by Jessica Harper – BSc., E-RYT500, RPYT
Along with navigating changes in their bodies and the discomforts that come with them, pregnant students come to prenatal yoga classes to help them prepare for labor and childbirth. While there is no magical pose to make things better, prenatal yoga can certainly help support a pregnant person during their labor and childbirth. Prenatal yoga benefits baby too because of the movement and increase in well-being of the pregnant person. There is also an opportunity to stop and stay present and connected with their baby.
Prenatal yoga teaches us to make that mind, body, and breath connection. We notice how we breathe, the length of our breath, and how the breath feels. Our breath helps us to navigate things that are challenging and is the number one tool to help in labor and birth. Pregnant students need the right tools to help calm the nervous system so their bodies go into thrive mode, where the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in. The breathing techniques that are learned in class are often the number one thing students come back to tell me were the most helpful. To establish good breathing habits, we include poses that focus on improving posture, opening up the chest, shoulders and neck. Practicing these poses helps to optimize breathing patterns for pregnancy and labor.
While breathing through labor and childbirth is essential, yoga also increases strength throughout the body to help prepare for the demands of labor. The majority of postures we do in classes focus on the legs, hips, and glutes. Prenatal yoga also focuses on opening the pelvis. While concentration is on creating stability and strength throughout a pregnant person’s practice, making space in the hips and pelvic region helps baby find better positioning and can ease the transition for baby during labor and childbirth. Contrary to popular belief and what you see in the movies, childbirth does not always happen lying on your back. People in labor are usually walking, squatting, standing and supporting themselves on their hands and knees. Practicing these poses that help to increase strength within those specific areas of the body can help support the pregnant person when they are changing positions during labor and childbirth. Below are poses that can be practiced during pregnancy and while in the delivery room to help the body feel supported, stable and strong for labor and childbirth.
Preparing for Birth:
To establish good breathing habits, we include poses that focus on improving posture, opening up the chest, shoulders and neck. Practicing these poses helps to optimize breathing patterns for pregnancy and labor. "
Prenatal yoga also teaches the student how to be more confident in themselves and trusting that their body is strong enough to handle the demands of the labor process. This is often done through mindful movement, meditation/birth visualizations, birth mantras and breathing practices. These tools will help the pregnant person learn to trust the process when things become overwhelming and difficult. Prenatal yoga offers the opportunity to make that mind-body connection, listen to how the body wants to move and become aware of how strong the body is. Prenatal yoga can be a very empowering practice for the pregnant person and the confidence students build can directly translate to their labor and childbirth experience. Below are examples of meditation/birth visualizations and birth mantras a pregnant person can use during their labor to help ease the mind and body for childbirth.
Seated Meditation/Birth Visualization:
I hope this blog post was helpful and can bring you peace of mind during your pregnancy journey. Namaste!
I’ve been asked this numerous numerous times. What does a doula do? Why do I need a doula? What can a doula do that my husband or mom or best friend or sister can’t? I plan on an epidural anyway, doulas are only for unmedicated homebirths.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but I’ll do my best.
Think about childbirth before the medical revolution in this country. Before everyone went to the hospital to give birth, where and how did women birth? First of all, families were immersed in life-giving from young ages. If you had little brothers or sisters, you more than likely watched them come into the world. If you didn’t, you undoubtedly had a cousin or friend who you watched give birth at some point in your life. You already knew the power, the innate intricacies of childbirth, because it was done at home, with healers or doctors, and only in extreme cases ended in a hospital stay (if there was even a hospital close enough). So when it came time for a woman to have a baby, she was already well versed in what it looked like and smelled like and sounded like. We are well-separated from birth nowadays. Until I gave birth I had no clue what birth looked like. I read birth stories ravenously, but had no real idea of how it looked and felt.
So for me, becoming a birth doula and working in this way reignites this option for parents. I am a trained companion, not a healthcare professional, who supports my clients through their labors and births. The role of a doula is to complement healthcare professionals. Medicalized birth in modern society has made birth very one-sided and sterile. A birth doula’s role is to bring the family element back into the room so that a birthing family can have a well-rounded experience. We are there to help our clients cope, to hold hands with them, educate them on their options and make sure they feel like they have a voice in the process. This is a life-altering experience they are going through. An analogy I like is this: while you might go on an overseas trip alone without having any clue how to get through it, you would most likely have a better time if you had a guide. A doula is a well-trained guide.
