Active Birth: A Comprehensive Guide

birth preparation May 03, 2022
Lunging for active birth preparation

When planning a birth, you want to ensure your experience is as comfortable and calm as possible. Luckily, there are many ways to achieve this, with one of the most reputable choices being an active birth.

There are lots of questions surrounding active birth and what exactly it entails. In this blog, I’ll explain everything you need to know!

What is an Active Birth?

Active birth essentially teaches the physiology of labour and birth. Its purpose is to prepare the body and mind to awaken your body’s natural resilience so you can give birth naturally. 

Through learning about active birth, you get to understand your body better, and find out how gravity and movement play a role in making the process easier. It helps you leverage your hormones to manage pain relief independently, with a calm environment being key to successfully mastering this.

There are certain positions and exercises that you can practice during pregnancy and labour. These revolve around breathing and relaxation, and can be beneficial especially in the lead up to welcoming your baby into the world. Through touch, massage and partner support - your body can do really amazing things!

There is a term we use called ‘breathing your baby out’ - this empowers you to take control of your labour experience. For more than three decades, active birth has been a philosophical and global movement that has allowed women to choose how they give birth to their babies. It is a common-sense, evidence-based approach that is supported by many midwives, doctors, hospitals and birth centres from around the world.

It can also aid you in deciding if and when you need interventions, helping you combine an Active Birth with medical pain relief if that’s what you require.

 

Preparing for an Active Birth

There are several ways you can prepare for active birth. By channelling the following steps into your routine throughout your pregnancy, you’ll feel both confident and comfortable when the big day comes!

Connect with Gravity

An active birth means exactly what you expect: you have the freedom to move around during the labour process, and give birth spontaneously in a position of your choice, according to natural instincts.

One element of this is connecting with gravity. Use it to choose your own way to move and be still, depending on how you feel. Through this, you will instinctively find your own way to make your labour more comfortable, and make your body align with gravity during your baby’s descent through the birth canal. 

Believe it or not, this will, in turn, sends a better blood and oxygen supply to the uterus and baby, making birth both easier and safer.

Practice Calming Exercises

In the world of birth preparation, we already know that meditation, breathing and sense restraint work well in helping labour along.

For instance, take the various self-hypnosis techniques that are taught in birth programmes. They all teach participants how to slow their breathing down, and how to integrate the bodily sensations of labour by altering their state of mind.

The ability to relax the body and mind in labour helps with keeping the voluntary muscles more relaxed. This therefore allows the involuntary processes of birth to happen with more ease. The womb can labour the baby down without resistance from the abdominal and perineal muscles. Most noticeably, women who have learned a self-hypnosis method in pregnancy are calm in labour - sometimes they even tell us that they enjoyed their labours! This is because of the revolutionary control they develop through these practises.

Certain exercises, like yoga, are fantastic for tapping into a calmer realm (without being too strenuous on the body). When you enrol yourself into a well-structured pregnancy yoga class, you can expect it to cover relaxation, meditation, deep breathing and physical work - all of which will offer a holistic approach to preparing for birth.

Learn Massage Techniques

Another way to improve relaxation is through regular aromatherapy and massages. These hold very special powers - including addressing imbalances in muscles by manual manipulation, and helping with the process of creating balance in the pregnant body.

Combined with physical practice, massage and aromatherapy make for a much more comfortable pregnancy and birthing experience.

Body Work for Baby Alignment

As a midwife, I know how important baby positioning is in labour. Through certain techniques, you can actually make space for your baby before the actual birth, which will make you feel more comfortable when you enter labour.

The way it works is: when tensions and asymmetries have been tended to several times per week, the soft tissues can balance and expand so that when a certain position is adapted in labour, the range of movement is already available and the birthing body isn't asked to move in an unfamiliar way for the first time. 

If used systematically and in response to where the baby is currently trying to navigate, positioning the body in strategic ways can help birth to progress more smoothly.

The good news is that it only takes a few minutes out of your day to help your baby find more space to get aligned.

Here is a super handy video that teaches how moving your pelvis a particular way can help you in early labour: 

https://fb.watch/aKJrpj-0cP/

As a midwife of 16 years, I have brought witnessed and assisted hundreds of births, and have served even more parents-to-be during their pregnancies.

 At present, I run aromatherapy for pregnancy and baby positioning clinics and am a fully qualified Hatha Yoga Teacher. I also still work as a midwife in the UK National Health System.

For more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me. 

 

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