Yoga in Pregnancy – Part 3 – More Advanced Postures

March 18, 2007

Following on from Part 1 and Part 2.

Practising Yoga during pregnancy – Part 3 – More Advanced Postures

Yoga & PregnancyCompiled by Jane Fraser (Weideman)

This is the third article in a series about yoga in pregnancy.

This article follows on from the first which introduced the benefits of yoga during pregnancy, and the second which examined some simple poses for relaxation.

Before you start remember that in general, you want to avoid any strain, compressing and twisting in the belly or abdomen. Also avoid most inverted poses (headstands, handstands, shoulder stands) unless you are experienced in and very comfortable doing them. Absolutely no breath retention or breath of fire should be attempted. Above all … listen to your body! Your body and baby will let you know what you need and what poses are uncomfortable. And please … don’t practice yoga to the point where you’re exhausted.

Foreword: As with any exercise program it is best to consult your doctor before beginning. However, with the exception of not lying directly on your back or stomach after the fourth month, and avoiding what doesn’t feel right to you, there is very little yoga that would be a problem during pregnancy.

Modifications for yoga during Pregnancy

The Basic Rule: The more your belly grows, the more challenging balance poses become (due to your shifting centre of gravity) so avoid postures that are uncomfortable, or feel to unstable or cause doubt. Or alternately use the wall!

Pregnant women are generally told not to lie on their backs after the first trimester in order to prevent Vena Cava Syndrome (a lowering of blood pressure due to the baby pressing on the vena cava artery). Use common sense and listen to your body. It varies amongst different body types. Ed’s note: You will know if this is a problem for you – as you will feel feint and light headed when lying on your back for any length of time. If you feel fine – you are.

Bolsters and cushions can make a big difference and make postures more comfortable. During deep relaxation you can bend your knees or lie on your side with cushions under your neck, baby and between your legs. During the second and third trimester, do not lie on your stomach.

Note that pregnant woman are subjected to the hormone relaxin. The purpose of this natural hormone is to facilitate the pelvis and hips to gracefully shift during pregnancy and child birth providing an easier passage way for the baby’s arrival. Due to the softening effect of relaxin on all joints and ligaments pregnant woman need more support when they are stretching to ensure they don’t over stretch and strain.

Good Form
Breathe through your nose, relaxing your jaw and drawing air deeply into your belly.Move with intention, allowing each move to follow the flow and rhythm of your breath.Do not overexert yourself. Remain calm and relaxed during the routine.Wear loose, comfortable cotton clothing and drink water before, during and after your practice.


Breathing Basics
While in labour, you can rely on “ujai pranayama,” an ancient breathing technique, to help you relax through contractions. Keep your jaw and face relaxed and eyes closed, place the top of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, and hands on your belly. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and imagine drawing the breath into the crown of your head and the deepest part of your belly. Then exhale through your nose, drawing the belly gently in to empty all the air out. (It can help to imagine the complete relaxation you feel and deep breathing you do just as you are drifting off to sleep. Ujai breathing is similar to this.)

On to the poses…

You may want to use the poses described in the second article as part of your warm up and cool down to your yoga work-out…

Standing Mountain Pose Standing Mountain Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees soft and toes pointed straight ahead, your palms touching at “heart center” (in front of your chest). Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Inhale and sweep your arms out and overhead, bending back slightly. Exhale and stand upright, returning hands to heart center. Repeat for 10 full breaths. The continuous flow warms up your body and prepares you for the rest of the program.Supported Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose Supported Triangle Stand with your feet about 2x shoulder-width apart, toes facing front, hands on hips. Turn your right toes in and left toes out. Bend left leg, placing your left hand on the thigh, eyes looking down. Inhale, then exhale as you lift your right arm above your shoulder and turn your head, eyes looking up. Place your left arm on your thigh for support. Hold for 1 full breath as you lower your right arm and straighten leg. Return to starting position, then repeat for 5 full breaths. Reverse feet and repeat sequence on the other side. Strengthens and stretches the entire body and helps prepare you for labour.

Tree PoseTree Pose This pose helps strengthen your thighs, calves, ankles and back. It can also increase the flexibility of your hips and groin. Your balance and concentration can also be improved with constant practice. This Yoga Pose is recommended for people who have Sciatica and flat feet. Start with the Mountain Pose (see above), as you exhale, place your left foot on the inside part of your right leg, close to the groin area, with the toes pointing downward. As you inhale, stretch your arms sideways to form a T, palms facing down. As you exhale, bring your palms together in prayer position. Raise your arms overhead, keeping your palms in prayer position. To maintain balance, it helps to focus your eyes on one point in front of you and keep on breathing through the belly. In the beginning, you may use a back brace against a wall to help you keep yourself steady.

Half SquatHalf or Full Squat Stand with your feet 2x hip-width apart, with a stack of pillows on the floor behind you. Bend knees to lower hips into a deep squat (sitting onto the pillows for support if you need to). Place your palms together at heart centre (shown). Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose as you relax your pelvic floor (the muscles surrounding the vagina). Hold for 10 full breaths, then go onto hands and knees for next move. Full squatIn a healthy pregnancy this is an excellent pose to practise, as it strengthens the thighs and teaches you to relax the pelvic floor, preparing you for labour.

Ed’s Tip: You can also practise your labour breathing techniques while holding this pose! Breathe through the burning sensations in your thighs as you feel them working and try to hold for 60-90 seconds – which is about as long as a contraction lasts.

Note: This pose is not recommended if you are experiencing any signs of premature labour.

Cat PoseMoving Cat Sequence Kneel on all fours, abdominals drawn in. Inhale and gently arch your back, tipping your tail-bone up, eyes looking up. Exhale and round your back as you tuck your chin in toward your chest. Sit back on your heels into Child’s Pose and relax for 1 breath. Repeat sequence 10 times. Remain in Child’s Pose for 5 slow breaths to cool down. Builds stamina and strength in the arms, back and abs, and teaches you to relax and let go.

