Birth – It’s Happening
Yoga and Childbirth - Chapter 6
Am I Pregnant?
With the modern methods of determining pregnancy, such as the urine test, nobody need be in doubt for long, even during the first few days. But if you do not wish to go to this bother, the pregnancy usually announces itself fairly quickly in clinical ways.
The absence of menstruation is often the first sign one has, although by itself this is by no means proof, as many women miss periods for many other reasons. Also, despite being pregnant, a small or short period may occur.
Some women experience morning sickness almost from the first day of conception, which again is a sign, but not a proof. Of course, from the doctor’s point of view, the hearing of the baby’s heartbeat may alone constitute proof.
Another of the early signs in a healthy woman is breast change. Some women experience this at every menstruation, but it passes. During pregnancy these breast changes remain. The breast becomes fuller in appearance, and becomes tender, especially the nipples. The colour of the skin around the nipple changes, becomes darker, and this area enlarges into a slightly bubbly appearance. After a few months a liquid may be taken from the nipples, called colostrum.
Other changes may be experienced as need for more sleep; inability to eat large meals; strange desires for particular foods; frequency of urination; sudden increase in weight.
Doctor’s Help in Pregnancy
It is best to place yourself in the care of your doctor fairly soon. He or she will examine you, possibly by asking questions as to when your last period was, and so on. Also the examination may include feeling your abdomen with his or her hand. This is to see if any enlargement of the uterus has taken place. The doctor may also examine the vagina for signs of pregnancy, such as a greater supply of blood to the area. No doubt you will be asked for a urine specimen.
Length of Pregnancy
Add seven days to the first day of your last normal menstruation. Then deduct three months, and this will give you the approximate date of a full term pregnancy. Or else add 280 days to the date of conception. Again, this is an approximate date. To save your working it out, 280 days is forty weeks. The average time of conception is about fourteen days after the last normal period. There is little chance of your giving birth on the exact day, as in a survey only four out of a hundred women gave birth on the estimated day.
The baby first moves approximately half way through the pregnancy. That is about the twentieth week or just after. This can therefore act as a rough check on your estimated time of conception.
In recent years a great deal more has been revealed about what the baby does in the womb. Although it is not generally accepted, as given later, there is a fair amount of evidence to show that the baby is very much aware in the womb. The baby does not breathe, gaining its oxygen from the mother’s blood but it does move and rest. If you are observant you will notice that it goes through cycles of activity. Sometimes, much to the amused consternation of ‘mum’, baby decides to be active just as ‘mum’ is trying to go to sleep! These movements are very much like those we can see in a new-born baby – a thrusting of arms and legs.
Babies are also now known to often suck their thumbs or fingers while still unborn. Also, occasionally, to cry, but only when air has in some way entered the uterus.
The Big Day
If you are going into hospital or a nursing home, have your suitcase packed a couple of weeks in advance. If you plan to follow the advice in this book carefully, also have a little purse in which you can place some vitamin C, E and calcium tablets. Take these with you and keep them by you. You will be allowed to have a book and your purse by you until the baby actually arrives.
First Signs of Birth
For many women the first sign that birth is about to begin is the breaking of the membranes. Sometimes this happens while asleep in bed, and the resulting puddle of water will undoubtedly wake you. You will have had contractions of the uterus for some weeks. Similar contractions will again appear just prior to, or soon after the water ‘breaks’, although a few women do not experience the breaking of the membrane.
As soon as the contractions appear however, right from the start relax the rest of the body and breathe in stage one as described. Erna Wright points out that if you do not begin the relaxation and breathing right from the beginning the contractions can easily become painful. This is because the contractions are gradually ‘opening up’ the uterus, and unless the tensions in this area are relaxed, blocking can cause problems from the start.
You may hear the doctor or nurse talking about various stages of labour; to help you understand what they are referring to they are as follows: First Stage – The thinning of the ‘neck of the uterus’ or cervix is a pre-labour stage. The first stage of labour is when the baby’s head begins to open up the cervix. This ‘opening up’ of the cervix is called ‘dilating’. The nurse can gradually see more and more of the baby’s head as the cervix dilates. She, or the doctor, measures this dilation with finger widths. So she may say ‘She’s two fingers dilated.’ That means that the cervix, which opens rather in the shape of a cat’s eye, is two fingers wide. Eventually there is no cervix, only baby’s head showing. Then begins the second stage of labour, which is when the uterus pushes the baby along the birth channel, helped now, but not before, by your abdominal muscles. The third stage is after the actual exit of the baby’s head and body, and is the removal of the placenta.
