You may have heard about some of the benefits of prenatal yoga during pregnancy, but did you know that those benefits can extend into labour? When I have the opportunity to chat with someone who has taken my prenatal yoga classes and then given birth, I often hear that this technique or that technique from class were able to be used during labour to help with pain management, emotions, stress and more. This is part of what prompted me to become a doula, and it also reaffirmed how valuable prenatal preparation for birth is. Here are some of the ways that prenatal yoga specifically can help prepare you for labour and delivery:
Yoga teaches us to be patient and to focus on the “now”
Labour is very unpredictable, and it can be easy to slip into a pattern of wondering and anxiety about all of the unknowns. Having a solid practice of present awareness can help train you to keep your thoughts focused on what you are experiencing at the moment, and not on worries about what will happen and when it will happen.
Control of breath has been shown to aid with pain management
A recent article from Evidence Based Birth indicates that “electroencephalography (EEG) studies on… abdominal breathing have found that even just a few minutes of using this type of breathing alters your brainwaves in a positive way, increases your relaxation response, decreases your stress hormones, decreases your blood pressure, and increases your oxygen levels.” The article also concluded that when used in combination with other non-medical interventions such as imagery or guided meditation breath work is a highly effective method of pain management. We practice breath awareness as well as guided meditation and body scanning in prenatal yoga classes, and I have hear time and again that students have made use of these techniques during labour and have found that it really helped them to deal with the realities of childbirth.
Some of the movements we practice can be used as labour positions
Many great labour positions are positions that we don’t typically use on a day-to-day basis in Western society. In order for them to be comfortable during labour, it is a good idea to practice them ahead of time to get used to them. While sharing poses and movements in class I try to give helpful information about other times and places that they could be used, how to practice them at home, and alternates to the props that are available in the studio. My hope is that with practice, these positions will feel natural and comfortable when they are most needed.
A supportive environment
Prenatal yoga is a great place to connect with other expectant moms. Creating a community for yourself can help you feel more prepared for labour, delivery and the postpartum period. Over the years, I have seen many friendships blossom in class, and continue on long after classes have ended. Sharing experiences and learning from those who have been through something similar is a wonderful way to feel connected and supported.
New classes are starting up all the time. Check out this page for more information about upcoming prenatal yoga sessions.