Warrior II PoseWarrior Pose II ( Warrior Pose I is tricky in pregnancy as stretches and places strain on the stomach and requires a lot of balance. Warrior II which still strenuous is probably a safer option for most people.) This posture strengthens your legs, back, shoulders, and arms, building stamina. It opens your hips and chest, and improves balance. Start with the Mountain Pose (as above). Step your legs open so that your feet are around four feet apart. Warrior II PoseRaise both arms parallel to the floor. Turn your head to the left. Turn your left foot 90 degrees to the left and bend your left knee. Keep the hips in the same angle (180 degrees) as for the arms. Stay in this position for 30 seconds to one minute. This is a powerful Standing Pose which provides numerous benefits such as increase in stamina and improved strength in the legs and ankles.

Standing Side StretchSide Stretch This side stretch will increase the flexibility of your spine, arms, and rib cage as it stimulates the liver, kidney, and spleen functions. Furthermore, the Yoga Pose will also help realign your spinal column and will aid the lungs to take in more oxygen. Start with the Mountain Pose (shown above) and establish a smooth flowing breath. Seated Side StretchAs you inhale, raise your left arm, making a line from your left foot to the fingertips. Place your right hand on your right hip. As you exhale, bend your upper body to the right. Hold for several breaths. Inhale, and bring the body back to the original position. Repeat the pose on the other side. If it is too strong for you to do this standing, you can try a seated variation.

Butterfly PoseFull Butterfly Sit with legs outstretched. Bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet together, keeping the heels as close to the body as possible. Fully relax the inner thighs. Clasp the feet with both hands. Gently bounce the knees up and down, using the elbows as levers to press the legs down. Do not use any force. Repeat up to 20-30 times. Straighten the legs and relax. This pose helps to open the hips and relieves tension in the inner thigh muscles. Removes tiredness from legs.

Reverse Table Top PoseReverse table top Sit tall with your legs bent, palms down and behind hips, shoulders back and down, chest lifted. Pressing into your hands and keeping shoulders back and down, inhale, then exhale as you lift your hips to a comfortable position, keeping neck in line with your spine. Hold for 1 full breath, then lower hips to starting position and repeat 5–10 times. Strengthens upper back, shoulders, buttocks and abs, improving overall balance and coordination.

Bridge PoseBridge Strengthens the spine, opens the chest, improves spinal flexibility, stimulates the thyroid. Lie on the back. Bend the knees, bringing the soles of the feet parallel on the mat close to the buttocks. Lift the hips up towards the ceiling. Interlace the fingers behind your back and straighten the arms, pressing them down into the mat. Roll one shoulder under and then the other. Lift the hips higher. Draw the chest toward the chin, but do not move the chin toward the chest. Make sure the feet stay parallel. Release the hands and bring the upper, middle, and then lower back down. Rest , allowing the knees to knock together.

To be completed soon.

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Below is attached a very useful Great Pregnancy Yoga Poses document beautifully illustrating the various pregnancy poses (with variations):

Great Pregnancy Yoga Poses .pdf document (right click to download, or click to access directly).

For some listings of recommended local (Cape Town) Yoga teachers experienced in Prenatal Yoga. See our Local Recommendations section.

There are also some very good Yoga for Pregnancy Books available. We have several in our Lending Library.

** Medical disclaimer: Note that this web site is not a substitute for medical advice. The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes, and is not intended as advice or instruction. It is provided to help you to make informed choices for yourself. You should consult your primary care provider regarding your specific medical symptoms or advice. Birth Buddies is not engaged in rendering medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any medical decisions should be made in consultation with your caregiver or other trained medical personnel. We will not be liable for any complications, injuries, loss, or other medical problems arising from, or in connection with, the use of, or reliance upon any information or products on this web site.

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VBAC – Vaginal Birth After a Caesarean

March 13, 2007

VBAC – Vaginal Birth After a Caesarean

By Jane Weideman *

More and more women are exploring the possibility of a VBAC** (Vaginal Birth After a previous Caesarean birth), either because they feel their previous caesarian was unnecessary, or because although the previous caesarean may have been required they how have a healthy normal pregnancy and would therefore like to attempt a natural vaginal delivery.

Birth is a major life event that significantly impacts a mother’s physical and emotional well-being. A caesarean can be a life-saving procedure for a mother and/or her baby, but overall, birth by caesarean puts healthy pregnant women at risk for medical complications. Recent evidence suggests that caesarean birth, particularly if it was unexpected, may also put women at increased psychological risk.

According to the International Caesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), the risks of Caesarean section include:

  • increased risk of maternal death;
  • haemorrhage;
  • infection;
  • damage to internal organs;
  • complications caused by anaesthesia;
  • adhesions;
  • long-term pain;
  • and bladder problems.

Women who undergo caesarean sections may also be subject to increased risk of future reproductive problems including the risk of secondary infertility, scar tissue, uterine rupture, placenta previa (where the placenta is very low lying – covering the cervix) and placenta accreta (when the placenta attaches too deeply into the uterine wall) . Aside from physical risk, ICAN says a Caesarean delivery can increase emotional and psychological complications, such as clinical depression and difficulties with bonding, breastfeeding and family relationships.

The Center for Disease Control has identified caesarean section as a risk factor for the initiation of breastfeeding. Medications and procedures administered to the mother during labour affect the infant’s behaviour at the time of birth, which in turn affects the infant’s ability to suckle in an organized and effective manner at the breast.Breastfeeding has been linked to several life-long health advantages for both mothers and babies. Mothers who give birth by caesarean can initiate, establish and continue breastfeeding particularly if they are encouraged, educated and supported by breastfeeding specialists.

Every childbearing woman is a giver of life, and as such deserves our support, respect, and admiration. Every child is precious no matter how she or he is born. Based on the available information, every woman can decide with her caregiver what best meets her needs.

However, this article is not about all the risks and horrors of caesarean, and neither is it about achieving vaginal birth at all costs. It is intended to provide balanced and truthful information about VBACs allowing parents to make an informed decision about whether it is something they want to pursue. Then to provide support, guidance and encouragement for those that decide a VBAC is what they would like for themselves.

