25 Ways To Prepare For Labor (Physically and Mentally) – Part 2


Labor is a mysterious and profound experience, usually ranging somewhere on the “marathon” scale from hours to days in length (although some labors will actually end up being quite short. I know of a couple who named their daughter “Octavia”, as labor lasted 8… minutes !).

In general however, preparing for labor, means preparing for a sort of marathon by building physical and mental endurance, and by giving ourselves resources and tools, almost like a toolbox, that we can come back to when the time comes, to help us cope with the intense and awe-inspiring event that is childbirth.

As our bodies progress through the birthing experience, much of our rational brain “turns off”, and some of the most important tools available to us become:

1. BREATHING
2. MOVEMENT
3. BODY AWARENESS

I’ve rounded up what ended up being the 25 most useful resources in both of my birthing experiences in helping me to develop this awareness in preparation for labor.

Often times, the welcomed side-effect of these exercises is to make pregnancy a bit more “comfortable”, too !

*There are many proven techniques that you can also look into and study, such as HypnoBirthing, Lamaze, The Bradley Method, Bonapace Method and Alexander Technique to name a few. Also, having a doula at your side can play an important role when it comes to pain management.
* As always, please consult with a licensed physician before beginning any new exercise program. The exercises and suggestions provided here are in no way intended as a substitute for medical consultation.

(.. continued from Part 1)

#13: WALKING

Why:
– Without a doubt, walking is one of the best ways to build physical and mental stamina in preparation for labor.
Activates circulation.
Tones the muscles.
– Can help to reduce swelling in the legs.
– Allows us to breathe fresh air, oxygenating the muscles.
– Helps relieve stress and anxiety.
Energizes the body and mind.
– Can encourage the progression of labor.

Walking in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– If you have no contraindications from your doctor or midwife, you can aim for a 10-60 minute (or 2 to 6 km) walk every day (or just about), all the way until the end of pregnancy.
– Find a pace that is suitable for you.
– If you’re not used to walking, start with shorter walks, gradually lengthening over time.
Here are 10 exercises you can do while walking, for maintaining a healthy posture.
For tension relief, this is a simple meditation exercise, called a “walking meditation.”
Useful tips to add steps to your day include: parking the car further away, wearing comfortable shoes, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, etc.

 

#14: PRACTICE SAYING “YES”

Why:
– This personal point ended up being one the more useful tools in my mental preparation.
During my first labor, I started to become tired of the pain and continuous flow of contractions which had been coming on every 1-3 minutes for about 12 hours, and I began to lose my capacity to deal.
– When a new contraction, or « wave » would come in, I started to say “No no no no ….”
at which point my midwife made her way to my side and gently proposed: “See if you can say yes, instead”.. (so this was obviously not what I felt like saying 🙂 , but I did it), and low and behold my body started to let go, and I entered the pushing phase not long after.
Saying « yes », the word, seemed to send a yes message of receptivity, release and opening to my body, even if not on a conscious level.
– I was then more able to allow the contractions to happen, instead of pushing them away.

Saying yes preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
During your daily routine or while exercising, see how it feels to welcome the sensations that arise in your body with a “yes” as best you can, creating a feeling of release, even surrender to that which is occurring in your body at that time.
– This can also be used during labor, allowing the contractions to happen without looking to avoid, change or push them away, simply, « yesingly » letting them happen.

 

#15: REST

Why:
– Resting the body, especially during late-pregnancy, is just as important as activating and mobilizing it.
Restores energy
– A rested body will have more energy for labor.
A self-care practice, where mama takes care of mama, vital during pregnancy, and motherhood 🙂 .

Rest in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– When possible, find a moment during the day to lay your body down.
– The most comfortable positions in late-pregnancy will likely be on your left side, or in a reclined position. (Use as many pillows as needed to prop your knee(s), head, etc.)
– As you rest your body, imagine that you are “recharging your batteries”, a wonderful image that can help give meaning and peacefulness to your rest.

 

#16: KEGELS

Why:
Tone the pelvic floor muscles.
Create elasticity in the tissues and muscles of the pelvic floor.
– Promote pelvic floor awareness.
Teach us to relax and release the perineum. When baby makes their way through the birth canal, the pelvic floor muscles and tissues are stretched. Relaxing these muscles as best we can will help to create the space and release for baby’s passage (into our arms!).
A way to stay in tune with our body during labor.

– Can help prevent incontinence.
– Part of postnatal rehabilitation.