A birth doula’s role is to bring the family element back into the room so that a birthing family can have a well-rounded experience.”
So let’s start with what a doula does. Let’s start at the beginning. A doula meets with you in your pregnancy and starts giving you information so you can educate yourself on the process of labor and childbirth and postpartum. We have so many resources and have honed our referral lists and contacts in this aspect of life.
I remember being very overwhelmed with questions when I first became pregnant. Who should I see for chiropractic care? Where should I order my breastpump? Are there support groups? How many stretch marks are normal? Oh my gosh, how much nausea could possibly be normal? Which prenatal vitamin is best? These are all questions I’ve been asked and been able to help with. Our job as doulas is to have these resources ready to go for you to help you navigate your pregnancy.
I like to meet with clients at least twice in their pregnancy to help answer some questions and get my families thinking about what they would like their birth to look like and how I can help support them to achieve that goal. Once we have signed a contract and the final payment is made, I go on call for my clients. This is generally 2 weeks before their due date. On call means they have their own (very loud) ringtone on my phone, and my phone never goes on silent. I am available for whenever labor may start. Once labor begins, we determine when the family needs some extra support and I come help with labor. Depending on the person, this can be either at the client’s house or I meet them at their birthing place. From here on out, I stay with the family until baby comes. Once baby comes, I stay for an hour or two after the birth to make sure everyone is feeling okay, and then I leave the family inpeace to digest what they just went through. I text or call over the next few days, and at 2 weeks postpartum I come by for a home visit to check in on the family and our client/doula relationship is over. But I run a support group for parents in the area, and luckily I get to talk to and see my clients and members of the community there. It is lovely to go from working for someone to being their friend and watching their baby grow.
Why do I need a doula? There’s a few reasons. Here is an article I like to refer to when talking about doula care and why it’s beneficial:
They have done many many studies that have shown that having a doula can lead to better outcomes in a labor and birth situation. There are absolutely no negative consequences in any study for continuous labor support with a doula.
I truly can not write anything more comprehensive or helpful than Evidence Based Birth, so I would highly recommend you at least skim through that article. I am quoting directly from that page here but it lays out the very basic reasons hiring a doula is beneficial:
“Of all the ways birth outcomes could be improved, continuous labor support seems like one of the most important and basic needs for birthing people. Providing labor support to birthing people is both risk-free and highly effective. Evidence shows that continuous support can decrease the risk of Cesarean, the use of medications for pain relief, and the risk of a low five minute Apgar score. Labor support also increases satisfaction and the chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth. Continuous support may also shorten labor and decrease the use of Pitocin. Although continuous support can also be offered by birth partners, midwives, nurses, or even some physicians, research has shown that with some outcomes, doulas have a stronger effect than other types of support persons. As such, doulas should be viewed by both parents and providers as a valuable, evidence-based member of the birth care team.”
So, following from that, I’d like to answer the next question I laid out: What can a doula do that my husband or mom or best friend or sister can’t? And this one is quite simple, really. We can be objective. While we are emotionally engaged and invested in you as a person, we are not related to you or connected as strongly as a friend or family member. It allows us some neutrality when it comes to communication as well as strength even when seeing you uncomfortable or vulnerable. A friend or family member may also not be familiar with the emotional intensity, or the sensory experience that come with the birthing process. This may hinder them from being able to provide their undivided attention. There is also the fact that we are professionally educated on the risks, benefits, and implementation of birthing routines and interventions as well as helpful techniques for birth positioning and comfort measures. In other words, this is our job. We do this all the time. It is a magical job that we do not take on lightly, but it is still work for us. We have seen it before. We don’t care if you poop on the table. We know how to calm you down or squeeze your hips in the right way, or where exactly to put a cold cloth to help with your back pain. We have dedicated our lives to this art, and we are dedicated to helping you.
