So firstly let’s talk about relaxation. Fact - relaxation is the most important skill that you’ll need for labour. The more relaxed your body is, the more comfortable you’ll be, and the less pain you’ll experience.
But relaxing is easy, right? We do it all the time. Actually, no. It’s a skill that needs practising. When I’m doing what I consider to be relaxing I’m usually multi-tasking too, perhaps chilling out on the sofa with my other half, watching TV, doing a mental list of all the things that I need to do the next day, and checking my phone while I’m doing all that. Sound familiar? It’s very rare that we really take time out to switch our minds off and allow our body to relax deeply. It’s a skill that needs to be practised and should be an important part of your birth preparation process.
Allowing your mind and body to relax on a regular basis teaches your body and mind to relax ore easily and more deeply, the more often that you do it. It becomes a default setting and the more that you practise relaxing, the easier it becomes to get yourself into a nice, deeply relaxed state when you need to.
Here are my 5 favourite ways to help you relax during pregnancy:
1. Water - A shower can help ease any aches or make time for a nice long soak in the bath. Get the lighting right (dim the lights or use candles), add a smell (your favourite bubble bath, a room spray, or from the candles) put on some calming music and let yourself relax and forget about any stresses. This also creates ‘triggers’ for relaxation (linking your senses to a feeling through the smell/music) which you can use during labour to keep you calm.
2. Exercise - When you’re struggling with the tiredness, aches & niggles that come along with pregnancy then it might be the last thing on your mind, but a bit of gentle exercise can help boost physical and mental energy. it can be a great source of relaxation throughout pregnancy and can also help you sleep better. Pregnancy yoga or pilates cover relaxation and breathing techniques for use during labour, and sometimes also positions that can be used for birth. Swimming is also great and again makes the most of the relaxing benefits of water.
3. Meditation - Pregnant or not, meditation is a great way to unwind and restore calm. If you’re doing a pregnancy yoga class you might learn some meditation techniques. I’m a huge fan of Headspace but you can find lots of guided meditations on YouTube. Otherwise you can just try it by yourself. find somewhere quiet, play soothing music if it relaxes you, and sit in a comfortable position. Focus on your breathing, taking nice, deep, regular breaths and slowly make a conscious effort to release any tensions or worries every time you breathe out. You can start at the top off your head and gradually consciously relax each part of your body, going down to your toes. Or you can just use it as a time to think about your baby and imagine meeting them.
4. Spa therapy - Treat yourself! What’s more relaxing and stress relieving than a spa treatment? They’re designed to relax the mind and body, de-stressing you with water, massage, aromatherapy, chilled out music and a soothing environment. Taking time out to focus purely on yourself can make you feel mazing, whether it’s a treatment specifically designed for pregnancy or just a treat like a facial, manicure or pedicure.
5. Me time - From now on a huge part of your life is going to be spent focussing on pregnancy, birth and then your new baby. Do something that’s just for you, a treat, whether that’s spending time with close friends, a little shopping trip for you (buying a little treat for yourself, not for the baby!), time out with your partner or a weekend away. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, quality time with your partner can just be spending time together, relaxing in each other’s company - a romantic meal or a lazy weekend lie-in can be really relaxing and also help to keep your relationship nice and strong before your new arrival comes (babies can demand quite a lot of attention!!).