“Conscious” is the word, when it comes to any practice conducive to a natural, easy birth. From the words you tell yourself and the techniques you practice before and during pregnancy, till the breaths you take and feelings you have at the divine moment of birth; all of these when done consciously, contribute to a successful, smooth and natural birth. To have this at the end of your pregnancy, you need to prepare your mind and your body during pregnancy.
Preparing your mind
Firstly, to underline how important conscious use of words is, I’d like to clarify that I will be intentionally using the word “birth” and not “labour”, as the latter is a word that carries a feeling of something laborious and trying, something difficult, which is exactly what we want to avoid. Despite the fact that most of us use such “defeating” words unconsciously, thinking that it doesn’t really matter, it does- a lot. Creating the reality we want to have – in this case an easy birth- intensely involves choosing the words we tell ourselves, which include our internal thoughts that we never utter, but also the words we use when we communicate with others. Therefore, to begin, I encourage you to do the same, substitute “labour” for “birth” from now on and invite in the feeling of this natural act to encircle the word and yourself every time you use it.
Being a Rapid Transformational Therapist, certified Hypnotherapist, Yoga teacher and Biochemical Engineer, has equipped me with an armada of incredible tools from all these modalities which I abundantly use when working with soon-to-be mums. RTT (Rapid Transformational Therapy) and Yoga align perfectly in their structure and application and are very powerful in cultivating conscious mind-body awareness throughout pregnancy, which is necessary for a natural birth.
While almost everyone knows about Yoga, not everyone has heard of RTT. RTT is a powerful hybrid therapy that combines the strongest points of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy, and it is widely used to ensure a healthy pregnancy, an easy birth and also to treat both women and men diagnosed with infertility, reactivating fertility in the body. RTT works with the subconscious mind, finds the root cause of issues and reprograms the brain in 1 to 3 sessions with permanent results. The client has to keep listening to a bespoke recording produced during the session for another 21 days (minimum period the mind needs to form a habit), to deeply embed all chosen new positive beliefs and outcomes, and match them with appropriate actions. Why does it work so well? Because the brainwave state clients are induced to (alpha-theta or hypnotic state) is absolutely conducive to discovery, rewiring and transformation, completely different to the normal waking state that we live our lives in, or in which traditional therapy is done.
Let’s explore some RTT techniques you can take home and help you achieve a natural and easy birth. We will start with some “rules of the mind” that govern everything we do in life:
– Every thought or idea causes a physical reaction.
– What you expect is almost always realized.
– Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.
– The way you feel about anything is how your mind responds to the words you tell yourself and the pictures you make in your head.
– Your mind doesn’t care if what you’re telling it is true or false, good or bad. It just lets it in.
– The mind cannot hold conflicting beliefs; they cancel each other out.
Now that you know all these, you’ll be able to apply them daily to have an easy birth, as well as in your life generally. All you need is imagination and volition.
Your mind can be your biggest ally during childbirth. But it can also be your enemy, so your job is to train it to be a reliable ally. The first thing to release from your mind is your fears and inhibitions around pregnancy and birth. Multiple RTT women clients diagnosed as infertile have these three most common fears: fear of hospitals and childbirth, fear that they won’t like the baby or the baby won’t like them and fear of loss of their good physical appearance after childbirth. Once these fears are extracted from their root cause, most of the women come back to being fertile. This is an example to demonstrate how powerful the mind is and how it translates a feeling (fear in this case) or a thought we have, into a physical symptom. The good news is that you have control of what you consciously focus on. The key here is that where your awareness goes, energy flows and whatever it is you focus on, grows. So make sure your focus is on positive thoughts and concepts and not on obstacles. Focus on where you want to get to, paint a strong picture in your mind of a healthy pregnancy and how beautiful and easy your birthing experience will be, how smooth it all will be for you and your body, and shift away compassionately from negative thoughts and “what ifs” if you notice them sneak in.
For many women, pregnancy awakens a deep intuition within, as it is a deeply instinctual process, which makes these nine months a big opportunity for attunement with ourselves, as well as our babies. Tuning in your intuition (which is also a great skill to have for your upcoming journey as a parent) means understanding what your natural feelings mean and allowing them to guide you to make the right decisions for yourself and your baby. Trust that you can manifest the best result for you and your baby, and bring it to reality. Trust yourself, your body and your baby with unshakable conviction that everything is happening exactly right.