What to Do Next when the Birth Starts
After this quick preview, let us return to the first contractions. As each one occurs, stand still, relax, while breathing in the first stage. From now on your breathing and relaxation is the real thing, not practice. If you feel you must breathe faster to get more air, then do so, as you are not supplying enough. If you breathe out fully each time, this will ensure fuller exchange of air. A feeling of dizziness means you are over-oxygenating. Slow up and do not breathe quite so deeply. On the other hand trembling is due to a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood which is caused by too shallow quick breathing. Take deeper breaths.
If the contractions start during the night, get up if you must, and have a drink of warm milk and honey. But it is better to simply go back to sleep. During this pre-labour phase, contractions may come far apart, or close together, but they are only short in length – ten to twenty seconds. Erna Wright says that the first stage of labour is characterised not so much by frequent contractions as by their length of about forty-five to fifty-five seconds. You must enquire beforehand at which stage your hospital or district nurse wishes to be informed.
Meanwhile, do not tire yourself out during this phase, because you will need all your energy for later on. If it is daytime and you are not requested to enter hospital, then get on with any simple tasks at hand, stopping at each contraction, breathing in level one, and relaxing. From the beginning of the contractions take a 100 mlg of vitamin C every half hour. Carry this on right to the last stage of labour. Also take 1000 i.u. of vitamin E, 4 calcium or 6 kelp tablets and one halibut liver oil capsule at the start of the contractions. Have these all sorted out beforehand so that it is easy. As already said, the C should be continued throughout, one every half hour. The calcium should be taken two every hour. Or if you can’t manage that, take 1000 mlg of C at the start and forget about it. The same applies to the calcium.
As the contractions lengthen you will find the level one breathing inadequate. Therefore, shift up into levels two and three as necessary. By the time you reach the 55-second contractions, you should be using the three levels at each contraction. As it begins, say mentally ‘contraction beginning’, and use level one breathing for 3 breaths, 3 in level 2 the height of the contraction in level 3, and then come down to 3 breaths in two, 3 in one, and say mentally ‘contraction finished’.
When the contractions last from one to one-and-a-half minutes, as it begins say mentally, ‘contraction beginning’, then breathe once in level one, 5 times in level two, the peak of the contraction in level three and then down into level two for 5 breaths and 3 in level one. Then say mentally ‘contraction finished’. In between contractions, fully relax, repeating mentally ’surrender to Life.’
The breathing method can be changed to a very fast pant where more air is needed. You can practise this during the last two months of pregnancy with the aid of your husband. With a watch he can time your contractions of arms and legs, and you can practise the breathing routine to get the knack of timing. This will make it all far easier on the day.
I must stress however, that although the above method of breathing at a particular level in each phase of contraction sounds complicated, it very soon becomes a habit if practised often. Quite frankly, you do not have to breathe exactly the number of breaths at each level, as long as you do change as the contraction develops.
What Can I expect in the Birth Process?
When your ‘waters’ do break take a note of the time so that you can inform the nurse or hospital. Doctors who plan to give their patients a general anaesthetic advise women not to eat before being admitted to hospital. As you are having a natural birth this rule does not apply. The rule is made so that the patient does not vomit stomach contents under anaesthesia and then have the food enter the lungs. Therefore have a small meal to give you sufficient fuel to burn during the activity ahead. As you will not be able to eat for some time, you will need food that will be easy to digest yet will supply a steady flow of fuel. The breakfast already mentioned, which keeps the blood sugar level high for many hours, is excellent for this purpose. That is, a meal consisting mostly of protein, but with carbohydrates, sugars and some fat also. A poached egg on toast, with plenty of butter, followed by a milk drink with a couple of spoonfuls of powdered milk added, plus honey,- will be excellent. Or any meal of a similar composition.
Meanwhile, at every contraction except those occurring while you sleep, use the relaxation and breathing technique. Try to get as much sleep as possible before the first stage of labour begins as after this you will have to remain awake and ‘working’ almost continuously until the end of the labour. To quote Erna Wright, ‘Handling contractions during this period is almost like a holy ritual. You handle each contraction with as much single minded concentration and care as you can; in the correct manner, with the correct dissociation, with the correct breathing. Never, never answer questions during a contraction.’ (The New Childbirth). Erna Wright also suggests buying a little, real sponge to dip in a saucer of water by the bedside to wipe the face between contractions and to suck for water and for comfort. Another helpful tip she gives is to empty the bladder every hour during labour. This is because during labour the usual sensation of a full bladder may not be noticeable. Thus one may reach a point where pain occurs with every contraction due to a full bladder.