During much of the last century, a woman who had a caesarean section almost always had a planned repeat caesarean and not a VBAC for any births that followed. Doctors were concerned that the scar from the past cut in the uterus could open during labour (uterine rupture), and cause serious complications for mother or infant. The phrase ‘once a Caesar, always a Caesar’ became common, and was believed to be true.

During the last 20-30 years, however, many health professionals, advocates, pregnant women, policy makers and researchers encouraged vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) in light of:

  • a change in location of the uterine cut to an area much less likely to open during a VBAC labour
  • growing body of research establishing the safety of VBAC
  • growing recognition of c-section risks.

Now the pendulum is swinging back from vaginal birth after delivery, with new calls for routine repeat caesareans. This reversal leaves many women with caesarean scars struggling to make sense of conflicting, incomplete, and sometimes misleading information about the safety of VBAC vs. repeat caesarean and about what birth plan to make this time around.

The truth is that unless your previous caesarean was a medical necessity (true in 12-15% of all births) and/or the same or another medically justified condition exists in a subsequent pregnancy, a VBAC is perfectly possible.

Many Doctors however scare parents with horrors stories of the risk of a uterine rupture. Their concern is that multiple caesareans lead to a weaker uterine scar and that risk of rupture is therefore increased. However there is a lack of research evidence to support this theory.

Uterine Rupture risks
The scar from a previous caesarean is strong. While many people fear that the scar will rupture, and cause the death of the Mother and/ or her Child, medical studies have shown that this risk is greatly overstated.

The only way that VBAC differs from other labours is the small increased risk of uterine rupture – about 0.4% (one in 250). The risk of uterine rupture prior to elective repeat caesarean is 0.2%

To put this risk into some perspective, consider that the probability of requiring a caesarean section for other emergency obstetric situations (not related to the previous caesarian section), such as acute foetal distress, cord prolapse or ante partum haemorrhage is up to 30 times higher.

Although women are often told that they can’t have a VBAC for a variety of reasons, there are very few cases where a VBAC is not a real and a reasonable option. The article Caesarean Myths Exploded deals with the issues of VBAC when you are thought to have had CPD (cephalopelvic disproportion – where the baby’s head is believed to be too big to go through your pelvis) and VBAC when you have a non LSCS (Lower Segment Caesarean Scar) such as a classical or a low vertical uterine incision.

There are many reasons women are given for not being able to have a VBAC including having had more than one caesarean (see Can I have a VBAC if I have had two or more caesareans?), having a gap between pregnancies that is considered too short (see How long after a caesarean should I wait before having another baby?), your baby is breech or you are expecting twins, you are too old, too fat; the list is endless.

Really the only reasons that you would need to have a repeat caesarean is if you had a reason in the current pregnancy that would warrant a caesarean even if you had not already had one. Ask your doctor to explain clearly why it is that you NEED to have a caesarean, if that is what you are told. (These reasons include placenta previa, true CPD (rare), toxaemia, positioning of the baby – particularly transverse, but most doctors prefer breech babies to be delivered by caesarean too, severe infant distress or growth retardation etc. The reasons are covered really well in the book Birth After Caesarean by Jenny Lesley.) Remember there are times where a caesarean really is required and is literally life-saving!

Many women are told that if they have already had two or more caesareans, that any future babies will need to be delivered by repeat caesarean. This need not be the case. Loads of women have had VBACs after 2 or 3 caesareans. Some women have even had a VBA3Cs (Vaginal Birth After 3 Caesareans) and at least one who has had a VBA4C; obviously the numbers after 1 or 2 caesareans are much much larger.

Many woman have even had successful VBACs at home, and/or water, however your caregiver may feel more comfortable for you to be in a hospital setting, for peace of mind, that should any intervention be required, it is close at hand.

How can I get a VBAC?

If you are hoping to attempt a VBAC it is important to find a primary caregiver (Doctor/ Gynaecologist/ Mid-wife) who is both supportive and trusting of and also experienced in VBAC deliveries. It is imperative that your caregiver be comfortable and confident in order for you to feel safe and trusting in them and their judgement. You may find that your regular care provider is not prepared to consider a VBAC, so you would then need to search for someone who you can work with.

Once you have a good caregiver, who is happy to work with you towards achieving a VBAC, your pregnancy and labour should progress just like any other. However as with any woman planning a vaginal birth, you will need to prepare yourself for it.

The Preparation
In addition to a supportive caregiver, several factors will increase the odds for a successful vaginal birth after caesarean.

You need to be totally committed to your desire for a VBAC. Read as much as you can on the subject, until you feel comfortable and confident about it. Particularly as you may find many people will try to scare you or discourage you from your decision. Knowledge is your best defence and ammunition here.

Some recommended books are “Silent Knife,” “The VBAC Companion” and “Birth After Cesarean: The Medical Facts.”

Be informed. Take childbirth education classes. The best classes are those that specifically address VBAC and promote birth as a natural process.

Know your rights regarding Informed Consent. Which requires that your caregiver get your consent before performing any procedures and certainly surgeries on you, and your right to refuse these, or ask for reasonable alternatives and/or at least a dialogue about it before hand.

Informed Consent Questions
Here is a list of questions to ask when interventions or unplanned procedures are proposed at any point during your pregnancy or the birth of your child:

  • Is this an emergency or do we have time to talk?
  • What are the benefits of doing this?
  • What are the risks of doing this?
  • If we do this, what other procedures or treatments might we need as a result?
  • What else can we try first or instead?
  • What would happen if we waited before doing this?
  • What would happen if we didn’t do this at all?

Keep your body fit and healthy, by following a healthy diet and lifestyle. Practising yoga is an excellent way to prepare for birth (see the Yoga articles in our archives). Relax and take time to imagine your birth and how you would like it to unfold. Use affirmations (there are some in our resources section) and read positive VBAC stories to inspire you. See some VBAC birth videos if you can (there is at least one example in our lending library ).