Every time you get a scan or got to your clinic, tell yourself that this is a textbook perfect pregnancy and let yourself feel that way. Take at least five minutes a day to deeply connect with your baby, talk to it in every chance and tell it nurturing, loving things, like how much you love her, how lovable and beautiful she is (see RTT exercise below). Many of my clients in an RTT session go back to being inside the womb, remembering extensive conversations people had around their mothers, many with imprints of feeling worthless or not enough which lay dormant embedded in their subconscious until we accessed them. This proves that we truly are a collection of memories, which continue shaping our current realities even as adults. Consciously set your baby up to be a healthy child and adult later in life, by wiring in imprints of love, worth, strength and resilience in this early phase of his life.
I love recommending my clients to visit www.visembryo.com at the beginning of every new week of pregnancy and after reading what is developing at each stage, to instruct their baby to do that inside the womb. For example for week 10, you can tell your baby “your basic brain structure is complete, you have sockets formed for all your twenty teeth in your gums..”. If by week 30 the baby hasn’t assumed the correct position, apply this method, directing you baby to turn over, with its head down, every day. It might sound too simple and hard to believe, but it is very powerful and potent. The baby literally feeds off the mother not only in material food, but energetically too. Whatever the mother feels, the baby feels too.
So, whatever stage of pregnancy you are in, you can perform this safe exercise to cultivate great communication between you, your body and your baby, and to start creating a nurturing conscious relationship:
Lie down on your back or sideways or sit comfortably on a chair, ideally with your head resting on a cushion to begin. Roll your eyes upwards as if you’re trying to look into your own eyebrows (this creates a burst of alpha brainwaves) and draw 3 deep breaths in and out slowly while looking up. At the end of the third exhale, close your eyelids down completely and keep them closed. Here, just let your eyes go anywhere they want. Now imagine 10 steps (picture them as vividly as you like, leading to a beach or garden or somewhere pleasant) and sensualize yourself (involve all your senses) treading down one step at a time, seeing, hearing and even feeling your feet as you go down step by step. Allow yourself to relax more and more with each step and go deeper and deeper, into an internal awareness of yourself. By step 10, you should be feeling very relaxed and peaceful. Know that this state is very potent to talk and ask your body, and also your baby, to do what you require it to. It is a state that you can program what happens to your body and your baby’s body. It is also a great way to reaffirm your love and strengthen the emotional connection you have with your baby. After week 37 and no sooner, you can add in the component of giving natural and easy birth (do not perform this before week 37 as the body can prepare for giving birth early). Tune in with what you’re feeling and needing; you can do that by focusing you awareness in your heart center and observe how you feel here and now- then observe how the body feels, connect the two by finding an intention, assessing what you need more of, or less of. And then improvise, talking in first singular when you’re talking to yourself and in third singular when you’re addressing your baby. It can sound like this:
[Addressing you and your body]: “I love being pregnant. I love having two heartbeats in my body. It is so good for my body, for my skin and for my health. I love looking so radiantly pregnant.
My body is so intelligent, it made a baby, it now grows and develops my baby perfectly and naturally. Everything happens at the right time, in the right way.
At week 40 my body perfectly delivers my baby. My body and my baby work as a perfect team.
[Insert instruction for development for the baby]. My baby listens to me and responds perfectly.
[Addressing your baby]: “I love you so much. I’ve created an amazing place in my body, in my heart and in my life for you. I love you exactly the way you are. I love you completely and unconditionally. You are so lovable. I’ll always be here for you and have time for you. You are beautiful. You are so smart. You are amazing. You are so healthy and strong. You are so gifted. Every part of you is perfect (naming body parts, and what he should develop at the stage you’re at).
(From week 37 and on): As my body grew my baby, it knows exactly how to deliver it too. When the time is right, my baby will get into position with the head down. The round muscles relax, and the long muscles contract. (Note: the round muscles held the baby safely in place so they relax to let the baby move out, the long muscles contract to push the baby out of the body).
I am so relaxed. My body is working for me and my baby. My baby easily passes through, everything works in perfect sequence.
I will birth in 3 hours. I tell my baby to hurry and move out of my body and into my arms as I can’t wait to hold it. And my baby picks up my message and it swiftly moves down the birth canal.
I give birth so easily. I am a natural, giving mother. I am wonderful at birth. I push when I need to, breathing in between contractions, I welcome every contraction.
I am delivering my baby into an atmosphere of joy, delight, calmness and love.
