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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Why You Should Learn to Relax in Pregnancy

photo by Rachel Ollier - PBY

Relaxation is so important to support you and your baby. We're not usually taught to relax, for some of us it's fairly easy to stop and chill out. For others it's really hard. Pregnancy may also bring additional challenges of physical discomforts and new worries as you navigate your pregnancy, labour and birth. Relaxation can be a challenge. When we relax we support our parasympathetic nervous system, the side of our nervous system that dials down stress, anxiety and busy-ness. When we release tensions through the body we immediately feel better and this also helps to signal the mind to become more relaxed as well. When we relax, our heart rate slows and our breathing becomes more easeful.

Your baby feels everything that happens in your body. Tension and tightness, release and relaxation. A calm and relaxed body signals to your baby that all is well, they are safe and secure.

Ways to relax: 1. A calm activity that you enjoy - a walk in nature, a relaxing TV or radio programme, listening to your favourite music. 2. Touch - a cuddle or hug with a loved one or a wonderful pregnancy massage. 3. Get into water - a warm bath, gentle shower, gentle swimming. 4. Get still - use lots of cushions and blankets to create a nest so that you can rest comfortably either lying down (on your left side especially from 30 weeks) or sitting (try to have hips higher than knees as you sit to aid optimal positioning for your baby).

5. Listen to a relaxation, yoga nidra, hypnobirthing relaxation, sounds of nature or a meditation - let your mind have something to follow. 6. Laugh - watch a comedy show, laugh with friends. 7. Breathe - listen to or practice breathing exercises for pregnancy or practice your yoga breaths or hypnobirthing techniques. 8. Soften - check in with the following areas of the body and try to gently soften the muscles and skin around them: eyes, jaw, shoulders, tummy, hands. All of these will help to release tensions, re-balance your nervous system, get the all import oxytocin hormone flowing and give your mind a rest.

A rested mum-to-be equals a baby who knows when they are surrounded by relaxation, you are already teaching them what it feels like to relax and rest before they are born. When to relax:

Relaxation in Labour and through Birth Relaxation is really important during labour. The more we worry, tense up and let pain overwhelm us the more challenging labour becomes (and possibly lasts longer).

Remembering to relax your jaw can also be really helpful during birth - it has a direct link to the cervix - so a relaxed jaw will help your cervix to release. Breathing through second stage rather than pushing through is also a gentle and more relaxed approach. Use the breath to help release your baby rather than the tightening and tension of pushing, ask your midwife to guide you in this when the time comes.

If you are having a caesarean birth relaxation is really useful to keep you calm and your body at ease as you wait and during the birth. Here's how one pregnancy breathing technique 'Golden Thread Breath' helped one of my ladies:

"It was actually a difficult c section, baby's oblique position and adhesions from previous operations made it tough. My partner reminded me to use the golden thread breathing throughout. Amazingly, my partner watched all of my statistics on a monitor, they were concerned about my heart rate being too low at times, yet when we did the breathing it really improved each time. I'm really pleased I had this technique to help me keep calm and balanced." - Nicola

However, and wherever you labour and birth your baby you can bring a sense of ease, release and relaxation to the process. But remember, if you practice during pregnancy it is much easier to call on during the challenges of labour and birth. You will have set your self up with good skills to help you through - why not start now using the link below! Affirmations you might like to use: 'I am rested' 'I am relaxed' 'I am calm' 'I relax and allow my body to soften and expand to birth my baby' 'I breathe baby out' 'My body is free of tension and fear and births my baby with ease' 'I breathe in calm and breathe out tension' 'I relax my jaw, I quieten my mind, my body will open and my baby will descend' 'All I have to do is breathe' Links On Sarah's website - under Resources - there is a Pregnancy Specific Page of resources, including pregnancy relaxation, meditations and yoga nidras (meditation relaxations), and there is a mini yoga nidra library free to access under the resources tab too

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