Kegels in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

 

How to:
Here are 6 Kegel exercises you can practice throughout pregnancy to develop this awareness and tone.
– As you practice relaxing the pelvic floor, (Kegel Exercise #6), try incorporating the following imagery, specifically in preparation for birth:

As you breathe, close the eyes and imagine that on each exhale, you are breathing gently “downwards” towards your vagina, as a way to become aware of this part of your body and to learn how to relax and release it. You can even say to yourself: “I am preparing the passage for my baby.”

Note: Do not practice pushing!

 

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#17: WHAT IS A CONTRACTION?

Why:
– Learning what a contraction does, can help to “work with” it.

What is a contraction - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How:
(in layman’s terms:)
– The uterus is an incredibly strong muscular organ that can expand during pregnancy from around the size of a closed fist to become large enough to hold a full term baby.
– A contraction is an awe-inspiring co-action of the uterus:

While the top of the uterus tightens and thickens,
the bottom (or cervix) relaxes and stretches
to help baby through into the birth canal for delivery.

– Contractions start in response to the release of oxytocin (“love” hormone produced by our brain).
– Isn’t it just so amazing? I am eternally in awe of the human body.
– From there, encouraging this action through words or thoughts, may help us feel like we can work with our body.
– Here are some example phrases that can help to visualize this action:

Each contraction helps soften and open my cervix
for the passage of my baby.

I abandon myself to this contraction.
Each contraction is helping my baby get closer to my arms.

– For more information on the fascinating cocktail of hormones we produce during childbirth, here is a clear and beautifully written overview of Labor Hormones by Mama Glow.

 

#18: SQUAT

Why:
Hip openers, squats help to prepare the pelvis for birth.
Build (lots of!) endurance, making us stronger for labor.
Bring tone and elasticity to the pelvic floor, promoting perineum health. Try adding Kegels to your squats for optimal benefits.
Grounding, rooting effect.
– Natural way to induce labor.
– During labor, they “shorten” the birth canal by up to 30%, and help baby descend deeper into the pelvis.

How to:
– Here are 2 squats that you can practice throughout pregnancy in preparation for birth.

Squat in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

SQUAT #1. This first squat focuses on hip opening and pelvic floor toning (and is also birthing position)

– Feet about shoulder width apart, toes pointing outward.
– Knees bend (in alignment with the toes) to bring bum towards the ground.
– Elbows press into the inner legs, hands in prayer position, or stretched out on floor in front of you.
– Hold for 20-60 seconds, breath steady and full.
Renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin suggests doing 300 squats a day.. that’s a lot! But I believe the idea is to add squats into your day, whenever you can! For example while cleaning, bending down to pick something up, playing with your children, etc.

* Do not do this full squat if you have placenta previa or if your cervix is fragile or if it’s uncomfortable. Instead, try sitting on a chair or a yoga ball with legs straddled (feet flat on the floor, as in the yoga ball hip circles)
* During late-pregnancy it can be a good idea to place support under your bum, with a pillow, bolster or block so as not to put too much pressure on the pelvic floor
* If the heels don’t touch the ground, place a rolled blanket underneath them for support.

Squat in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

SQUAT #2. This second squat focuses on building leg strength and stamina in preparation for labor:

– Feet take a wider stance, toes still pointing outwards.
– Bend the knees, aligned with the toes, hands rest on thighs or a chair for support.
Add lateral movement:
Inhale: Right arm up and over
Exhale: Back to center
Repeat on the other side, 5-10 times each side.
– *If balance is unsteady, use a chair or counter top for support.

Take advantage of the lovely side stretch, filling the lungs with deep and joyous breaths!

 

#19: PREPARE ENCOURAGEMENT NOTES!

Why:
– During labor, hearing positive words can encourage the production of labor-enhancing hormones (oxytocin, the “love” hormone, and endorphins, our natural pain relievers).
– Can calm and reassure mama, creating a climate of trust. During my first labor, the pain was so powerful that I thought something was wrong. Being told that “everything was going well” helped me to understanding that this pain was normal, making me feel safe for both me and my baby. I was then able to let myself go with more trust to the process of labor.
– A way to connect with birth partner.
– An occasion for partner to look into birth partner preparation.

Encouragement notes in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– Think of words that might inspire or encourage you.
– Here are some examples of the words that helped me during labor.

Note: You may end up not wanting to hear anything at all!

