Pregnancy and birth are one of the most exciting and challenging times in any woman’s life. The conception and birth of a child is one of life’s greatest miracles and is also a time of big change in the expecting parent’s lives. The more informed and empowered that a woman and her partner can be about pregnancy, birthing choices and parenting, the easier the transition may be during this time. Often, expectant parents are simply overwhelmed by the amount of information, choices and expectations surrounding pregnancy birth and parenting style.
Very often, when a woman becomes pregnant, she is bombarded with stories about all the things that could go wrong, everyone’s bad experiences about their own pregnancy and birth. But most births, particularly in western society are relatively uncomplicated. Although labour is hard work, we often find that the better prepared a woman and her support team are, the better she will feel about her birthing experience.
During pregnancy and early motherhood, most women will tend to take better care of themselves and their health than any other time in life. Here are a few simple ideas that can help to ensure you fully enjoy the experience of being pregnant and are prepared for your birth:
Movement and exercise
Just as at any other time in life, exercise is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Gentle regular movement such as walking, swimming, yoga etc are vital for looking after your body and preparing for labour and birth.
There are also a number of activities, postures and stretches that can help to prepare your pelvic floor for birth and also help to get your bub into a great position in your uterus. There are certain sitting postures that should be avoided in the third trimester. For more information on optimal foetal positioning, please see Dr. Helen’s blog and our fact sheet (chiropractic4 an easier birth 2012)
Ideally, a pregnancy nutrition plan should begin well before conception. Doing a detoxification diet before conception is a great way to prepare your body for your entire pregnancy and birth. If indicated, it is also beneficial to increase your intake of specific vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, iron, B12 and Calcium etc before pregnancy. Some other good nutritional ideas for pregnancy include consuming good fats (Omega 3s & 6s), taking a probiotic and eating by the general rule that “fresh is best”.
It is also important to avoid certain foods that can be dangerous or risky during pregnancy. Processed or uncooked meats and soft cheeses should be avoided as they may contain Listeria. Certain fish that could be high in mercury and other heavy metals should be avoided, particularly fish from a tin.
Other foods to avoid are those that all of us need to be minimising in our diets anyway, but are especially important in maximising your health during pregnancy. A pregnant woman must avoid artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats and reduce or avoid her intake of caffeine and alcohol. Reducing sugar intake can be very important for the mother and bub during the later stages of pregnancy.
There are numerous reasons for a pregnant woman to see a chiropractor. One of the best reasons being that chiropractic care has been shown to reduce labour time.
Joan Fallon, (chiropractor and co-author of Optimal Fetal Positioning) found that first time mums had 24% shorter births with chiropractic and subsequent births were reduced by 39%. Another hospital study showed that mothers who were seeing a chiropractor were 50% less likely to need painkillers during labour and birth.
Chiropractic can help an expectant mum in a number of ways. Firstly by improving and maintaining the function of the nervous system. In particular, the specific areas linked to hormone regulation and the uterus where bub is developing. Secondly, chiropractic care can help balance the pelvis and pelvic floor region. (Dr. Helen Alevaki and Dr. Troy Miles are both certified in Webster’s Technique) The better this area is functioning the more likely that the baby will be able to pass more freely through the birth canal. It has also been noted that 50% of women suffer low back pain at some point during pregnancy.
As birth is a strenuous and sometimes traumatic time for both mother and baby, it is also important to get both mum and bub checked soon after birth. Mothers often suffer from strain to parts of their pelvis and even injury in some cases. For new babies, passing through the birth canal can put a lot of pressure on the top of the neck. To add to this, a birth attendant will often then apply traction/pull on the baby’s head and neck.
Many chiropractors are trained to assess the function of the cranial (skull) bones in children. The earlier any problems can be detected and corrected in a new born baby, the less likely that they may affect the baby’s health and development as they grow.
Developing a detailed birth plan can serve a number of purposes for a pregnant woman and also her support team. Firstly, it is a great way to explore all of your options and to think about which of them you are most comfortable with. It is great for you to begin thinking and imagining what your ideal birth will be like and to clearly communicate your wishes to your birth support team.
It is also important to have all these options considered and decided well before labour begins. During labour, there is a decreased blood flow to the mother’s brain, especially the higher centres which are used to make logical decisions. Because of this, a woman in labour may not be thinking and making choices as clearly as she might otherwise. If pressured, she will tend to become increasingly stressed. This is why a good support team is vital at this time.
A good support team is vital before, during and after your pregnancy to allow you to focus more on your own health needs and those of your baby. Your team’s role is to support you through any challenges you may face. It is important that you ensure that the people you choose to have around you can support you and your needs, particularly during labour when you will need them the most.
My own personal experience from watching many clients and friends enjoy pregnancy and birth has taught me that the hardest part of the entire process is learning to be a parent afterwards. This is when new parents will need unwavering support more than at any other time.
Your partner needs to be as involved as possible. As support for you, but also so they are included and can fully enjoy the experience of pregnancy and birthing.
Take a holiday/decrease stress
In our modern, Western lifestyle, emotional stress is one of the greatest contributors to sickness and disease. Pregnancy is a time when an expectant mother needs to prioritise her health over all the other demands of the world around her. Decreasing stress in your life is an essential aspect to looking after yourself and your baby.
One of the best ways to de-stress – not just for you, but for your partner as well, is to get away on a ‘babymoon’. This may be the last time for quite a while that you can get away by yourselves. It is a perfect time to leave all the other stresses of the world behind and focus on the changes which are in front of you.
The more you know about pregnancy and your birthing options, the more likely it is you will be happy with the decisions you make along the journey for you and your baby, and the more likely you are, to feel good about the outcome.
The more informed you are about your options, the more empowered you will be. Many women often feel very disempowered, particularly by the medicalisation of birthing. These women believe that they do not need to worry because their obstetrician or midwife will take full responsibility. We often find that the more empowered the mother is about her pregnancy and birth, the less intervention is required during labour and birth, and the better the outcome is for mum and bub.
Prepare for being a parent
New parents frequently remark that the hardest part of pregnancy and birth is starting out as a parent. For new parents, this will be one of the biggest changes in your life, so it is important to begin thinking about how you will handle the challenges that a new bub will present: Breast feeding, broken sleep, settling techniques, nappies (cloth or disposable?), swaddling, dummies – the list goes on and on. These are important decisions to think about. The earlier you start to prepare for parenthood the less overwhelming it will be when it arrives.