Consider hiring a doula, an experienced, knowledgeable woman who believes in your ability to give birth. The more support and positive influence a woman has, the greater her belief in herself and in her body’s ability to birth.

Some women who have had an extremely difficult or frightening prior birth experience or other traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse find that thinking about labour brings up such strong emotions that it interferes with their ability to make decisions. Unresolved issues can interfere with the smooth progress of labour as well. If you feel that you have unresolved emotional issues, you will want to work through them so that they don’t get in your way when planning for or experiencing your next birth. Keeping a journal, talking through the troubling events and your concerns with a friend or relative who is a good listener, or getting peer support from other women with similar experiences may help with this. Getting professional counselling from a competent mental health professional who is well-informed about maternity issues proves very helpful in resolving extremely deep fear and anxiety for many women. Your doula can help you to work through these feelings in preparation for your birth as well.

Consider, too, what you will need during this birth to feel safe and well-cared for. If you were dissatisfied with your previous care, you will want to pinpoint the sources of your dissatisfaction and plan to do things differently this time.

The odds are that you will go on the have a successful and satisfying VBAC. However if at the end of the day even if your VBAC attempt only results in a trial of labour followed by a caesarean birth your baby will still benefit greatly from being born when ready on his actual due date (as determined by the natural onset of labour) and will have benefited from all the good physiological effects of labour.

Furthermore your doula will be able to work with you to plan for the event of a repeat caesarian allowing you to make the experience as pleasant and healing as possible for you. Having a birth experience that is as much like a satisfying vaginal birth as possible and having good pain control after the surgery are keys to a satisfying caesarean birth experience. Discuss these options beforehand even if your birth plan is for VBAC.

  • Participate fully in decisions about the birth: The difficulty or ease of the birth and whether the baby was born vaginally or by caesarean have little to do with how women feel about the birth. Women are most likely to feel satisfied with their births when they feel a sense of accomplishment and personal control and when they have a good relationship with caregivers. A good relationship includes such elements as being treated with kindness and respect, getting good information, and having the opportunity to participate in decisions about care. You should feel free to question your caregiver as and when you feel it is necessary.
  • Keep your partner and any labour companions with you throughout: You can benefit from the support of your partner and any other labour companions during what may be an anxious and stressful time. This is particularly true during preparation for surgery and administration of the epidural or spinal anaesthesia, which many women find more stressful than the surgery itself. Your partner and support team will also have the opportunity to share in moment of birth and to greet the baby.
  • Keep your baby with you after the birth, in skin-to-skin contact: Unless your baby has problems at the birth that require care in the nursery — and few babies do — there is no reason not to keep your baby with you so that you and your partner can enjoy and begin to get to know your baby, and you and your baby can get breastfeeding off to a good start. Skin-to-skin contact can contribute to breastfeeding success and your early relationship.
  • Work with your caregivers to carry out your preferences: For example, you may wish to:
    • videotape the birth or the time just after the birth
    • play the music of your choice
    • not have your arms strapped down
    • have the drape that screens your view of the surgery placed low enough that the baby can be laid on your chest; if your arms are free, you can hold and touch your baby.
    • have a doctor or nurse explain what is happening throughout
    • have the drape lowered or have a mirror at the time of the delivery (your belly will be covered so you will see your baby lifted out of an opening in the sheet)
    • announce or have your partner announce the sex of the baby or be the first to speak to the baby (versus a member of the care team doing these things)
    • take the placenta home (some people bury the placenta and plant a tree or bush over the site; if of interest, bring a sealable container to contain this)
  • Have your baby and your labour companions with you in the recovery area: Holding and breastfeeding your baby soon after delivery helps both you and your baby get started on the right foot and may avoid problems with breastfeeding.
  • Have your partner able to be with your baby in the nursery: This includes the newborn intensive care nursery. If your baby must be separated from you because of concerns about the baby’s health, it will be comforting to know that your partner can provide a reassuring presence and can bring you word of your baby’s condition.
  • Begin drinking and eating again when you feel ready: Access to food and drink when you feel ready will help you feel more normal and can avoid hunger and thirst.
  • Get help with breastfeeding: Breastfeeding can be more difficult right after surgery and while your incision is healing. A knowledgeable person can help you find ways to be more comfortable during breastfeeding sessions. Your partner or others can help with switching sides, burping, and nappy (diaper) changing.

VIDEO CLIPS:

There is a lovely inspirational VBA3C photo video here.

HBAC– This is a very moving birth of a mom who had a medically managed vaginal birth with her first son, followed by a Caesarean birth with her second son. Less than a year later she had a successful home vaginal birth after a Caesarean (VBAC) with twin girls!

Feel free to Contact Us should you require more information on the doula service we can offer to a VBAC mother, as well as those caregivers we know in the Cape Town area who do provide VBAC support.

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* References and information taken from the following sources:
http://www.vbac.com/
http://www.childbirth.org/section/VBACindex.html
http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ck=10212
http://pregnancytoday.com/reference/articles/canvbac.htm
http://www.homebirth.org.uk/vbac.htm
http://www.caesarean.org.uk/

Another great source of matter of fact and easy to digest info is :
Pushed Birth – Previous C-section?

**The term VBAC was first coined and used by Nancy Wainer Cohen author of Silent Knife:Cesarean Prevention & Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. It was chosen as the best book in the field of Health and Medicine by the American Library Association in 1983.

*** Medical disclaimer: Note that this web site is not a substitute for medical advice. The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes, and is not intended as advice or instruction. It is provided to help you to make informed choices for yourself. You should consult your primary care provider regarding your specific medical symptoms or advice. Birth Buddies is not engaged in rendering medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any medical decisions should be made in consultation with your caregiver or other trained medical personnel. We will not be liable for any complications, injuries, loss, or other medical problems arising from, or in connection with, the use of, or reliance upon any information or products on this web site.


Yoga in Pregnancy: Part 2 – Simple Postures

March 8, 2007

Following on from Part 1.

Practising Yoga during pregnancy – Part 2 – Simple Postures

Yoga & PregnancyCompiled by Jane Fraser (Weideman)

This is the second article in a series about yoga in pregnancy.