 

#20: Study and practice LABOR POSITIONS

Why:
– Though they may come to you naturally during labor, practicing various labor positions in advance can be a way to help them become more intuitive and natural, so that you won’t have to “think” about them during birth.
– As some positions require a partner, can be a way to connect with your partner in the weeks before baby’s arrival.

Labor positions in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Illustrations by Shanna Finger

How to:
– Above is an example of various labor positions.
– Some partner positions involve the use of acupressure points, which can greatly benefit the laboring mama!

Tip: During labor, walk and change positions as often as you can. It is usually recommended to try any given position for between 20 and 30 minutes to let it have its effect.

 

#21: DANCE!

Why:
– More of a for-fun point, but because that’s important too! 🙂
– Can help us connect to the joyous nature of pregnancy, and birth.
– Creates mobility in the body.
– Relieves stress and anxiety.
– Can help to relax mama. A relaxed mama will have more energy for labor.
– Can be used as a natural way to induce labor.
– Some women even use dancing as a coping mechanism during labor.
Releases endorphins into the body. – Endorphins are a powerful pain-relieving and pleasure-enhancing hormone that our bodies produce during labor to help mediate the pain of contractions.

Dancing mama - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
-Really up to you :), I’m personally a fan of Funk and Motown, it just gets me going :)!
– Try “dancing” with baby by placing your hands on your belly, and sharing the movement.

Note: Even if you feel like a whale, give it a try!

 

#22: VISUALIZATION

Why:
– This is a personal point that proved useful for me during my second pregnancy.
– My first birth was long-ish, 14 hours, with lots of pushing. I believe my body needed to figure out the way to opening and that a little bit of fear of the unknown made me avoid letting go to this “opening”.
– Furthermore, when labor began, my cervix was 0 effaced, 0 dilated, and posterior. (!)
– Because of this experience, when my second pregnancy came around, I was able to prepare mentally in a more concrete way. Along with acknowledging my fears during pregnancy, this visualization proved to be a very useful tool.

Visualization in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
Simply put, when I was about 37 or 38 weeks pregnant, I started to do some very specific visualization of my body “opening” up, once a day before going to bed.
I found images of the cervix, and what it looks like when it’s going through labor and opening (even just a drawing). – a head-on view was the most useful for me, as in this type of image (no pun intended):

Visualization in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

– I then imagined my own cervix as best I could doing the same thing.
And finally, I imagined breathing into this part of my body, visualizing it relaxing, stretching and opening, with each breath for between 5-10 minutes.
– The image of a flower opening is also often used to nourish this visualization, like in this example:

Visualization in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Crowning Rose (By “Gisela”; Artist and Copyright information unknown)

Note: With the ok from your doctor or midwife, Evening Primrose Oil, taken orally (35 weeks +) or directly inserted into the vagina (37 weeks +), can be used to help soften and “ripen” the cervix in the final days of pregnancy. I personally used 500mg capsules which I inserted as of 39 weeks of pregnancy, with positive results on cervical ripening!

 

#23: RELAXATION

Why:
Encourages the production of labor-enhancing hormones (oxytocin, the “love” hormone, and endorphins, our natural pain relievers) during childbirth.
– Helps to alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety can tense up the body, which can in turn slow down the release of labor hormones.
– A relaxed mama will have more energy for labor.
– A relaxed body and mind can help lessen the sensation pain.
– Can help labor to progress by encouraging the body to “open up”.
Relaxation in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

 

How to:
Once a day, practice a relaxation technique, such as:
– If you do yoga, Savasana.
Total body relaxation (many guided relaxation videos exist online).
– Deep and slow belly breathing.
– During labor, promote relaxation for mama with:
– A calm, safe environment.
– Dim lights.
Music.

 

#24: MY POSITION, BABY’S POSITION!

Why:
– The way we sit and stand has a direct effect on baby’s positioning in the womb.
– Especially in 3rd trimester and in preparation for birth, it is recommended to maintain a forward-leaning or vertical stance, and to avoid “slouching” posture to promote optimal positioning for baby.
– Can have a positive effect on the outcome of labor.

Healthy posture in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Think of aligning earlobe + shoulder + hip articulation + ankle in a vertical line.