The last point I set out in the opening paragraph is something I’ve heard a lot and I’d like to comment on it. For a reminder, this is what I wrote: I plan on an epidural anyway, doulas are only for unmedicated homebirths.
Doulas are for everyone.
Let me say that again.
Doulas are for EVERY. ONE.
We are trained to help with any situation. You want an epidural? Bet. Let’s get you on that peanut ball and keep things rolling and get you some ice chips. You want an elective cesarean? Awesome, I have some great suggestions for how to get through that first poop and I know the hospitals in the area that will allow a clear drape and immediate skin to skin. You want a waterbirth? That’s amazing, I know the place for you. We have the resources and the training to get your best birth. Even if everything goes completely sideways, we will be there to emotionally support you and make sure that your voice is heard.
So you’ve made the choice to have a doula, that’s great! How do you find one? There’s a few ways. I would start with a google search. See if you like anybody that shows up in the search and set up a consultation. Ask your friends. Odds are someone has had an experience with doulas. But here’s the biggest tip I have: interview a few doulas. Check in with a couple of us. Make sure that you vibe with the person who will be supporting you through your labor and childbirth. I promise I won’t be offended if you tell me you’re meeting a few doulas. I just want you to have the best experience, because it is such a paradigm shift in your life. Make sure your doula is trained and certified with a reputable agency, and ask them questions.
I hope this information was helpful. I plan to write something up about postpartum doula work and how that works soon. I’m always available for any other questions!
by Lindsay Loring, sleep consultant
Congratulations on your new baby! You’ve navigated your fertility journey, nourished your body for 9-months and had a successful birth. You did it!
I wish I could tell you that the hard part is over!
But, try not to worry. As a certified pediatric sleep consultant and a Mama to twins, I’m here to tell you that it will get better and you will sleep again.
What to Expect
As a first time Mom to twins, I was blind-sided by the sheer exhaustion and anxiety I felt just moments after giving birth. To my dismay, those feelings did not go away; they only got worse. But that is my personal experience and everyone’s story looks different. I think it’s important to keep the discussion of postpartum depression open and honest. In addition, knowing the effects of sleep deprivation on PPD has fueled my passion for helping families get better sleep.
In the days and weeks after birth, your sole duty is to take care of yourself and your new child. Everything else can wait. Order food, ask family for help and let the laundry pile up. Take the time to bond with your child, but also, it’s okay if it doesn’t feel like a natural journey for you. Speaking from experience, it was actually quite hard to establish a bond with my daughters. But nearly 3-years later, we are closer than ever. Give yourself grace and time to heal. If you feel feelings that do not seem right to you, contact your OBGYN immediately.
Newborn sleep is erratic, and they need TONS of it. But that doesn’t mean you will be getting tons of sleep yourself. Their sleep periods are unpredictable and often their days and nights are confused. Which means, parties at 3AM for hours, and it will only take a few days for your sleep deprivation to set in. Knowing this, I want to talk about what you CAN do to optimize sleep for you and your baby.
But first, I want to always talk about safety.
You may remember setting up your baby registry, and within a day or less you were seeing advertisements for every baby contraption on the market claiming to “help your baby sleep through the night”. What we don’t know as first time parents is the misinformation and harm that some of these products can be responsible for. Graco Rock N’ Play is a prime example. They reported 32 infant deaths over a 7-year period related to the incline sleeper and its improper use.
Where can my baby sleep?
When sleeping unsupervised your baby must be in a sleep space designated as a “crib,” “bassinet,” or “playard” (more commonly known as a Pack n Play.) Be sure to look for these words when you’re shopping!
Products that sound similar or Add-ons that are marketed as amazing sleep miracles (like the Dock A Tot or the once popular Rock N Play) will be labeled as a sleeper and even be visually appealing in their ads. You will see a photo of a shabby chic nursery with eye appealing colors and trends, but if you look closer you will see things like, crib bumpers, incline sleepers, blankets, mobiles, pillows, etc. Be sure to check the fine print. If it’s not one of the 3 items mentioned above, it will clearly say on the product DO NOT USE WHILE UNSUPERVISED.