This article follows on from the first which introduced the idea of Yoga during pregnancy, discussing the benefits of yoga during pregnancy. In this article we start to examine which poses and postures are safe and beneficial to practise during pregnancy, staring with some very simple relaxation movements.

Foreword: As with any exercise program it is best to consult your doctor before beginning. However, with the exception of not lying directly on your back or stomach after the fourth month, and avoiding what doesn’t feel right to you, there is very little yoga that would be a problem during pregnancy.

The practice of yoga encompasses an holistic approach using physical movements (asanas), breathing (pranayama) and relaxation techniques in order to establish a sense of awareness and integration within yourself. This resonates particularly with pregnancy, birth and the time immediately after birth, which are times of change, adjustment and growth on all levels of being. Many of the classical Yoga postures and relaxation procedures seem to be tailor-made for the experience of pregnancy and many others can be adapted to suit individual need.

The following sequence of basic yoga postures can be practised at home by women of normal health who have healthy low-risk pregnancies (i.e. with no complications related to present or past pregnancies.) If you have never done yoga before it may be a good idea to wait until after the first trimester to start doing postures. If you are a seasoned yoga student, you may practise yoga right throughout your pregnancy.

You’ll need a couple of blankets, a yoga mat or towel, two blocks or thick telephone books, and a sturdy chair. Set aside one half to one and a half hours of quiet, uninterrupted time. (Remember to turn off the phone!) Wait one or two hours after a light meal, at least three hours after a heavy meal, before practice. After practice, wait half an hour before eating again.

8 Simple Yoga Movements
This is a simple and basic, and safe set of yoga movements you can try. These are safe and relaxing for anyone, and is a good relaxtion workout.

Try it out — you’ll feel rejuvenated and refreshed after every session.

Pose #1: Neck Roll
What it does: Warms up and stretches the neck
What to do: Sit up tall in a cross-legged position. Inhale. As you exhale, slowly tilt your head to the right until you feel a stretch in your neck. Take three deep breaths while holding the stretch. Then bring your head back to the starting position and do the same on the opposite side. Repeat three times on each side.

Pose #2: Shoulder Roll
What it does: Opens up the chest and back
What to do: Hold your arms out to your sides and place your fingers on your shoulders. Inhale. Bring your elbows forward, then lift them toward the ceiling. Exhale and return to the starting position. Do the same exercise in the opposite direction. Repeat three times.

Pose #3: Calf, Ankle and Foot Stretch
What it does: Loosens feet, ankles and calf muscles, encourages circulation
What to do: Sit up tall on the ground with your legs stretched out in front of you, your legs outstretched, your palms on the floor behind you – or lean back against a wall.

Ankle Bending: Bend your right foot back toward you, creating a right angle to the floor. Exhale as you point your right foot and toes forward and down. Inhaling, bring your foot back in the right angle position. Repeat 10 times. Do the same with your left foot. You can make two rounds of this exercise and after some practice, exercise both foot at the same time.

Ankle Rotation: Breathing freely and slowly, bend your right foot towards you, creating a right angle with the floor. Slowly rotate your foot clockwise for about 10-15 times then reverse it and rotate counterclockwise. Do not allow the knees to move. Repeat twice on the same foot then do the same to your left. After constant practice, you can do this Ankle Rotation Exercise on both feet at the same time.

Pose #4: Cat and Cow Poses
What it does: Increases flexibility and strengthens abs
What to do: Get down on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Inhale and push your pelvis back and down, gazing up at the ceiling. As you exhale, bring your head between your shoulders, round your back, and tuck in your navel. Repeat three times.

Pose #5: Child’s Pose
What it does: Opens up the pelvic area and chest
What to do: Get down on all fours, keeping your knees slightly wider than your hips. Moving slowly, gently rest your bottom between your heels and your forehead on the floor. Arms can be in front of you or at your sides. Repeat as often as you’d like for as long as you’d like. You may move your legs wider apart if it is more comfortable, and can place a pillow under your forehead. You may also chose whether you prefer your arms to lie forward (Eastern Praying Position).

Pose #6: Pelvic Tilt
What it does: Strengthens the muscles in your lower back, buttocks, and abdomen
What to do: This can be performed on the ground or standing against a wall. When lying on the ground with your feet flat you will feel a small curve in the low of your back (the same is felt when standing against a wall). Push your belly button towards the ground or wall, controlling your pelvis. Hold for a count of three and then relax, repeat for 6-15 repetitions. Heavily pregnant women should do this standing against a wall.

Pose #7: Chest Expansion
What it does: Stretches and strengthens the chest and upper back
What to do: From a standing position with legs together (or hip-width apart if more comfortable), interlock fingers and hands behind the back, straightening the arms, standing erect.Breathe in deeply, raise the arms up and back away from the body, drawing the shoulder blades together.Exhaling slowly, bend forward at the hips, keeping the knees slightly bent and the spine straight.Let the face roll forward, keeping the arms straight. Hold this position, breathing comfortably, then begin to come up slowly, inhaling.As an alternative, you can remain standing without bending forward. This asana lubricates and limbers the shoulder joints, upper back muscles and vertebrae. It also expands and stretches the rib cage and lungs which allows fresh blood and energy into the nerves and tissues of the lungs, chest, heart, etc. Repeat as often as you’d like.

Pose #8: Relaxation – Corpse Pose
What it does: Opens up your hip and groin area and helps relieve backaches
What to do: Take a pillow and lay it down lengthwise behind you. Lower yourself onto it so your head rests at the top. Heavily pregnant women should do this sitting up. Lie comfortably on your back on the floor and separate your legs so that your feet are two to three feet apart. Close your eyes. Separate your arms so that each hand is two to three feet from your body with palms facing up. Roll your head from side to side, releasing tension in your neck. Roll your shoulders down and away from your ears. Relax your entire body. Breathe normally. Rest for at least a minute. The Corpse Pose helps you rest and relax your entire body, including your nervous system. It is a great pose to do when you feel stressed out.