I am holding my baby in my arms, showering it with kisses. It is absolutely healthy and perfect. Its skin is so velvety, I love how it smells, I am so proud I was conscious and present in my baby’s birth. I love the connection I have with my baby. My partner and family and crying with happiness. This is one of the best days of my life.”
Of course, as with everything else that is new, this takes a couple of times to practice in order to become familiar and more flowy with the process, which will happen- with consistency you’ll make the practice yours. It is important as you keep practicing to bring in the feeling of what you’re saying into your heart and your body. Feelings always translate in hormones and natural body chemicals which will flood your body as well as the baby’s. The content of this exercise will change each month, each week, even each day, depending on your feelings and needs and which stage of pregnancy you are in, ending with you performing it in the delivery room, paired with other breathwork exercises and techniques, like the ones we’ll explore later. You may also want to seek professional help from a specialized RTT therapist to guide you through the process thoroughly.
In addition to strengthening yourself emotionally, you also need to soften. Balancing strength and softness, consisting of equal amounts of active and passive, of doing and letting go, is the golden rule in life according to Yoga, Buddhism and other ancient philosophies. This golden rule also applies to childbirth. This act of “surrendering” can also be cultivated by practicing meditation. Meditation can increase your mental stamina, leaving you at relaxed positive states for longer periods of time. I advise my clients to remain with eyes closed after performing their recording (equivalent to our RTT exercise above) and stay in that state of meditation, letting their minds and selves just be in stillness for some minutes. Learning to run on the parasympathetic nervous system mode (otherwise known as “rest and digest” mode) and not in the stressed out sympathetic nervous system (“fight, flight or freeze” response) will enable you to increase the hormones (oxytocin and endorphins) that help reduce pain, which are mother nature’s pain relief, and decrease adrenaline in order to produce a more efficient, easy birth.
Furthermore, surrounding yourself with positive influences, such as women that are going or have gone through a natural childbirth that are like-minded to you, great birth stories and also other positive suggestions and affirmations, all help set up yourself for success. According to Epworth Freemasons Hospital in Melbourne, studies have shown that if a woman feels relaxed, safe and supported in birth, they are 30% less likely to request pain relief, 40% less likely to require a forceps delivery, 50% less likely to have a Caesarean, 60% less likely to request an epidural. When your birthing day arrives, having developed this sense of deep relaxation, focus, and control will allow your body and baby to follow the perfectly designed process of birthing as nature intended, making it a much easier process.
Preparing your body
Preparing the body for the process of birth is an equally important chapter. Yoga Asana (physical postures) and Pranayama (breathwork techniques) help strengthen, as well as open the body, and enhance body-mind awareness through the breath. The Mayo Clinic states that Prenatal Yoga can “improve sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth, decrease lower back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath”, all of which every pregnant woman can use some help with.
Beginning from physical exercises, we’ll explore some basic and efficient Asanas and their benefits for the moment of birth.
Pelvic Floor Lifts
Sit comfortably on the floor in Easy Pose (cross-legged). You can place a blanket or cushion underneath you to be more comfortable. Also, to develop a more conscious connection with your baby, you may want to place your hands on your belly, otherwise have them resting on your knees or thighs. Close your eyes for extra focus, and engage your pelvic floor (area around sex organs and perineum) by linking your breath with a root lock (mula bandha) –in other words inhale and lift the pelvic floor, exhale and release, do this at a regular breathing pace. This exercise is also called Kegel exercises, and is great in making pelvic floor muscles strong and flexible for vaginal delivery, and also helps reduce the pee-when-you-sneeze accidents during pregnancy. Start with 100 a day, and increase up to 300 by the third trimester. It sounds like a lot, but it will pay off!
Pelvic Tilts or Cat-Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana)
This is one of the simplest pregnancy exercises you can start from day one and continue till you’re in the delivery room. It helps keep the pelvis loose and the lower back agile, decreasing lower back pain. Start on your hands and knees. Keep your neck long and align your wrists underneath your shoulders, and your knees underneath your hips. On the inhale, arch your back downward and drop your belly to “cow”, letting your chest forward. Elongate your neck as a natural extension to your spine. On the exhale, round your back upwards into “cat” tucking your chin toward your chest and drawing your navel inwards gently, and allow your head and neck to gently follow. Repeat for as many times as it feels comfortable, up to 20 minutes a day. This exercise is also considered to be great for helping the baby get into the right position for birth, when practiced after week 30 when you feel your baby move. This works by moving the body into a leaning forwards position, where gravity and gentle rocking movements help the baby turn to the proper position.