How to:
– Here are 10 (fun!) tips to maintain good posture during pregnancy.
– Once a day, practice a forward leaning pose, such as Downward Dog, or this Forward-Leaning Inversion by Spinning Babies.
– When sitting down to work or watch a movie, prop pillows behind your back to maintain an upright position. (you’ll look funny next normal, relaxed and non-pregnant people 🙂 )
– Avoid sitting cross-legged.
Sit on a birthing ball instead of a chair, as often as you can, especially in late-pregnancy. There are so many benefits to this, including, toning the postural muscles in the spine, toning and supporting the pelvic floor, mobility and opening of the pelvis in preparation for birth, to name but a few. You can practice hip circles and pelvis rocking while you’re at it as well!

 

#25: PRACTICE “HAVING” CONTRACTIONS.. !

Why:
– This exercise can help give a sense as to how long a contraction lasts, and what resources we can hone as coping mechanisms during this lapse of time.

Practice "having" contractions in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
Take a “sitting” position, with your back gently pressed against the wall, feet hip-width apart in front of you, knees aligned with the feet. You can place a cushion or yoga block in between the thighs to help maintain proper alignment of the knees.
– Hold this position for 60 to 90 seconds, the length of time a contraction lasts!
– During this time, in principle (!), your thighs should begin to feel a burn. 🙂
– While in this “discomfort”, observe which resources help you to find relaxation, calm and breath in your body and mind, using the various tools available to us, for example:

– Come back to breath awareness* using words, or mantras, to help guide you and keep you focused in the present moment.
Relax what doesn’t need to be “working”*, for example the shoulders, face and mouth.
Acknowledge what is there*, sensations, thoughts, emotions, without looking to push them away or avoid them.
Find movement in your position, try rocking the hips side-to-side or in circles.*

Say yes!
– Think of breathing “into” where you feel the heat (as in Hand On Belly Breath Exercise).
Vocalize.*
Breathing exercises.*

(*These points can be found in Part 1)

*Adjust your price in the “Amount” box.

 

I hope these tips are helpful!

I did not include proper hydration and a healthy diet, which are, of course, essential.

One of the healthy snacks I craved the most during pregnancy was this Sunflower Seed Veggie Pâte recipe. I really just couldn’t get enough! 😉

To remain properly hydrated, aim to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.

If you have tips that were useful for you in preparing for birth, I would love to hear them and share with other mamas-to-be! Please feel free to  share them in the comment section below.

With all of my heart, I wish you a wonderful and joyous birth, and time discovering your new baby. xoxo


Here are some links to books and products that were helpful for me in preparation for birth. They are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you make a purchase using these links. Your price doesn’t change but this commission helps support this site. Thank you!

Evening Primrose Oil for cervical ripening:

Barlean’s Organic Oils Organic Evening Primrose Oil, 120 softgels/1300 mg ea. Bottle


Raspberry Leaf Tea can be taken as of 34 weeks, to strengthen and tone the uterine muscles in preparation for labor. This is the one that I used:

Traditional Medicinals Organic Raspberry Leaf Tea, 16 Tea Bags (Pack of 6)


Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond


The Birth Partner – Revised 4th Edition: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions

 


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. ? I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→


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Birth Affirmations For Dad – 10 Things I Wanted To Hear During Labor

25 Ways To Prepare For Labor (Physically and Mentally) – Part 1

Labor is a mysterious and profound experience, usually ranging somewhere on the “marathon” scale from hours to days in length (although some labors will actually end up being quite short. I know of a couple who named their daughter “Octavia”, as labor lasted 8… minutes !).

In general however, preparing for labor, means preparing for a sort of marathon by building physical and mental endurance, and by giving ourselves resources and tools, almost like a toolbox, that we can come back to when the time comes, to help us cope with the intense and awe-inspiring event that is childbirth.

As our bodies progress through the birthing experience, much of our rational brain “turns off”, and some of the most important tools available to us become:

1. BREATHING
2. MOVEMENT
3. BODY AWARENESS

I’ve rounded up what ended up being the 25 most useful resources in both of my birthing experiences in helping me to develop this awareness in preparation for labor.

Often times, the welcomed side-effect of these exercises is to make pregnancy a bit more “comfortable”, too !

*There are many proven techniques that you can also look into and study, such as HypnoBirthing, Lamaze, The Bradley Method and Bonapace Method to name a few. Also, having a doula at your side can play an important role when it comes to pain management.
* As always, please consult with a licensed physician before beginning any new exercise program. The exercises and suggestions provided here are in no way intended as a substitute for medical consultation.

