Having recently given birth for the second time – I have a good list of all the things you should do to prepare your body and mind for labour and birth. Here are my top-five favourite labour preparation activities:
So my favourite exercise to do whilst pregnant was my favourite exercise to do when not pregnant too: swimming and yoga. Prenatal yoga is amazing – it gives you loads of fab practical techniques for your body and breath to use in labour. I’m loved going to Tessa’s fab classes It was also lovely me time that I used to calm my mind, stretch and spend some quality time with bump (or pecan as he was called – our first daughter was peanut so we thought we’d stick to the nut family). Also, like swimming, yoga is gentle exercise and really meditative so I always left feeling calmer and more focused.
Exercise has so many benefits when you’re pregnant too: it helps boost your energy levels as it strengthens your cardiovascular system, so you don’t tire as easily. But it also means that when it gets to bedtime you’ll sleep better because you’ll be more naturally tired.
Regular exercise stretches and strengthens your muscles, which will help you cope better with any pregnancy discomfort and means your body will be well-prepared for giving birth. Yoga and stretching eases back pain, walking improves your circulation, and swimming can strengthen your abdominal muscles.
I don’t know about you but I was starving for the majority of my second pregnancy and I think the only craving I had this time was for chocolate (Easter was a very happy time for me). However I did balance out all that indulgence with lots of lovely fruit and veg.
Smoothies are fab – you can even buy frozen fruit smoothie mixes from the supermarket to make it easier. My current fave? Kiwi, kale spinach and mango – it’s delicious (and I’m not a fan of kale normally). Just add apple juice, almond milk or water for a nice cold drink.
If you’ve been to one of my classes you will have sampled my coconut, date and almond balls. They are deceptively easy to make and taste naughty even though they’re very good for you.
There’s some fascinating research that shows that what we eat when pregnant affects our baby’s tastebuds This TED talk is amazing- I know my daughter has always loved grapefruit (quite a strong flavour) and peanut butter and they are the two foodstuffs I ate most during my first pregnancy.
It’s so important in pregnancy to listen to your body and eat little and often. I found that during my first trimester, often the times I felt most sick were also the times I was the hungriest – if I hadn’t eaten for a while I would feel naseaus. So I started carrying snacks and a bottle of water with at all times.
So this is definitely one of my favourites on this list. And you should never feel guilty about taking time out to rest or relax, because not only is it good for you, it’s good for baby too. When you relax you release endorphins and baby gets these too. Also your muscles relax a little, so often you’ll find that when you’re relaxed baby will move around like crazy – which is often the opposite of what people expect to happen.
All those extra kicks show how much your baby is enjoying the relaxation time and is a lovely way for you to bond with your baby.
Relaxation means different things to different people, some people prefer to rest in a lovely, soothing bath with lots of bubbles, scented candles and nice soft music (aaah, bliss). While others prefer to be more active: cooking, gardening or going for a beautiful walk in the countryside.
Basically you don’t need to be still or have an empty mind to be relaxed. It’s the emotional relaxation you want – so instead of feeling panicked or like your mind is racing and you have loads of thoughts racing round your head, you are calm and focused – on the views, on the warmth of the bath, on feeling at peace. And this my friend, is important. You see when you’re in labour you’ll want to move, chat and see what’s going on, but you want to do this whilst feeling calm and relaxed.
Knowledge is power. You wouldn’t go into an exam knowing nothing about the subject you were being tested on. You wouldn’t turn up to your driving test without knowing how to drive a car. When you’re prepared for something you feel prepared, right? And when you feel prepared you feel confident.
Sometimes, when people are afraid of birth they think it’s better to bury their heads in the sand and just get through it on the day. I get it – it’s not hard to understand why they’d think this. But, the more informed and knowledgable you and your birth partner are about the birth process, your options and your rights, and the more practical techniques you have to use on the day, the more empowered and in control you’ll feel – simple!
Going to your local positive birth group is a great idea, you get to meet lovely mums-to-be and birth practitioners and if you’re interested in a home birth then your local home birth support group – Reading is lucky enough to have two – is another fantastic resource. You will hear other people’s homebirth stories and get tips, advice and cake!
Preparing your mind and body
So many people who have done Wise Hippo hypnobirthing or another hypnobirthing course will say that it was the best decision they made during pregnancy, or just flat-out the best decision they’ve ever made!
I know that’s how I felt about the investment I made in my first pregnancy. Not only does it give you all the information, knowledge and confidence you need in preparation for birth, it also gives you practical techniques you can use to relax during pregnancy, birth and beyond.
You learn how to breathe during labour, you learn visualisation techniques to help you stay calm and relaxed and you learn ways to physically prepare for labour too – it’s the full package. It’s also a complete antenatal course, so you don’t need to do anything else.
Plus the relaxation techniques you learn help long after baby is born as lots of them are helpful in any stressful situation.