Sophia M. Cannonier is a certified midwife assistant, Doula and Birthing From Within Childbirth mentor. She spoke with the Bermuda Sun and recommended the following exercises that expectant mothers she has mentored have found valuable.
They say, ‘a baby changes everything’.
In my opinion, a woman has every opportunity to transform into a powerful and empowered mother.
Here are a few exercises that the women I have mentored have been very thankful for receiving.
Lesson 1: Find your voice.
The most important group of muscles that a women needs to tone and prepare for her pregnancy and birthing her baby are those surrounding her vocal chords and her brain.
A woman should learn what her human rights are, she should research all of her options fully and speak up for what she truly desires for her birth. She should never take ‘no’ for an answer.
Lesson 2: Breathing.
There is a myth that a woman needs to learn a ‘special style’ of breathing in order to successfully birth her baby.
The truth is all she needs to do is be supported to breathe normally and not to be told to hold her breath.
If supported well, she will know instinctively how to bring her baby.
Lesson 3: Practice for perfect pushing.
In my Conscious Childbirth Workshops and Prenatal Yoga classes I mentor women to practice 'feeling their babies emerge.
We practice many instinctive positions for birthing including squatting, side lying and kneeling on all fours.
Women who attend these empowering classes do not practice for pushing while lying on their backs or even semi reclining in a seated position. They do not practice holding their breath while envisioning passing a constipated stool.
To practice for perfect pushing I encourage the women to raise their feet while preparing to have a bowel movement. They practice taking a breath and then slowing drawing their abdominal muscles under their voluntary control back toward their spines while exhaling.
In this way the woman is working with gravity and the bowel aligns. Also being in the squatting position with the feet raised opens the pelvic outlet by up to 30 per cent.
Who really enjoys having a bowel movement, let alone a constipated one while lying on their backs anyway?
Lesson 4: Optimal foetal positioning.
The words optimal foetal positioning are often misunderstood. Essentially, the term describes the best way a baby fits through the twists and turns of the maternal pelvis and that mother and baby are designed to work together.
The pelvis is a complex and dynamic set of bones. It cannot be defined by one shape or size. In fact, there are four main types or shapes, of pelvises among humans, but they all have the same basic structure.
Knowing how to recognize and work with these variations may mean the difference between a vaginal or caesarean birth.
It may mean the difference between a 12-hour and a 48-hour labour. It may mean the difference between an extremely intense back labour and a labour that is more manageable. Knowing how to make the difference is an invaluable skill for women to have.
Lesson 5: Know how to safely exercise your abdominals.
Diastasis recti is a separation of the outermost abdominal muscle tissue called the rectus. One of the functions of the recti muscle is to support the back.
When the muscle separates it weakens the support for the back and causes back problems. A certain amount of separation is normal and natural during pregnancy. Women who start their pregnancies with a diastasis recti already from doing abdominal toning incorrectly often have weakened support for their back and belly thus causing them low back pain.
It is safe to do abdominal exercises during pregnancy but only if they are done correctly and with awareness. 'Crunches' can make the separation larger. This results in back pain and a protruding lower abdomen that does not go away easily after pregnancy, i.e. the mummy tummy.
The deepest abdominal muscle is called the transverse. When you engage this muscle with awareness first it shortens the recti (the outermost muscle) form the middle and makes the diastasis smaller. Also when you engage the transverse muscle you are also activating the lumbar multifidus muscle along the spine. Working this muscle also helps with lower back pain.