Mindfulness, the ideal drug-free remedy for stress and anxiety, is now being offered
as a birth preparation programme. Founder of Becoming Mother and Mindful
Birthing teacher Nadia Raafat explains how being mindful can help you have a
stress-free pregnancy and birth experience?
Thirty-something women are more stressed and anxious than they have ever been. Our
desk-based, demanding and technological lifestyles have created a highly charged
mindset that is neither beneficial to the mind or the body. – and certainly not to pregnancy.
But research at Oxford University has shown that practicing mindfulness reduces anxiety
and depression in pregnant mothers and improves the Labour experience too. Here are
some of the ways in which Mindfulness can transform your pregnancy and birth
The 10 Benefits of Mindful Birthing
1 Connect to the experience more fully
Pregnancy is an incredible physiological experience. Often we are so focused on what’s
happening outside us we miss the miracle that unfolds moment to moment within us.
Because mindfulness invites mental stillness and an increased body awareness, the
quality of your physical experience is heightened. Imagine vivid HD technicolour as
opposed to plain old black and white.
2. Evolve beyond old fearful beliefs and future-based fearful expectations
When we practice mindfulness all the old ideas and beliefs of the past, as well as futurebased
fears and anxieties, simply lose their power over us. We discover that we have not
consciously chosen many of the beliefs we hold around pregnancy and motherhood and
we learn ways to release them or replace them with more helpful positive beliefs.
3 Accept and embrace rather than resist the sensations of labour
Because we are conditioned to automatically protect ourselves from pain, the unconscious
response to pain is resistance which creates more tension and therefore pain and
suffering. By being present in your body and having the skills to relax at will you will know
how to break this common pain, resistance and suffering cycle.
4 Be More in Tune with the Rhythms of Labour
By developing the ability to really listen to and hear the communications (both obvious and
subtle) of your body, going into labour you will find that you are better able to attune
yourself with the rhythms of the labour responding gently and with trust to the natural
progressive stages as they unfold.
5. Learn how to let go of control
Mindfulness invites you to really know your body. With practice you will become super
diligent at noticing resistance (both mental and physical) building up and use your
relaxation skills to release it – at will. The more you are in tune with the experience, the
more confident you will be about surrendering your need to control it. It is important to
remember that Childbirth is an experience that happens to you. You just need to let it
6 Get more effectively and efficiently into the birth zone
Once active labour sets in, if you have managed to avoid medication you will find that you
have entered what is known as the birth zone or birth trance. At this stage in labour all the
wonderful natural opiates and endorphins in the body will ensure that you remain calm and
relaxed as the labour intensifies. But first you’ve got to get to that stage without
intervention. Using practices like yoga and mindfulness will help you access the birth zone
and then remain there = even when you are being distracted by well-meaning midwives
and the inevitable small interruptions of the clinical labour experience like intermittent
monitoring and examinations.
7 Learn how to self-soothe whenever necessary
Despite your best intentions to stay calm, labour will challenge you in some way. Whether
it’s fear, anger or despondency that overwhelm you, or simply the sensations themselves,
you will have the tools to recognise as soon as your nervous system has switched to flight
or fight mode. You will quickly be able to restore a feeling of calm and steadiness once
again. These skills are also essential for your chosen birthing partner.
8 Keep Your baby calm during the labour experience too.
If you mind is calm and your body relaxed,the hormonal environment for your baby will be
a calm one too which means less likelihood of foetal distress and a smoother calmer birth
experience for your baby too. Being born can be an incredibly dramatic experience. We
want to make it as easy for them as possible.
9 Be flexible with the inevitable deviations that arise during the labour experience
Many of the disappointments around childbirth are due to our fixed assumptions and
expectations around birth. With the best intentions and investment of time and money you
simply cannot predict or control the outcome. There are too many uncontrollable variables.
Mindfulness teaches us to let go of expectations and attachment to outcome.
10 Be a more Mindful New Mum
Postnatal life is intense. The endless feeds, the sleepless nights, the constant
responsibility can all be very overwhelming. But with amore mindful approach to mothering
you will be able to step into your new role with a little more confidence and much less
stress. Whenever a challenge arises you can use your new skills and understanding to
remain steady, loving and calm – the best gift you can give to your child.
Childbirth educator and yogini Nadia Raafat is the founder of Becoming Mother – a
label devoted to preparing women for birth with yoga and Mindfulness.
She has helped hundreds of women to manage pregnancy stress and birth with
confidence through her Yoga and Mindfulness for birth programme.
For more information on Becoming Mother’s 8 Week Mindful Birthing Courses in
London please visit: http://www.nadiaraafat.com
Nadia’s Yoga & Mindfulness for Pregnancy & Birth DVD is available via Amazon,
YogaMatters and Birthease.co.uk and can also be ordered via her website.