Pregnancy yoga – the best birth support is inbuilt

April 16, 2015 10:39 am Published by

I am so excited to be teaching a LauraYoga pregnancy class in Thame. I did pregnancy yoga with both my pregnancies and I am still in touch with the mummies I met along the way.

Thame has such a great mum and bub community with so many great classes and sessions for mums to be, babies and kids and I feel blessed to be a part of it.

Take a look at my classes page for details of my pregnancy classes in Thame at The Space Yoga Studio and I look forward to meeting you and sharing your pregnancy journey.

My last class was focused entirely on breath and relaxation and we spent the whole class on our bottoms or sides, working through breathing techniques, visualisations and pelvic floor focus. When we slow down our yoga practise, as we naturally do in pregnancy yoga it gives the mind time to calm and the body more time to truly focus on wonderfully powerful breathing techniques that guide us so perfectly through pregnancy and most importantly birth.

When we focus on our breath we ease stress and anxiety. Pregnancy can be a time where both of these emotions come into play. I’m so glad I could share my worries in the support system that pregnancy yoga creates. Yoga and pregnancy to me seem designed to be together.

It got me thinking…

The Best Birth Support is Inbuilt.

Studying pregnancy yoga and then working with pregnant women and listening to their birthing stories increased my pre-exisiting belief in the innate power of the female body. Grasping the multitude of ways that womens and baby’s body’s are so perfectly equipped for birth, gave me then infinite trust in the natural birth process. The practise of yoga during this journey allows us to focus on this trust and ensure that we feel wonderfully equipped an prepared for the birth of our baby.

Species survival mechanisms have insured that we are designed with physiological intelligence beyond anything we could hope to invent or synthetically mimic. For example, the very same hormone that causes uterine contractions in the body, also inspires unconditional love in the brain; the pregnant body knows exactly when to release hormones to trigger a deactivation of the baby’s brain prior to labour to keep it safe during birth; the hormone which acts as a natural painkiller for the mother also aids lung maturation for the baby, and all of this requires no conscious choice or effort in order to happen!

So how does this invisible support system work? Throughout labour and birth a woman’s body delivers her three key hormones, these hormones are released at specific times during the birthing process to provide her with what she needs most, whether it be pain relief, stamina, safety, transcendence and even pleasure.

The most consistently present hormone is Oxytocin. This is the hormone commonly referred to as ‘the love hormone’, because it is the same hormone released in both men and women during orgasm, and is proven to strongly increase feelings of trust and connection. Vaginal birth is physiologically impossible without this hormone, as it is oxytocin that is responsible for the uterine contractions during labour that work to open the cervix and move your baby into the birth canal.

Oxytocin also works on an emotional level by delivering the woman feelings of love and connection. These feelings inspire perseverance and determination during labour, in a way that only love can! Oxytocin also assists in her baby’s safety, in the hours surrounding birth, her natural oxytocin level increases to such an extent that it is able to wash across the placenta and flow into her baby’s body. It then crosses the baby’s immature blood brain barrier and enters his/her brain. This oxcytocin triggers a response that inhibits brain activity. This might not sound great, but actually it is a wonderful thing because during each contraction the uterus squeezes the placenta tightly, which means the baby temporarily receives less blood, oxygen and glucose in those moments. As the brain is one of the highest users of oxygen and glucose, this natural safety mechanism of creating inaction in the baby’s brain ensures that he/she will require less oxygen and glucose during contractions.

Oxytocin continues to support the mother after birth, as every time she breastfeeds, oxytocin is released helping to stimulate the milk ejection reflex (the process that brings milk from the breast glands into the baby’s mouth), whilst simultaneously benefiting her with the oxytocin love-effect, aiding in bonding and unconditional love between herself and her baby. This sounds gooey and sweet, but mostly this is another inbuilt safety mechanism to ensure that a mother has enough milk to feed her baby and the motivation to care for this otherwise helpless little bundle.

Another hormone the mother’s body will drum up are adrenaline and noradrenaline.

These are delivered when her cervix is close to full dilation in the phase of labour commonly referred to as ‘transition’ – which occurs between the First and Second Stages of Labour.

Once her cervix is completely dilated, she will need energy to tackle the task of pushing her baby out into the world, and she will also want to be more alert and present in preparation for meeting her baby. These ‘fight or flight’ hormones inspire both these reactions, working to bring her out of her beta-endorphin trance-like state and into her powerful pushing chapter. This can feel somewhat disconcerting or scary, but it is actually a very clever design!

Last but not least is prolactin. This hormone plays a key role in the formation and production of breast milk. It is also the hormone of fierce, parenting love (found in both men and women taking care of infants). Just think of a mama lion and her cubs and you’ll get a good sense of the nature of prolactin. This hormone works in unison with oxytocin to ensure intense bonding between a mother and her baby, strengthening her resolve to give everything and anything required for the safety and contentment of her baby.

So there you have it! Women’s bodies are incredible, intelligent and impeccably equipped for birth. If pregnancy yoga can empower women through the birthing process to focus on these wonderful inbuilt support systems, we can believe in the power of our bodies intuition to guide us to meet our babies. Pretty cool!

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This post was written by Laura Avery