25 Ways To Prepare For Labor (Physically and Mentally) - Part 1

25 Ways To Prepare For Labor (Physically and Mentally) - Part 1

#1: BREATHING EXERCISES

Why:
– Without a doubt, abdominal breathing is probably the most important tool available to us during labor to help cope with the intensity and the waves of contractions.
Oxygenates the muscles, thus keeping them more relaxed.
– Helps to focus and anchor the mind.
Calms the nervous system.
– Can help reduce feelings of tension and stress.

Perineum Breathing in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Perineum Breathing

How to:
– Here are 4 breathing techniques to help develop abdominal breathing, that can be practiced throughout pregnancy, as well as during labor.

1. Hand on belly breath exercise
2. Ujjayi (or Ocean Breath)
3. “Elevator”, or 3-part breathing
4. Perineum breathing

Note: There is no right or wrong way to breathe. We learn these techniques, like guides, that we can adapt to our comfort and preference. The key is to feel the breath fluid and natural, and even “relaxed” when possible.

“Deep abdominal breathing is calming and reassuring. It’s impossible to feel fear or tension while breathing deeply, slowly, rhythmically.” – Childbirth Educator, Liza Janda

 

#2: YOGA BALL HIP CIRCLES

Why:
– Can help release tension in the pelvis, lower back and abdominal muscles.
– Bring mobility to the pelvis,
which can help ease labor and facilitate baby’s descent through the birth canal.
Develop a breath/movement connectionStaying connected to your breath while moving is one of the great lessons of yoga. It not only keeps us rooted in the present moment, but promotes focus and overall well-being.
– During labor, staying connected to the breath while moving can prove to be an essential tool in making the experience more manageable.

yogaball-hip-circles in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Yoga Ball Hip Circles

How to:
Abridged explanation:
– Sitting on a yoga ball, slowly and gently start to move the pelvis in a circular motion, side-front-other side-and back, drawing a circle in space with your hips and lower back, letting yourself go to more ample then more subtle circles.
Breath remains steady, full and connected to the circular motion.
– Circle in the other direction.
Feet are firmly rooted on the ground, and knees are about 90 degrees bent.
– Hands on the thighs with shoulders relaxed.

For a detailed explanation of Yoga Ball Hip Circles click here.

 

#3: PERINEUM “MASSAGE”

Why:
Can help to ready the body and mind for the very real sense of burning that may occur during the infamous “ring of fire”, especially for first-time moms.
May reduce or prevent tearing to the perineum during birth, as well as the need for an episiotomy.
– Promotes pelvic floor awareness.
– If your partner’s the one lending a hand, this can even become a daily moment to share in the final weeks before the arrival of your new baby.

Perineum Massage (10 Steps to Prepare the Perineum for Birth) - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Perineum Massage (10 Steps to Prepare the Perineum for Birth)

How to:
– Here is a detailed and illustrated 10-Step Guide to Perineum “Massage”.
Start around week 34 or 35, a few minutes a day.
*Note: Generally speaking, these are not what are referred to as “fun” to do. 😉

 

#4: VISIT AN OSTEOPATH

Why:
– The gentle work of an osteopath can help to find and recreate balance in the body, by “undoing” tensions that may have built up in the muscles, tissues and ligaments over time or simply during the pregnancy.
A mobile and aligned, or “balanced” pelvis can participate in easing labor by facilitating baby’s descent through the birth canal. (See more on “Balance”, one of the 3 Principles in Pregnancy by Spinning Babies.

Visit an osteopath in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– Locate directories for osteopaths that treat pregnant women in your region.

 

#5: POSITIVE AFFIRMATION PHRASES

Why:
– Especially during my second pregnancy, I realized how important it is to nourish oneself with positive thoughts. Labor is a voyage into the unknown, and to be strong and prepared mentally, nourishing ourself with positivity can help to build this strength.

Positive Birth Affirmations in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– I was so lucky to have found these beautiful positive affirmation phrases, that I listened to every night before going to bed in the final (long 🙂 ) weeks of my second pregnancy.

Truly beautiful and so full of light! (and the music is so soothing!):

Posted on youtube by Indigo Midwifery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSXc-a_AH2k

Thank you to Indigo Midwifery for posting such a beautiful tool for mamas-to-be!

 

#6: THE “YOU MUST BE LIKE THE BEAST” ..!

