fear of birth

Exercise and Body Trust in Birth

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In the gen­er­a­tions since birth moved from the home to the hos­pi­tal set­ting, it has become less and less fre­quent that women in devel­oped nations see birth first hand and accept it as a nat­ur­al part of life pri­or to their own first birth expe­ri­ence. The “epi­dem­ic” of fear sur­round­ing birth may well be part­ly a result of this phe­nom­e­non. In a recent post pub­lished in Mid­wives mag­a­zine, a pub­li­ca­tion of the UK’s Roy­al Col­lege of Mid­wives, DTP direc­tor Ann Cowl­in wrote a blog enti­tled ‘Exer­cise and Body Trust in Birth.’ The post address­es the con­fi­dence in one’s body that accom­pa­nies train­ing spe­cif­ic exer­cise and how this applies to preg­nant women and their prepa­ra­tion for birth. Here is the link to the blog post: http://community.rcm.org.uk/blogs/exercise-and-body-trust-birth

Pregnancy Exercise — The Evolutionary Imperative for Vigorous Activity

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This arti­cle is from my blog, Danc­ingTh­ruPreg­nan­cy on Word­Press.

I have long want­ed to write this post. Recent­ly two arti­cles appeared in the NY Times prompt­ing me to move for­ward. One arti­cle dealt with how it is that ongo­ing vig­or­ous exer­cise pro­duces brain enhance­ments. The sec­ond arti­cle dealt with how run­ning cre­ates its “high” and explained why the result­ing addic­tion is an evo­lu­tion­ary ben­e­fit for human sur­vival.

Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up.

It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morn­ing a lion wakes up.

It knows that it must out­run the slow­est gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t mat­ter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.

When the sun comes up, you bet­ter be run­ning.

Abe Gubegna
Ethiopia, circa 1974

The preg­nant mom who exer­cis­es vig­or­ous­ly and reg­u­lar­ly — the one who runs or swims or does aer­o­bic danc­ing — is not the one at risk, or whose infant is at risk, of a lack of tol­er­ance for the rig­ors of labor or for lifestyle health prob­lems. It is the seden­tary or low activ­i­ty moth­er and her off­spring who are at risk. I have writ­ten at length on this real­i­ty in my chap­ter on Women and Exer­cise in Varney’s Mid­wifery.

This real­iza­tion has plagued me for ages, and the two arti­cles in the Times con­vinced me to make this state­ment, explain why it is true and exhort women of child­bear­ing age to become aer­o­bic ani­mals.

In the con­tem­po­rary world, we are not as active as pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. Few women exer­cise to the extent required to devel­op the capac­i­ty to with­stand the rig­ors of birth. It is lit­tle won­der that so often health care providers hear that women are afraid to exer­cise, and child­birth edu­ca­tors hear that preg­nant moms are afraid of birth and don’t have con­fi­dence in their abil­i­ty to do it. There are solu­tions for these issues…

The biggest bang for the buck is aer­o­bics. This gets almost every­thing that helps you in labor. It increas­es endurance, strength and range of motion. It improves breath­ing capac­i­ty (you get more oxy­gen + less fatigue). It reduces your need to tap your car­diac reserve (your body works hard in labor but not to the degree it must if you are not fit). Plus, reg­u­lar par­tic­i­pa­tion in a good car­dio or aer­o­bic work­out gives you the men­tal tough­ness and con­fi­dence you need to know that your body is capa­ble of the work and the recov­ery — what we call body trust. Fit Preg­nan­cy has dis­cussed the myths sur­round­ing how hard a preg­nant woman can work out.

Learn­ing use­ful posi­tions and move­ments is extreme­ly help­ful. Be sure that your work­out also includes strength and coor­di­na­tion move­ments — such things as squat­ting, core move­ments for pelvis and spine, and oth­er motions that aid your progress in labor. Being upright and mov­ing are keys to a healthy labor. These require strength and coor­di­na­tion.

Men­tal focus and being present teach you to work with your body. Activ­i­ties such as relax­ation train­ing, yoga, pilates for preg­nan­cy and dance help you devel­op the men­tal skills (mind­ful­ness and deep breath­ing) that accom­pa­ny your move­ment. Learn to rec­og­nize your body’s sig­nals so you know when it’s time to push.

A tru­ly effec­tive use of your time is a one hour class a cou­ple times a week that com­bines all these ele­ments. We have known this for decades. The evi­dence is clear that it works. Keep moving…right into labor and birth!

Find a safe and effec­tive class or train­er.