Part 3 in this series can be found here it progresses to more advanced postures.

** Medical disclaimer: Note that this web site is not a substitute for medical advice. The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes, and is not intended as advice or instruction. It is provided to help you to make informed choices for yourself. You should consult your primary care provider regarding your specific medical symptoms or advice. Birth Buddies is not engaged in rendering medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any medical decisions should be made in consultation with your caregiver or other trained medical personnel. We will not be liable for any complications, injuries, loss, or other medical problems arising from, or in connection with, the use of, or reliance upon any information or products on this web site.


Video Review: Birth As We Know It

March 4, 2007

Video Review: Birth As We Know It – Conscious Birth
by Jane Fraser (Weideman)

Whether you are already considering a natural birth or if you are undecided about whether you think a Caesarean or natural birth is the choice for you I urge you to watch Birth As We Know It .

Conscious Birth

This is from the Birth As We Know it web site:

“The Sentient Circle has released a ground breaking new film aimed at illuminating future parents on the impacts of conscious conception, pregnancy and birth. In this stunningly beautiful feature titled “Birth As We Know It” (1hr, 15 minutes), Director Elena Tonetti-Vladimirova shares her experiences as one of the co-creators of the “Conscious Birth” movement in Russia during the early 1980’s. It included a very effective birth preparation program which culminated in summer birth-camps at the Black Sea where women gave birth to their babies in warm shallow lagoons.

The movie features eleven natural births, including home birth, water birth, birth of twins, breech delivery and an astounding self-birth by Tanya Sargunas – a world renowned Spiritual Midwife and pioneer of Conscious Birth in Russia. The midwife community calls this film “the most profound and comprehensive guide to conscious birth in the world”, because it delivers a powerful transmission of what it really takes to give birth consciously and gracefully.

Also featured are informative interviews on topics rarely discussed, such as the Sexuality of Childbirth, Circumcision and Limbic Imprinting, and conveys its message in a non-intrusive, wonderfully inspirational way.

In this ground breaking new film featuring 11 births, all completely unique and all natural. This new movie from The Sentient Circle offers all a deeper insight into the nature of birth and leaves viewers in awe of its beauty.”

Giving birth with love and consciousness

Another review:

“Birth As We Know It is a treat for both the heart and mind, comfortably intertwined on a path toward realizing the full potential of birth. A new style of documentary film creates a refreshing arena for the story of Birth to unfold. A triumphant orchestration of stunning cinematography, empowering instrumentation, and a calming narrative, warms our hearts as we are reminded of the beauty of Life, and awakened to the ultimate possibilities of Birth!

BIRTH AS WE KNOW IT was initially a film for pregnant couples…..but adults and children alike are discovering that it is a heart-warming, thought provoking, life enhancing film experience.
“It is a gentle, yet powerful exploration of ourselves – at any age – reminding us of our fragile beginnings, and inspiring in us a new appreciation and understanding for the miracle of life.” …..
“Birth As We Know It is as much for birthing parents as it is for the rest of the world”

Also included on the Special Edition DVD are Additional Scenes and Interviews on unique Birthing Topics, such as:
– The Birth Of The Placenta – After Birth
– Lotus Birth – A Rite Of Passage
– Circumcision – What Every Parent Should Know
Guest Interviews And Reflections On :
– Sexuality and Birth
– Spirituality and Birth
– The Inner-Strength Of Motherhood
– Healing Birth Trauma
– Birth And Nature
– Infancy Without Diapers
– Communication and Bonding
– And More …

TOTALLING WELL OVER 3 HOURS OF VIEWING ENJOYMENT AND FASCINATION FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY – PAST, PRESENT OR FUTURE!

Some of you will embrace this with great relief and joy, others of you may find it too confronting. Personally, this is one of the most comprehensive birth videos you could imagine, all topics covered from conception to all the issues and decisions you will need to face once you have your baby.

This will create great discussion and really get you thinking and feeling in a way that will serve you best. A great compliment to the birth classes you may be doing, but even more valuable! “

Natural Water Birth

You can view the Birth As we Know it trailer here.

This movie can be profoundly and devastatingly moving and deeply emotive to watch. It is likely to bring up a full range of emotions from joy, exhilaration, contentedness, happiness,through to sadness, distress, and even anger.

The section showing the contrast between the peaceful harmonious and natural births and the sterile almost violent and abusive clinical births can be particularly disturbing to watch, especially after viewing a the conscious births. The gentle conscious births make one feel content and warm, but the hospital ones evoke deep emotions and discord – possibly awakening deep-seated limbic memories of our own birth traumas.

This movie is recommended viewing for any pregnant mum (or someone planning on having a baby, or supporting a woman through her birth experience). It provides inspiration and will help you to prepare and to cement and affirm your desires for the birth of your precious baby.

Birth As We Know It

We have limited DVD copies of the Educational Edition available (Cape Town, South Africa). Please Contact Us if you’d like to find out more about these.


The Essence of Motherhood (Aromatherapy)

March 3, 2007

I wrote this article for a South African pregnancy and baby magazine in 2000.

The Essence of Motherhood
~ Aromatherapy for pregnancy, mothers and babies ~

By Jane Fraser (Weideman)

Aromatherapy in Pregnancy

As you begin journeying toward the creation of new life, explore the joys of beautifying and caring for yourself. Pregnancy is a very special time in a woman’s life. It’s a time to nurture and care for the body and mind, for the benefit of yourself, as well as that of your unborn child. A healthy mind and body throughout pregnancy can help to lead to a healthy labour and birth, and therefore a healthy happy baby.

Aromatherapy has been found to be greatly therapeutic during this special time, and can be used on a regular basis throughout the childbearing year to ease discomforts, alleviate emotional stress and maintain health and beauty.

Aromatherapy is the fragrant art of using especially selected aromatic oils for therapeutic purposes. The essential oils are extracted from odiferous plants, roots, seeds, flowers, gums and resins. All of the essential oils have many healing properties. They are mixed into a carrier oil to dilute them and they are absorbed directly into the skin and so into the bloodstream. The most commonly used carrier oils are Sweet Almond Oil or Grape-seed oil.