Why:
– This yoga-inspired exercise helps us tune into our natural, spontaneous, even animal self, (the Beast 🙂 !) by bringing us to connect to our bodies and to the way it intuitively feels like moving. – Our bodies may choose various movements or positions intuitively during labor to help us cope with the waves of contractions. This exercise helps to nourish that intuition.
– A way to release tension in the body.
– Develops the breath/movement connection.
– Moving can help to make labor more manageable.
Baby gets used to mama’s movements.

25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
The “You Must Be Like The Beast!”

How to:
Abridged explanation:
Integrate cat/cow and lateral movements of the spine until you aren’t doing specific or technical positions anymore, but simply letting your body move in space how it wishes to.
– Keep the breath flowing, and observe how breath and movement are connected.
Try ample and subtle movements, letting the body go to what it feels like doing. Make it your own thing, kind of like a dance.

If your body ends up doing this kind of a “Beast-like dance” during labor, it may be a way to cope with your contractions. In any case, it feels great 🙂 !

For a detailed description of the “You Must Be Like The Beast”..! click here.

 

 

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#7: PRACTICE MAKING SOUNDS – Vocal Toning

Why:
– There is a good chance we’ll use sounds during labor, as they can play an important part in pain management. –“Practicing” in advance helps us become familiar with our voice and range.
– Vocal toning helps focus the mind and promotes deep relaxation.
– Physiologically, the vocal cords are connected to the diaphragm (the beautiful umbrella-shaped muscle in our torso that expands the rib cage to let air fill the lungs), which is connected to the perineum. (see Perineum Breathing)
– Toning the vocal cords develops this connection.
– Using low vocalizations during labor can lessen the sensation of pain during contractions.

Vocal Toning in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Practice low “mmm”, “ah”, “hah” and “ooo” sounds, even if it feels a bit silly 🙂

How to:
– Find a comfortable position.
– Begin by practicing sighing sounds.
– Practice low humming, as well as low vowel sounds, such as “ah”, “hah”, “ooo”.
– Here is a video I discovered during my first pregnancy that helped me practice vocal toning in the perspective of childbirth:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt8bWVecWEQ

(In this video, the woman demonstrating is lying flat on her back, I would recommend a supported “supine” position (like in the drawing above) for 3rd trimester comfort and to promote optimal circulation.)

*Note: You may look, sound or feel a bit silly doing this, but it’s worth it!

For more information on vocal toning, I found this article by Better Childbirth Outcomes to be very helpful.

 

#8: MEDITATION (through breath awareness)

Why:
– Strengthens our ability to focus and stabilize the mind.
Calms the nervous system.
– Builds inner calm and confidence.
– Brings the attention back to the present moment. –*Bringing the attention to the breath brings the attention back to the present moment, an indispensable tool for helping to remain rooted through emotions and sensations that arise during childbirth.
Elevates levels of endorphins. (endorphins are powerful and natural pain-relieving hormones produced by our bodies)
– Enhances levels of DHEA. (a hormone produced by the body with many benefits such as enhancing the immune system and balancing brain chemistry)
– Can help to regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

Meditation in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
“Inhaling.. Exhaling..”

How to:
Many meditation techniques exist, this is a breath awareness meditation:

1. Find a comfortable position.
2. Close the eyes, and bring your awareness to your breathing.

Notice the movement of expansion in the body as you inhale, and of release in the body when you exhale. As best you can, stay present to both the inhale and the exhale. It can help to use words, or mantras, as guides, for example:

3. Inhale, say to yourself: “Inhaling”, or “Expansion”, or “Nourish”,

4. Exhale, saying to yourself: “Exhaling” or “Release”, or “Cleanse”.

When thoughts arise and grab your attention, observe them as you need to, (you can even name them, saying for example “thoughts”), then let them pass and follow the breath once more.

It is normal to have many thoughts arise. It may even seem like a continuous stream of the thoughts when you first begin. Meditation will help to make the lapse of time, or “space”, between thoughts become longer.

Observe how the thoughts are like clouds, they come and they go, and that your presence is like the blue and infinite sky behind them, immense and limitless.

We actually are limitless!

Between 5-15 minutes.

Note: If you don’t already have a special place to meditate, try… the bath! One of my favorites! 😉

 

#9: WELCOMING WHAT IS THERE (ie: fear!)

