Many women, especially those who are pregnant for the first time ask us what they should do at moment of birth. They are often apprehensive about this event because they think that there is a chance of dying while giving birth, and whatever happens, childbirth causes the mother great physical pain. In fact, one should begin by telling oneself that giving birth is one of the most natural things in the world, and that the practice of Yoga helps the future mother to overcome her fear and prepare her effectively for the event.
When the moment comes for giving birth, the woman needs to feel protected, well taken care-of and surrounded by loving affection. The pains felt during labour often stem from the fact that the mothers resistance is the result of her inability to rationalize how completely to relax and let herself go. Breathing plays a crucial role in helping to push the baby out of her body.
In Ancient India, three-positions were recommended for childbirth:
1. standing, knees spread and slightly bent;
2. squatting ; and
3. lying on the back, legs bent, the trunk, knees and feet spread apart. This position of lying on the back is one of the most commonly used postures today.
Women often ask whether pushing down on the baby to expel it requires a great effort. Yoga teaches us, however, how to relax the body, so is the answer to let oneself go and allow the baby to be born without strain. The mother should avoid resistance, fear and irritation, for allowing everything to happen calmly and serenely.
A woman who is tense and on edge will feel pain because she is resisting and thereby hindering the child from emerging. Such a state of mind as this leads to genital tension and causes suffering by blocking the smooth, painless birth of the infant.
The practice of Yoga develops the ability to relax once the contractions begin, stills the future mother’s fear, and helps her learn the required patience and calm so that she can co-operate more effectively at the moment of birth,
The mother should not try to find ways from what appears to be pain, but simply confront and accept it. This is the only way through which she can free herself from fear and suffering. Through autosuggestion, she will be able to overcome this -fear, and thus bravely face and accept the act of giving birth. The more confidence and self-control she possesses, the less pain she will feel.
Everything should be ready for the baby’s arrival some two weeks before the child is due. The future mother should prepare the things she will need for herself and the baby during maternity.
‘She should be admitted to hospital as soon as the contractions become more frequent and regular, preferably before the mother starts losing liquids. She should opt for natural childbirth and, choose to remain conscious throughout the act of bringing her baby into the world this means saying no to drugs and anesthetics. Childbirth normally takes place in three stages:
2. Expulsion-I & 2 together are known as labour
1. Dilatation or Opening-Up
Lasting up to 20 hours, this is the stage where the mouth of the uterus opens fully so that it can accommodate the head of the foetus and allow the baby to pass down the genital canal at the moment of birth. The mouth of the uterus dilates as a result of the contractions of the uterine muscles. The contractions gives one a feeling of a tugging sensation in the lumbar region; at a later stage, they push the baby downwards in order to expel it.
To begin with, these involuntary, intermittent and rhythmic contractions take place roughly at the interval of every 20 minutes. The frequency increases and by the end of the opening-up period, they occur every five minutes, and then every two or three minutes. As they grow more frequent, they last longer.
Many women fear the pain these contractions can cause. Yoga remedies this by constituting a discipline, which teaches mother-to-be how to remain calm, and self -controlled, and how to relax and breathe correctly during the different stages of childbirth.
At the beginning of the opening-up period, when the contractions are infrequent and not very strong, the mother should relax, while at the same time practising deep breathing on the three levels, i.e. complete yogic breathing.
Between contractions, she should try to continue breathing deeply and regularly; for on a physical level, this will ensure the oxygenation required for herself and the baby.
This technique of ‘deep rhythmic breathing ensures a harmonious functioning of the whole system including the brain, and helps, on a psychological level, to calm the emotions and create a feeling of well-being. To achieve this, the future mother should, whenever possible, take a few moments to collect her thoughts. She should make herself comfortable, close her eyes and retire within herself, thereby creating a sense of inner calm and serenity, just as she has learned during the Yoga course in the exercises designed to prepare her mentally for child birth.
During the period of dilatation, she should have thoughts of a positive kind i.e. endurance, patience and confidence. It would be of great hell) if her husband were present. The mother needs to know that she can rely on his help and encouragement. He can aid her to relax and retire within herself.
When the contractions continue for a longer period and become more frequent, she should avoid abdominal breathing, and simply perform middle chest and clavicular breathing.
In India, a remedy for soothing the pains, caused by the contractions, is gently to massage the mother’s coccyx-i.e. tip of the spinal column with small triangular bone-with almond or sesame oil, or to apply warm compresses to the lower back.
The future mother should approach the period of strong contractions in a positive way. By continuing to practise autosuggestion, she will be able to remove all fear of pain, all uneasiness, and this will enable her to remain calm and relaxed. The more she is able to control her emotions and maintain, .psychic balance, the less pain she will feel during childbirth.
The transition between the full opening of the mouth of the uterus and the birth of the baby is known as expulsion. It lasts some ten to twenty minutes, but can be longer or shorter. In the case of a first child, it usually takes the mother longer to give birth. Those who have followed a preparation course will find, however, that birth takes place more easily and quickly.
Throughout the period of expulsion, the mother should push during contractions and relax between them, in order to muster her energy for when she next pushes. At this point, having exhaled, she should inhale deeply, an d with full lungs and a closed mouth and glottis, contract the abdominal muscles and push. Exhalation through the mouth should sound like a sigh of relief “Ha.a.a.a…”.
An effective way of continuing to push is to exhale slowly through the nose, making sure the glottis is partly closed. The mother Should push against her breath when contracting the abdominal muscles an(lowering the diaphragm.
This way of adjusting the glottis is taught during the Yoga course while practising Ujjayee Pranayama. It enables the mother to regulate the amount of air she exhales and to push longer without becoming out of breath or using up energy in vain. As she lets out the breath through the nose, she emits a low, continuous sound.
When the head is expelled, the mother should inhale and exhale, deeply and regularly performing middle and upper-chest respiration (without abdominal breathing). Following the instructions of the doctor or midwife, the mother should then resume pushing slightly, so that the rest of the child’s body slips out, and the baby is born.
In India, astrologers establish a child’s birth chart from the moment he takes his breath and utters his first cry, for it is only once the child has begun to breathe that he is truly alive: “Breath is life”.
Within five minutes following the birth of the child, the umbilical chord leading from his abdomen and connected to the placenta should be ligatured and severed, but only after it has stopped pulsating.
Once the baby has been born, the mother continues to experience a series of contractions, sometimes barely perceptible, which prepare for the expulsion of the placenta. This is expelled some 20 to 30 minutes after the child is born. The placenta is the organ through which oxygen and nutritional Substances are absorbed by the embryo. It also stores vitamins and manufactures hormones. The placenta links the embryo to the maternal Uterus during pregnancy. While still inside the mother, the foetus floats in the ‘waters’ of the amnion-a membrane enveloping the child within the womb i.e. uterus.