Pregnancy can bring on discomforts, many of which arise from ordinary fluctuations and bodily changes. Some call for dietary or lifestyle adjustments. Most can be eased with the additional use of essential oils.Discomforts caused by nausea, headaches, morning sickness, haemorrhoids, varicose veins, dilated veins, insomnia, chloasma, acne and stretch marks all respond well to aromatherapy treatment.

Partner massaging pregnant mum.Touch is a profound part of your sensory experience. A daily massage can activate millions of nerve receptors, regulate and balance bodily functions, and send a message of love and care to your baby. Self-massage is one approach; massage by your partner another. Massage is a lovely way for the fathers to be involved in pregnancy and to get to know their babies.

Aromatherapy massage has also proved to greatly reduce the incidence of episiotomies, or tearing when perineal massage has been performed daily in the weeks prior to birth. With daily massages of this sort the perineum is likely to remain highly elastic – and intact – during birth. If tearing does occur swabbing the perineal area with warm water containing lavender oil, will prevent infection, aid healing, and help to stop bleeding.

Aromatherapy is being increasingly endorsed by midwives throughout the world, and is gaining acceptance in hospitals in Europe and the United Kingdom. German midwives are required to study aromatherapy as part of their course curriculum.

Whether you are planning to birth your baby in hospital, at a birthing center, or at home you can incorporate aromatherapy into your birth experience. Plan on creating a magical birthing environment, complete with soft lights, music and your favourite essential oils. Neroli, Nutmeg, Rose, Clary Sage and Geranium can help relieve anxiety and fears you may be harbouring about birth. Breathing in any of these oils as they waft through the air from your diffuser will help you relax between contractions, and stimulate your body to produce endorphins to provide natural pain relief.

Lavender OilLavender can also promote relaxation and pain relief during labour. Once your contractions have established a regular pattern and your cervix has dilated at least 2 centimetres, plan on taking a long lavender soak. Women who bathe for 30 minutes or more during this phase of labour experience improved progress and a significant decrease in the need for drugs. Cool compresses to the forehead can help ward off fatigue and keep you refreshed. If nausea crops up, take a whiff of peppermint or lavender oil.

Aromatherapy Fragrances

The Essential Oils each have their own unique properties, and purposes. It is important to select the correct essential oil based on the required treatment.

Certain Essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy, these are the so called Emmanegoge oils, which encourage and regulate menstruation; these include Basil, Clary Sage, Juniper, Fennel, Camphor, Cypress etc; and Abortifacient oils, which could cause miscarriage; these include Aniseed, Basil, Star Anise, Sweet Birch, Tarragon etc.

It is generally recommended to avoid using Essential Oils during the first trimester, but thereafter it is safe to use those Essential Oils, which are beneficial during pregnancy. These include:

– All the citrus oils (Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange, Lime, Petitgrain, Mandarin, Neroli, Tangerine and Bergamot).
– The exotic oils of Vetivert, Geranium, Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, Chamomile, Pine, Rosewood and Lemongrass.
– Other oils can also be used to treat specific conditions, but only in small amounts and not at all on very sensitive skin. A qualified aromatherapist should prescribe these.

It is recommended to seek the advice of a trained aromatherapist before experimenting with Essential Oils, or use specially blended oils, which have been prepared specifically for pregnancy and labour.

** Medical disclaimer: Note that this web site is not a substitute for medical advice. The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes, and is not intended as advice or instruction. It is provided to help you to make informed choices for yourself. You should consult your primary care provider regarding your specific medical symptoms or advice. Birth Buddies is not engaged in rendering medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any medical decisions should be made in consultation with your caregiver or other trained medical personnel. We will not be liable for any complications, injuries, loss, or other medical problems arising from, or in connection with, the use of, or reliance upon any information or products on this web site.


Natural Ways to Induce Labour

March 1, 2007

Natural Ways to Induce Labour
(Based on an article by Lisa Rodriguez, R.N. and Marjorie Greenfield, M.D. – edited and extended by Jane Fraser.)

As you near the end of your pregnancy, you may be ready for the entire process of carrying your baby to be over. You’ll be eager to start a whole new phase of life and finally actually meet your little miracle! But you might wonder: When is it safe to try to naturally induce labour, and how would you go about accomplishing that?

Here are some things to think about as you approach your estimated due date. Babies have their own calendar. As much as we would like to naturally induce labour as soon as “we” are ready, labour starts often unpredictably and sometimes later than what mothers would like for their own comfort. Babies will come at 38 weeks and other times will need 42 weeks. Technically you are not overdue or what is called “postdates” until 42 weeks. However, today it is more common to hear from providers that you are “overdue” even if your due date was yesterday!

So in essence, your due date is only a very rough target; which is why it is referred to as an EDD – estimated due date. Your own baby will likely come within a period of four weeks between 38-42 weeks. Only about 3-5% of women actually give birth on their due date not to mention that the majority of women don’t go into labour until after their estimated due date!

Rushing the last few weeks does not help you or baby. Studies have shown that if your body is not ready for labour, (i.e. cervix unripe- not dilated or effaced) and you have an induction with pitocin, you will either have a very long labour or a much greater chance of a caesarean.

So it is important to note that you shouldn’t even consider trying to begin your labour until you are at least around 40 weeks pregnant, or already overdue. That’s because your due date is only an estimate and could be inaccurate by a few weeks, so if you start your labour before 40 weeks, you might give birth to the baby before he is ready to thrive outside the womb.**

Several things can be done that might make you have contractions and kick-start your labour – but they’ll only work if your body is ready. If your body isn’t prepared to go into labour, you can try as much as your heart desires, but you will only frustrate yourself.

Please use caution when trying any of these natural methods to begin your labour, else the uterus can become hyperstimulated, meaning that it’ll get too little rest between contractions.