Why:
– Many women experience feelings of fear during pregnancy and labor. (fear of pain, fear of the unknown, etc.)
– This exercise is one of many to learn how to cope with feelings of fear.
– Builds the understanding that it is normal to experience these feelings.
Builds the confidence in ourself that we are prepared and have the tools necessary to deal with emotions that arise.
– As with meditation, this exercise helps us connect to the ever-present space that is in each of us, a safe place that is deeply rooted in the present moment (fear lives in the future!) that we can always come back to.
Calming effect, can help fear feel less “overpowering”.

Welcoming fear in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Greeting what is supposed to be a scary creature 🙂

How to:
– When emotions such as fear present themselves, begin by following the breath, using breath awareness. (exercise in #8).
– Then, try to “welcome” the feeling of fear as best you can, acknowledging it’s presence.
– You can even “greet” it, for example, “Hello fear, it’s ok, I see you are there, and that you are a part of what I’m feeling right now.” (but you are not me, nor are you all that I feel!).
– Also, speak about your fears with supportive people you trust.Simply expressing your feelings often has the effect of making them feel less overpowering.
Inform yourself about that which scares you.  “Knowing is half the battle” is especially true when it comes to fear. Fear definitely has a way of getting bigger when it’s left “in the dark”.
Practice techniques that calm the body and mind, such as breathing, meditation, relaxation or yoga.
– Use mantras, for example:

“Inhale courage,
Exhale fear and doubt”

Inhale courage,
Exhale that which does not serve me”
“Inhale I acknowledge my fear,
Exhale I let it go”

– If your feelings are overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional health care provider.

 

#10: STANDING SACRAL RELEASE by Spinning Babies

Why:
– This lesser-known exercise relieves tension in the pelvis and lower back, thus helping to create balance in the body in preparation for birth.
– Can improve fetal positioning and pelvic alignment, which can help to ease labor and to facilitate baby’s descent through the birth canal.
– Creates more comfort during pregnancy, by reducing heartburn and even snoring.
– A way to connect with your partner. – this exercise requires a partner, practicing with your partner can be a way to connect.

25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally
Standing Sacral Release

How to:
-“The Standing Sacral Release is a simple, highly-recommended technique done with a very light touch to release the fascia around the pelvis and the pelvic and respiratory diaphragms.” (Spinning Babies)

http://spinningbabies.com/learn-more/techniques/other-techniques/standing-sacral-release/

 

#11: RELAX WHAT DOESN’T NEED TO BE “WORKING”

Why:
– An excellent tool to use for helping to cope with contractions.
Trains in focusing the mind.
– Develops body awareness.
Relieves stress.
– Helps to calm the mind by bringing the attention back to the present moment.

Relax what doesn't need to be "working" in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– You know how sometimes when you’re working hard on something, you realize at one point that you’re tensing up other parts of the body, say the forehead, jaw or shoulders, as if these parts of the body want to “work” with you? (Nice of them, but no thanks 😉 !)
– As you sit or stand, bring your attention to different parts of the body, for example, your mouth. Notice if there is any tension there, and try to relax your mouth. Move your attention to another part of the body, for example the shoulders and jaw, and see if there is any tension there. Then, try to relax them.
Breath remains full.
Closing the eyes can help to focus the mind and become more aware of the subtle sensations in the body.

Note: This is an excellent exercise to practice in moments that require extra or unexpected physical and mental efforts in your day-to-day life (ie: having to carry more bags than you thought while running errands, forgetting something in your home and having to go back up the stairs to get it (and being 8 1/2 months pregnant 🙂 ), being stuck in traffic, having a headache, dealing with your toddler’s tantrum, stubbing your finger, etc.). Each time an extra physical or mental effort presents itself, focus on the body, and attempt to release any tension in the body that doesn’t need to be there.

“Breathing, I find relaxation where I can.”

Contractions are indeed an extra physical and mental effort, and finding any source of relaxation in the body while having one can be an invaluable tool in dealing with the pain.

 

#12: PRENATAL YOGA

Why:
– Increases muscular strength and stamina in preparation for labor.
Reduces stress and anxiety.
– Can help you connect with your baby.
– Improves sleep and helps to make pregnancy more “comfortable”.
– A moment when mama takes care of mama (as well as baby 🙂 ).

Prenatal Yoga in preparation for labor - 25 Ways To Prepare For Labor Physically and Mentally

How to:
– Find a school you love, this is also a lovely way to meet up with other mamas-to-be!
– There are also many quality videos online.
– You can also have a look at my 10 Late-Pregnancy Yoga-Inspired Exercises.

 

…Continued here in Part 2..


aboutbw2Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. ? I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→


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For Part 2, click here