Going Great Guns
As stage one of labour changes into stage two after the thinning of the cervix, quite a number of women experience what is called the transition stage. This is experienced as a great tiredness, or feeling of being desperately fed up with the whole process. You may become extremely irritable and bad tempered, but if you can hold on to your discipline for a while, you will pass through this phase. At this time the urge comes to aid the uterus by pushing, using your abdominal muscles, but resist this temptation completely unless the nurse says it is time to push. To help you through this phase if it becomes pronounced enough to disturb you, hold rigidly to your breathing and relaxation discipline, even though these may seem to go haywire for a while keep on with Them. Also, every time you relax between contractions say mentally, ’surrender to Life’, and completely relax all muscles not in use. As you say this mentally, feel as if you were handing your whole being over, as practised during relaxation to the light.
Bring On the Reinforcements
You and your uterus are now working full out, but due to your breathing and relaxation you are handling your contractions and they have not become painful. During contractions some women have a cramp-like sensation in the uterus. With your vitamin E and calcium already under your belt, your muscles should perform like trained circus athletes, but just in case, you can rid yourself of this problem. This is done by you, or your husband if he is there, gently and delicately massaging the area in a circular direction. There should be hardly any pressure attached to this, as it is the lightness of touch that soothes the underlying muscles.
Another helpful aid as you enter the second stage of labour is to ‘take aim’. In other words, when you actually begin to help the uterus by pushing, it is a great aid to find a spot at the foot of the bed, down beyond the feet, and imagine you are pushing the baby towards it.
Meanwhile, you are still some way from stage three, so don’t forget your vitamin C every half-hour, and calcium every hour. If you buy something like Super Rose Hip, or children’s flavoured vitamin C tablets, you can suck them like sweets instead of attempting to swallow them.
Erna Wright is so full of practical suggestions it is difficult to avoid quoting her. If it is necessary for the doctor or nurse to examine you internally, or snip the membranes with scissors if they have not been broken, and during the removal of the placenta, Erna suggests that you practise the same rules as for contractions, i.e., go into level two breathing and relax the genitals.
Once the cervix has thinned and the baby’s head emerges from the vagina, having been pushed along the birth channel, it is usually only a matter of moments before the rest of the baby follows, and you have that wonderful first glimpse of your child.
But before all this occurs, you will be working away at the longest of the contractions, which also require you to ‘push’ as well. This ‘pushing’ is the same sort of abdominal tension as that made during going to the toilet. You will have already practised this as advised elsewhere in the book. Make sure, as always, that the genital area is relaxed. As it is difficult to push’ and breathe at the same time, a slightly different routine is required. In stage two of delivery you will find that as the contraction starts your abdominal muscles will also contract, this contraction is heightened by your own conscious effort. Therefore, as you feel the contractions beginning, say mentally, ‘contraction starting’, and take three breaths in level two. Then as you breathe in for the fourth time hold your breath in while you push. Hold this for six to ten seconds, depending on your ability, and then blow the air out and repeat. While in the ‘pushing’ stage, it is best to have plenty of pillows behind you, knees drawn up, back slightly rounded, in imitation of the squat position. As you hold your breath in, push the chin down hard on the chest to block any escape of air, and prevent you arching your head back. As you breathe out, say mentally ’surrender to Life’. Then breathe in again and hold it as above. Repeat this cycle of breathing in, holding it, pushing, blowing out and surrendering, two or three times, depending on length of contractions. As the contraction begins to wane, no longer hold the breath, but breathe in level three until you get your breath back; drop into level two for a few breaths, and then to level one. Don’t forget to relax back gently from the squat position after the contraction so that the baby’s head does not slip back from its position in the birth channel.
As the head of the baby emerges and the rest of the body is following, no more ‘pushing’ is necessary. Now is the time to drop back into the position of sexual surrender, with your own head dropped back in relaxation, hips and genitals open to ‘giving’, and mouth open panting as in orgasm.
After the actual birth, the umbilical cord is clipped or tied, and then severed. The placenta is usually delivered by one more contraction. Erna Wright suggests, when this is all over, sucking a few glucose sweets or taking some honey to replace the blood sugar burnt up during the labour. If you have already had a previous child you will later experience small contractions as the uterus returns to its proper size. Handle these in the same way as you did the birth contractions and they will soon pass away. The same applies to the contractions occurring during breast feeding.
Now you should be home and dry. Cuddle baby, forget everything, and sleep.