Pregnancy yoga; training your birthing partner for labour is all about creating a tool box for the special day. A tool box of birthing positions, massage and relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, affirmations, visualizations and strategies that your birthing partner can use to help support you, the mother during labour and birth, to help induce a labour of love.
To understand the role of the birthing partner and how their role has an direct effect on the mothers experience, it is important to have a basic understanding of the physiological changes taking place to the mother during labour, so that the natural process of giving birth is not disturbed.
Giving birth is a hormonal experience, a cocktail of hormones are released during the birthing process. The main three being oxytocin, endorphin and adrenaline, and each of these have their own specific role within the process.
Oxytocin, known as the love-making hormone, is naturally released in both men and women during love making, during orgasm. During pregnancy the release of this hormone steadily increases. It is responsible for stimulating the powerful muscular contractions of the uterus and the cervix, levels rapidly increase during labour and peaking until after the delivery of the placenta when levels significantly drop. This hormone works in conjunction with other hormones known as endorphins.
Endorphins are naturally pain-relieving hormones, so the more they are able to be released during the birth process, the more they can help to ease discomfort. Raising steadily during pregnancy these hormones peak at the stage of transition, the stage just before the baby is born. These hormones are also known as the ecstatic hormones, giving us a feeling of an ‘altered state of consciousness.’ A woman’s body is designed to give birth during this trance like state. Staying at steady levels these hormones are thought to play a big part in the bonding process of mother- and -baby. Dropping sharply 2 weeks post-birth it is considered they may play a role in postpartum blues.
To help keep the mother in an alert and awakened state to give birth, the hormone adrenaline is naturally released just before transition. Known as the flight/fight hormone, this hormone helps prepare the woman for the imminent birth of her baby. It is during this stage however, when a mother may begin to lose her way and start to panic. At this stage her birthing partner can use breathing, visualization and positive thought techniques to help her remain centred, calm and focussed. Immediately after birth the levels of adrenaline plummet and the body may go into a state of shock and shake uncontrollably.
Although the release of adrenaline in during this stage of labour is useful, it can have a negative effect on the production of the oxytocin and endorphins if it is released in early labour and therefore the natural process of giving birth is disturbed. Adrenaline also is known to deplete the supply of oxygen from the uterus, causing the smooth rhythmical muscular contractual action of the uterus to be disrupted which in turns leads to an increased level of discomfort. The mother in turn may become more fearful and fretful, thus leading to a spiral of ever increasing discomfort fear and a painful labour.
Giving birth is a spiritual experience if we can learn to listen to our instincts, trust, have faith and surrender to the occasion and the practice of yoga and meditation during our pregnancy can help us to do this. By carrying these gifts with us into labour and with support from our birthing partners to help the natural release of these hormones we can open ourselves up to experience a labour of love and have a happy birthday.
To help stimulate the production of the love-making hormone, oxytocin we should consider the environment, privacy, a feeling of safety, being relaxed, in the moment, undisturbed, safe, not rushed, tenderness, warm, in control, gentleness, a sense of togetherness.
So think about how you and your birthing partner can create these same feelings and emotions during labour.
Dim the lights, light some candles or use fake candles, soft, calm music, use aromatherapy smells, let your birthing partner massage and limit the number of people who come into the room. As a birthing partner keep the mother safe and comfortable, stay with her, practice using phrases and positive words, use visualizations. Keep calm yourself, practice breathing together, keep moving, change positions and who knows you may find yourself having an orgasmic birth.