Deep/Yogi squat (Utthanasana)
Squats are one of the best pre-baby exercises you can do as they help relax, stretch and lengthen the hips and the pelvic floor muscles, making it easier for the baby to maneuver out of the body and easier to push. Squats also stretch the perineum which can help prevent tearing in preparation for natural birth. Stand with your legs wider than hip width, as wide as the mat. Slowly squat down as far as you can go with your hands pressed together in front of you. You can remain low, or come back up and do 10-15 more reps of up and down (amp up the intensity by adding in Kegels; relax when you squat and contract pelvic floor when you straighten the legs). End with a deep squat. Start by staying there for 30 seconds, working up to a minute gradually, 4-5 times a day. Practice with a wall at the back for support at the beginning. If your feet do not lay flat on the ground when you squat, position a folded blanket under the back half of your feet to remain grounded and balanced.
Butterflies (Baddha Konasana)
This pose gently stretches the inner thighs and pelvic floor and uses gravity to help the baby descend, setting you up for the optimal pelvic tilt. Sit on a blanket or bolster with your hips lifted. Bring the soles of your feet together and knees splaying out on either side. Hinge forward, keeping a long spine. If you experience pain to the left or right side of the sacrum in the lower back (sacroiliac pain), move your feet further forward and place support underneath your knees. Stay in the pose for a couple of minutes, or for as long as it’s comfortable.
In the later stages of pregnancy, avoid laying on your back as this can compress the vena cava and weaken circulation in the body and towards the fetus. Instead, place a bolster or a stack of pillows on the left side of the body, and mindfully roll onto the side, placing the right bent knee and right arm on top of the support. You can add a pillow or folded blanket under your head for extra comfort. Stay in relaxation for at least ten minutes. Focus on your breath, and consciously relax all the muscles of your body, performing a Yoga Nidra.
While in relaxation, performing a body scan, or rotation of body awareness, is a great way to recharge and to deepen your understanding in what your body is telling you. As you are relaxing, do a systematic scan from head to toes (or vice versa), pausing at each body part, consciously relaxing it.
Although exercises such as the above ones can be performed safely and easily on you own in any quiet space, it’s strongly advised to do Pre-natal Yoga under the supervision of a professional. Strengthening the core and abdomen, especially the transverse abdominal muscles, is another very important and often neglected exercise, that can help prevent diastasis (or abdominal separation). Also strengthening the back and lower back is essential, to be able to support the growing weight-bearing the spine has to endure. Pre-natal Yoga classes will help you with all the above, as well as practicing active birth positions and movements that support the birthing process. Taking classes will also provide you with a safe environment of community where you can connect with other mums-to-be and feel supported and empowered, which is an innate need of all human beings. Also, don’t forget about post-natal or postpartum Yoga; this will help your body recover and bounce back to its normal state after birth.
Cultivating breath awareness and practicing conscious breathing can be the single most important preparation you do for childbirth. Especially in the later stages of pregnancy when the baby is bigger, the diaphragm can be compressed, which means that the lungs will have less capacity for breathing. Shallow breathing patterns mean sympathetic nervous system activation, which can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety and stress. It is important to remember, you’re not just eating for two, you’re also breathing for two. What your breath does to your body, it will do to your baby’s body. If your breathing has you stressed, it will stress the baby. If is relaxing, the baby will relax too.
Many women say that when the birthing process started and the pain kicked in, “they forgot everything” on how to breathe, how to count etc. And rightfully so. That’s how pain works. When it appears in our body, it wants us to drop everything else that we are occupied with, even if that is merely thoughts in our head, and focus our whole attention on to the area that’s painful in order to give it what it needs. Pain is the body’s “attention” alarm system. That’s why coming back to basics in terms of breathing is crucial. Gradually, our breathing awareness and quality will grow.
To begin with, set aside ten minutes a day for breathing and start small:
- For the first couple of sessions, just observe the breath. Close your eyes for better focus (as long as it feels good). Feel the air as it comes in and out of the nose and witness your own breathing pattern. Notice the depth and duration of each inhale and exhale. Don’t change anything, just notice what’s happening. Do this as if you’re a third person, observing someone else’s breath. That on its own can be quite magical and very peaceful. If your mind wonders, bring your attention back to your breath.
