Giving birth requires opening on so many levels; mentally, physically and emotionally...
For some women (and their partners) knowing the ‘mechanics’ of birth helps them relax a bit more because they understand the process and have an appreciation for what their bodies and babies need to do in labour.
During pregnancy, the pelvic area and hips already start to open and make more room. Pregnant women have extra flexibility due to ‘relaxin’ hormone in their blood stream. This looseness can come at a price, with back/hip/pelvic pain being quite common as the body prepares to open.
During the later weeks of pregnancy or in early labour, the cervix begins to soften and efface (thin out). This is a crucial first step in the labour process. Cervical dilation is considered ‘complete’ at around 10cm. An easy guide is to look at the size of your palm and visualise your cervix opening to a similar size.
If the baby is not in an ideal position, movement can help correct this. Things like belly dance, circling hips, putting one leg up on a stool and/or walking up and down stairs can be very helpful.
For the baby to be born it actually makes a ‘corkscrew’ kind of action. Its head engages and rotates and then the shoulders follow. I like how ‘spinning babies’ says “Mums job is to dilate but baby’s job is to rotate”.
I run antenatal workshops where you can better understand your pelvic shape and discover positions that help you open the most. This will help you feel more prepared for birth. I also demonstrate the movements the baby makes when it is being born. This helps you have a visual of the birthing process.
From around 32 weeks of pregnancy and on, it is a good idea to pay particular attention to the way you position your body to encourage the baby to move into a good position for labour (this is called Optimal Fetal Positioning). Labour is usually shorter and easier when a baby is head down and with their head towards the front of your pelvis. This anterior position makes it easier for him/her to navigate the birth passage and also minimizes the need for interventions.
Midwife Jean Sutton advises women to keep in upright, forward leaning positions with their hips higher than their knees whenever possible. This will help encourage your baby into an optimum position for birth and help avoid your baby settling into a posterior position (your babys’ back against yours). So, if you need to travel in the car, prop yourself up with firm pillows. Don’t slouch back into a soft couch. Try to keep your belly forward so gravity can help encourage the baby into an anterior position. You can also try sitting backwards in a chair (leaning over the back rest) or scrubbing the floor on all fours!
Take some time out to ask yourself ‘how can I be more open in this moment’? You may be surprised at what answers come forward! Ask yourself several times a day and especially when a situation comes up where you feel pressured or stressed.
Creating art is another way to ‘switch off your thinking mind’ and go that bit deeper. What images come to mind when you think of opening- your body... your mind... your heart? Allow your creativity to flow and pick up some pastels or watercolours and take some time to paint and draw what ‘expansion’ and ‘opening’ looks like to you. For some women, looking at their art during labour really helps them to sink deeper and remember what they need to do. It may give strength if doubt creeps in as it can be very encouraging. You may also like to write an affirmation like “I am open to the energy of birth”.