilliant and so useful in a world where birth tends to be hidden away so much, we are not learning about it from seeing it anymore. But it doesn’t matter how much of these exercises we do, whether it is pregnancy specific yoga, pilates etc what is essential is thinking about how we move and use our bodies for the rest of the time.
Sitting on chairs can cause tucking of the pelvis which can cause back issues, weakened pelvic muscles and pelvic floor issues for example – so can you make small changes and sit on the floor, have a standing work station or meet friends and go for a walk instead of sitting for a coffee.
Walking itself can be changed to offer some extra benefits – so rather than just walking on level surfaces can you walk on more uneven terrain – this will help with balance as well as cardiac work! If you have children just follow them – they choose excellent paths.
Stretching and bending – can you have items you use on a regular basis at different heights so you can practice bending down, (getting some squatting preparation practice in) or stretching to reach – one thing I tried last time we went out blackberry picking was to get blackberries from different parts of the bush rather than the easy to get at ones.
Sitting on the floor – when you are watching tv or playing with the kids or even on our phone can you try out a variety of different ways to sit – you can use bolsters and cushions to help here if needed. As you move and hold yourself differently you keep our body moving and stretching so no cramping. I find this one hard the ‘stop wriggling’ rules from childhood are hard to break. Maybe you can make a game out of it with your children – who can find different ways to sit and can teh other person sit like that too? Or here are some ideas:
These changes don’t seem a lot but as with changing any habit it can be hard to get motivated and keep going. But adding lots more movement into your life will really help when it comes down to birthing and recovery post partum, and will benefit you for years to come after that.