- Deep diaphragmatic breathing is an amazing simple breathing technique which is very relaxing between and during contractions, and also in everyday life when feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Close your eyes and inhale slowly through the nose, sending the breath to the bottom of your belly. Breathe out through the mouth slowly, making the exhale longer than the inhale. Practice for a couple of minutes, or for as long as you like. You can visualize inhaling relaxation and ease, and on the exhale- the “breath of surrender”- you can let go of discomfort and relax any areas in pain. You can experiment with placing your hands onto different parts of your body and try to “send” the breath to these areas. Close your eyes and focus on the breath.
- The 1:2 ratio. Continue deep diaphragmatic breathing, and this time if it feels right, inhale for a count of one and exhale for a count of two. Or inhale for two and exhale for four. What is important, which is what makes this breath soothing, is that the length of exhale is almost double that of the inhale. While the flow of breath remains deep and steady, see what sensations arise naturally in your body.
- Oceanic Breathing (Ujahi) is an easy deeply relaxing breathing technique that is great for insomnia or if you’re feeling exhausted during the birthing process. Close your eyes, breathe in normally through the nose and out through the nose and/or mouth, with a slight constriction at the base of the throat, making the breath sounding like ocean waves. Practice for as long as you like.
- The Hummingbird Breath (bhramari) is used as one of the Pratyahara or sense-withdrawal practices of Ashtanga Yoga and can be really helpful with managing anxiety or worry that might creep in. Sit comfortably, with a long spine and shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes, keeping the lips lightly sealed, inhale through the nostrils. Exhale making the sound of the letter M, producing a humming sound. You can also use your index fingers to close the opening of the ears, this will enhance your perception of the sound. Exhale humming “mmmm” completely. Focus only on the sound and let everything other sensory stimulus diffuse over time. Repeat 6-7 times or until feeling calm.
- The Golden Thread Breath is helpful for inducing deep sleep, relaxing facial and jaw muscles and for the first stage of birth. Close your eyes and inhale through your nose. Open the mouth slightly, leaving a tiny gap between the upper and lower teeth, then press your lips slightly and exhale slowly through that small gap in your mouth. As you do this, visualize a golden thread swirling away from your teeth and into the room. As you breathe in, count slowly up to four or five. Then as you breathe out, count to six or seven. You can breathe in the Oceanic breath fashion to induce more calmness.
All the above are great options that will accompany you in the birthing process, as well as in everyday life afterwards. As we mentioned earlier in RTT, it takes minimum 21 days to make a habit, and you’ll have many more days than that to practice during a pregnancy! I encourage you to practice these with your partner, who can support you later in a time of need.
It is worthwhile mentioning that playing calming, repetitive music, such as soothing Mantras or chanting during childbirth in the delivery room, can help induce a hypnotic rhythm that will have you relaxed, yet focused, which is what you want. You want to find your rhythm. At some point during the birthing process, you will get fully submerged in yourself and your own “groove”. Time will stop and you’ll be living in the present, the “here” and “now”. It’ll seem to others as if you’re in another world, and in a way you will be. Your pace and movements will become rhythmic. You will be on the verge of doing and letting go, engaging and surrendering. You’ll be calm, yet activated. You’ll be focused, you won’t think but you’ll do what you need to do, it will come up naturally. Trust that. Other that than, a healthy amount of support and cheer is all you’ll need from a loving partner, family or friends.
There are many techniques with different names, practiced in Rapid Transformation Therapy, Hypnobirthing, Yoga, some very similar others, all offering great benefits. Explore while it’s early, try out different visualization, meditation and breathing techniques and find the ones that suit you better, combine them with a healthy physical practice and be consistent. Know that no one knows you or your body better than you. Not a teacher, not a doctor, not a therapist. Know your rights, develop and listen to your intuition and be prepared, confident and calm, knowing you have done your very best and will thrive. Go to a regular prenatal class and practice benefiting from the collective energy of the group. Giving birth is one of the most beautiful, mysterious and powerful experiences in our lives, so consciously creating your own ideal birth experience is really worthwhile. Learning to embrace the magic of the present moment, dancing between effort and ease, welcoming vulnerability as a strength, and intuition as the realest guidance, are skills that will bring in success not only in an easy, natural birth, but in everything you set your mind on to in life.
Much love and a very happy & easy birthing to you!