When you’re pregnant — especially as you approach the third trimester — getting up the motivation to do anything without puking, groaning or waddling out of your ball of emotions can be a pretty big challenge. So even though you’re told that exercise is good for you throughout the entire pregnancy, the idea of going for a walk without having to pee three minutes in or squeezing your big boobs and bigger belly into a bathing suit is pretty much as overwhelming as it gets.
That’s where most of us assume that prenatal yoga comes in handy. Even if you’re as flexible as a beach ball, easy stretches and breathing exercises can benefit many mothers-to-be. What we didn’t know heading into the drop-in classes was that while we’d learn plenty about Goddess Squats, Downward Dogs and the importance of focus and breathing while out of our comfort zones, it was that connection to other pregnant women that would give us the most comfort and faith in ourselves on a week-to-week basis.
Thanks to the format — a lengthy group sharing session followed by some actual yoga itself — we learned just as much if not more from our tattered copies of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Here are just some of the (sometimes shocking) revelations we had.
1. Making out during delivery may help with breathing
An old midwives’ trick, making out with your partner is said to help a labouring mother breathe better, especially during her contractions (or “rushes” as some women call them). While some women would probably much rather be yelling or puking during that time, there’s something nice about the thought of connecting with your partner in that kind of way before your lives grow just a little fuller with the impending birth.
2. Cabbage leaves are good for varicose veins
Yet another bane of a pregnant woman’s existence, painful varicose veins have been known to pop up anywhere from legs to the vagina or anus (hemorrhoids). They’re painful, unsightly and unfortunately, completely common. Thankfully there are some natural remedies out there, including cabbage, which is high in sulfur, potassium and vitamins K and U. Either make a poultice from cut-up cabbage and water, or else apply washed leaves to the affected area until they dry off. Repeat as needed.
3. Duck waddling during labour may shorten your pushing time
The hellish “pushing” time is what scares many first-time moms. According to some there are ways to help the process along, such as duck waddling or walking. Basically, it involves squatting down low and essentially walking across the floor while still in the squat position while you’re in labour. Obviously if you’ve had an epidural this won’t be possible, and you should also stay away from such positions if the baby is breech.
4. The importance of squats, squats and more squats
Speaking of squats, they’re known to be a pregnant chick’s best friend. Although they don’t feel the greatest, doing low squats (or the “Asian Squat” as some refer to it), in the months leading up to labour can help open the birth canals, leading to an easier time for mom and baby. If you can’t support yourself without falling over or rising onto your tip toes, place a block or pillow under your bum. Practicing on a stability ball helps as well. However, if the baby is in the breech position after 35 weeks, it’s best to avoid these squats as well.
5. Home birth may not be as scary as we think
There are so many camps out there on home birth, but to hear from those who have experienced it, it can be a wonderful thing — if it’s for you. One second-time mom who had a home birth the first time around lost nearly a pint of blood thanks to the positioning of her placenta. Still, she couldn’t wait to go for it again with her second kid. Another third-time mom was so grossed out by the idea of all that fluid and blood hitting her clean sheets that she was pro-hospital all the way. The bottom line? Don’t believe everything you see on TV and in the movies — home birth isn’t just for hippies and hospital haters. Some women feel strongly that avoiding unnecessary medical interventions is best achieved from the comfort of their own home, where they can let the body do what it is naturally intended to do.
6. Some women actually have orgasms when they labour
Where are these women and why do they not speak out more frequently? As it turns out, they’re sometimes so ashamed by the non-normal experience that they don’t want to face reactions from doctors or women who had excruciatingly painful births. But it does happen in some rare cases. When you think about the vaginal canal experiencing stimulation during labour, you could begin to see how pain receptors were blocked for a more favourable experience. Now if only we could all learn to give birth that way!
7. The mouth and the cervix are connected
When dealing with pain, a good way to try and breathe through it is to relax your jaw, tongue and cheeks. As it turns out, using that same method to try and get your cervix completely dilated is also beneficial. Much like having to go No. 2 in the bathroom, unless you’re relaxed and comfortable enough to “let go,” the entire process could be stalled. And no one wants a backed up baby.
8. There are many uses for the placenta post-birth
The science is still out on whether ingesting the placenta (that wondrous organ of life that develops inside the uterus alongside baby) post-birth is good for you or not. We do know that some women swear it helps them deal with postpartum, which is why some people eat it (placenta lasagna is a real thing) or have it broken down and encapsulated into handy little pills. As it turns out, some women have other plans for theirs post-birth. Rather than let it be thrown out at the hospital (or with the trash if you’re having a home birth), some women have been known to keep it in their freezers. Other have planted it in a garden alongside a tree (which makes a kind of sense since the organ actually looks like a tree). Lately, there’s also been placenta art, jewelry and facials available. Basically, it seems as though the sky’s the limit.
9. Cookies and birthing plans go together
Remember that carefully constructed birthing plan you were told to make? If you’re doing a traditional hospital birth with nurses and doctors, odds are they’re not going to have much time to look at it when push comes to shove (pardon the pun). On the day of your delivery it will obviously depend on who you happen to have in the room with you, but tales of attaching a box of cookies or other treats for tired nurses to a birthing plan have yielded positive results for some yogis in the past. Just remember that it’s not an actual guarantee. And if your birth plan goes no further than “epidural, please!” then that’s perfectly okay too.
10. A lot of us do have reservations about leaving our jobs
Aside from aches, pains, cravings and emotional breakdowns, a subject that’s often talked about in the yogi circle is the idea of leaving work for a year, and what that means. Some women are tasked with training their own replacements before they leave, a harrowing experience in which they don’t want anyone to actually be better than them at what they do. Others are grappling with the idea that they’ve put so much time and focus into their careers, they don’t know how to hit pause and enjoy this next chapter in their lives without feeling extreme guilt. Then there are those who can’t wait to exit their crummy work situations. It all depends on the lady, but odds are no one is actually alone in their feelings.
11. Birthing stories can be harrowing but incredibly motivating
Ever hear the one about the pregnant lady looking up YouTube births and passing out from fear? It’s like a train wreck you can’t un-see. We all know the woman got a baby in the end so maybe it wasn’t actually that bad, but we don’t often hear the follow-up from the moms themselves. That’s why the birthing stories in prenatal yoga are so incredibly encouraging. New moms who ‘unexpectedly’ graduate the class have been known to send along emails to the instructor sharing the graphic details of her own birth for everyone else to “experience.” It’s refreshing to hear the honesty coupled with the extreme gratitude and joy that new moms are still experiencing. In the end, it just gives plenty of hope for the rest of us as our final weeks count down, and we begin anticipating our own upcoming bundle of joy.
*Advice included here is from Moms’ mouths to your
ears eyes. In other words, for general information purposes only. We’re no doctors.