Visualisation
First and foremost find time to rest, relax and meditate. Connect with your baby. Make sure you feel safe and mentally, physically and emotionally ready for labour to begin. If and when you do feel ready, communicate this with your baby, either in thoughts and feelings or even verbalising it out loud. Don’t underestimate the (blocking) power of the subconscious here. Consciously surrender and give consent to yourself the universe (or whatever you believe in, and prefer) to allow the journey to begin. You could also try reading and pondering some Affirmations and Quotes to help you to prepare.

Walk
If you are having contractions but are not yet in labour, walking can help get things going. Walking allows your hips to sway side to side, which will help bring the baby into position to be born. Also, by standing upright, you’re using gravity to move the baby down into the pelvis. Another plus: It usually feels good to walk when you are contracting. And of course, even if you don’t go into full-blown labour, at least you’re getting some exercise.

Dance
Also try ‘slow-dancing’ and belly-dancing type movements. Swivel, rotate and sway your hips from side to side. Visualise the swirling of a galaxy, and the funnelling of a hurricane. Allow your focus and energy to channel inwards and and down culminating in your cervix. Doing this helps to aid gravity and can help baby to move lower into the pelvis and to to start applying pressure on the cervix which is needed to get labour established. You can make this an intimate and bonding sensual experience; possibly include candles, music, aromatherapy and massage etc. Mum & Dad sharing a sensual momentMake sure you feel safe and relaxed. This can follow on from the mediation and lead into the next suggestion. Feelings of love, safety and well-being will result in your brain releasing Oxytocin – which is the main hormone responsible in and required for labour and which makes the uterus contract. This only happens when you are relaxed and not overloaded with adrenalin and fear.

Sex
Making love can be one of the last things on a woman’s mind toward the end of her pregnancy. She probably feels clumsy and big and may be experiencing a lot of vaginal pressure. But sex is one of the main things you can do to get your labour under way. When you and your partner make love, his semen (which contains prostaglandins) can stimulate contractions. (The gel used in inductions is a prostagladin gel, so it is certainly worth trying this before going in for a medical induction). At the very least the semen will help to soften and ‘ripen’ the cervix, and every bit of progress helps. An added bonus will be if the mum can reach orgasm too. As the regular, rhythmical contractions brought on by orgasm combined with a prostaglandin may very well kick-start labour, and certainly will cause progress at the very least even if it does not result in sustained contractions.

Castor oil
For decades, women have been using castor oil to help induce labour. In fact, many old school physicians and midwives swear by it. It can provide good results if you are already in early labour. It is believed to work by causing spasms in the intestines, which surround the uterus toward the end of pregnancy. These spasms, in turn, cause the uterus to cramp, which might result in labour.

You can take 30 – 80 ml of castor oil mixed with 100 -200ml of orange juice to cut its oiliness. You’ll want to drink it quickly because of the unpleasant taste. Some practitioners suggest taking a single dose; others suggest repeated doses depending on your response. Keep in mind that castor oil usually will cause your bowels to empty within about three hours. With luck, soon after that, you will be in true labour. Warning castor oil is not only unpleasant to drink (do drink it mixed with orange juice if you really want to try this!) but it also results in near immediate diarrhoea. (Ed: I tried this at a week over due with my first son, it did give stomach cramps and diarrhoea, and emptied the bowels nicely, but no labour. Thankfully. You actually wouldn’t want to be in labour with that much bowel action – but it is a good clean out in preparation for labour.)

Mum and Dad waiting for babySpicy food
Some people swear that it was that extra-hot enchilada from their favourite Mexican restaurant that brought them face to face with their new baby. Unfortunately, the statistics are out on this one. You could try it, but if you have a full stomach when you are in labour, you might vomit and see that enchilada again–in less-than-appetizing circumstances.

Nipple stimulation
Some women massage their nipples as a way to induce labour. This stimulation brings about the release of oxytocin, which is the natural form of pitocin. Oxytocin causes contractions, which sometimes evolve into labour.

Most practitioners are not enthusiastic about this method of inducing labour, because it has been known to lead to excessively long, strong uterine contractions sometimes resulting in foetal heart rate slowing. Unless your practitioner advises it and is monitoring your progress closely, nipple stimulation is not always recommended as a means for beginning labour.

Stripping the membranes
Your practitioner may offer to “strip your membranes” to help start your labour. This procedure usually feels like a vaginal examination, although it sometimes can be painful or cause cramping. The practitioner places her gloved finger through the cervix and sweeps the amniotic membranes free of their attachment to the lower part of the uterine cavity. This process is believed to release hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which help to ready your body for labour.

While some experts believe that stripping the membranes causes you to go into labour that day, the only research on this procedure was done by a group of midwives who stripped the membranes of a group of their patients at every visit to the office after 38 weeks gestation. Their findings showed that patients who had this procedure were less likely to go past their due dates. According to the study, the procedure didn’t seem to pose any complications and didn’t cause the patients’ waters to break.

Reflexology
Many people swear by this one. There are reflexology points behind the ankle (about 4 inches above the ankle bone), on the roof of the mouth sucking a spherical lolly-pop stimulates this one) and in the webbing between thumb and forefinger (the muscle just in front of the bony joint). When stimulated correctly people claim to go into labour within hours and have short and simple labour and births. (Ed: I know several people who have tried this successfully.).

Factors of success
Many of these natural labour-inducing approaches can be effective if your body is ready to deliver your baby. To be successful, most of these techniques require you to be having contractions or perhaps in early labour.

Don’t worry, though–whether one of these measures works or your body still needs more time, your little one will be joining your family soon. Try to be patient; you’ll have a lifetime together when he finally does arrive.

** Medical disclaimer: Note that this web site is not a substitute for medical advice. The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes, and is not intended as advice or instruction. It is provided to help you to make informed choices for yourself. You should consult your primary care provider regarding your specific medical symptoms or advice. Birth Buddies is not engaged in rendering medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any medical decisions should be made in consultation with your caregiver or other trained medical personnel. We will not be liable for any complications, injuries, loss, or other medical problems arising from, or in connection with, the use of, or reliance upon any information or products on this web site.