The AAP has made it simple when it comes to safe sleep. Just remember, ABC= Alone, back, crib or bassinet.
That means no bumpers, no blankets, pillows, loose clothing or stuffed animals. It’s actually quite hard to find photos of safe sleep environments on social media because it appears “cold” or “not inviting”. There is a reason this environment is recommend as pairing these environments with placing baby on their back has reduced SUIDS occurrences as much as 40%.
But hey, I wasn’t perfect. I made some questionable decisions because I was so tired. My husband had to sit me down one morning and make me promise I wouldn’t lay in bed with our 4-week old who was lost somewhere between my arm and my pillow. We vowed to make changes from that day forward, and at 9-weeks we had moved our twins into their room and at 14-weeks I felt comfortable with gentle sleep training.
How long do newborns sleep?
Your baby will sleep 15-18 hours in a 24-hour period. They will need to return to sleep after about 45-minutes to 1 hour. So realistically, your baby will wake, eat, have their diaper changed and be ready to sleep again.
Back is best
If you are wondering if a newborn can sleep on their side, the answer is No. Studies have found that the number one risk reduction factor in safe sleep is placing babies on their back to fall asleep. This should be done each time a baby is being put down for a nap or bedtime. Many babies do not prefer sleeping on their back, which can make this one of the most difficult safety guidelines for new parents to follow. Your baby is used to sleeping in the fetal position, likely on stomach or side while in utero, so sleeping on their back takes practice. The good news is swaddling helps this transition.
There are plenty of different swaddles on the market. My biggest piece of advice here is to be sure it fits very snug with arms down. A common misconception with the swaddle is parents think their baby hates it. Generally speaking, this happens when baby is over tired and parents are having a hard time triggering the calming reflex. Swaddling, in addition to white noise and jiggling can work to calm your fussy child. Transition your baby out of the swaddle at first signs of rolling.
Can my baby sleep in the carseat?
This is important! Yes, falling asleep in the car will happen. It mimics the womb and will soothe your baby almost instantly. Double check that your seat is properly installed, and the harnesses and straps are being used properly. Don’t add any aftermarket pillows or accessories to increase comfort because they could be hazardous.
However, taking the car seat out of your vehicle and placing it on a flat surface is not considered safe. It changes the angle at which your baby’s neck is positioned and can bring their chin too far forward to their chest, blocking their airway.
Want to bedshare?
I recommend using a co-sleeper bassinet that opens up to your bedside or use a crib with one side removed., that is side-cared to your bed. Place your baby in your bed for a feeding and then move them back to their own space to sleep.
How can I reduce risk?
You’ve told me a ton of things I can’t do…What can I do in the beginning?
My newborn guide is perfect for first and even second time parents. In the guide, I’ve laid out actionable techniques and things you can do to help soothe your baby and prioritize sleep. I tell you what to expect so that you aren’t constantly questioning what is going on, which in turn decreases your anxiety and your baby’s fussiness. Shop my newborn guide here.
In addition, the 5 S’s invented by Dr. Harvey Karp is where you want to start. When done right and with intention, you can calm your fussy baby and achieve sleep easier. Triggering your baby’s calming reflex is your end goal. The 5 S’s will help you do that.
The first 3 months of your child’s life will be full of ‘firsts’ and many sleepless nights, but it’s never too soon to create a routine and environment that is conducive to sleep. Implementing a quick bedtime routine along with the soothing techniques I mentioned above will help you lay a path to better sleep.
AUTHOR BIO: Lindsay Loring is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and owner of Tweet Dreamzz. Lindsay is certified through The Family Sleep Institute and has completed studies in baby and toddler sleep, as well as breastfeeding support and SIDS Awareness. You can find Lindsay providing expert sleep tips on her social media accounts and she hosts a FREE Q & A session every Friday.
Sleep is a passion of Lindsay's, and she truly believes it makes up the groundwork of a family's dynamic. Through her personalized coaching, Lindsay designs plans that will ensure the success of the child according to the family's goals. To learn more about Lindsay, visit her at: www.tweetdreamzz.com.