Rest and relaxation in pregnancy, birth & early motherhood


Tension is who you think you should be

Relaxation is who you really are

Chinese proverb


The idea of rest and relaxation is something that many might think is synonymous with pregnancy, not thought about in birth and then elusive in early motherhood.


“Make sure you get enough rest” your grandmother might remind you. “Sleep when your baby sleeps” well wishers will suggest and of course, when it comes to birth, who knows what to expect if you listen to all the negative stories many like to share.


Rest and relaxation are, in fact, one of the most important parts of this very sacred period.


For many of us, getting enough rest in pregnancy can be very challenging. Most first time mothers are still working full time right up until their due date and hence have all the obligations they had prior to pregnancy, while second and third time mums are running around after other children, often toddlers. Furthermore, as though nature is preparing us for what’s ahead, baby starts to wake us in the last trimester as they take their chance to kick and wriggle as soon as the light is turned out for bed, not to mention the discomfort of aching backs, nausea or heart burn.


However, rest and relaxation are far more important at this time than just getting enough sleep. Teaching the mind and body to fall into relaxation quickly is incredibly beneficial for preparing ourselves for birth. Relaxation, as we describe in She Births®, is your greatest inner resource during birth. The rest and relaxation side of our nervous system is required for giving birth to our babies (as opposed to the fight or flight side of our nervous system that prepares us for exactly that).


When we become efficient at evoking what we call the “relaxation response” our blood pressure is lowered, our heart rate and metabolic rate are decreased and when our face, neck and shoulders relax in labour, our cervix more readily thins.


Practicing relaxation is not difficult but takes some time and commitment. In pregnancy the specific practice of relaxation (such as listening to a visualisation, affirmations, meditation or taking a guided relaxation such as yoga nidra) not only help you to bond better with your baby by allowing time to visualise your baby and the birth you would like to have, but prepare the body to go more easily into relaxation during birth. Allowing ourselves to take deep rest in the lead up to birth also allows us to be more in touch with our deep subconscious, our mammalian brain, that innately “knows” how to birth. So give serious consideration to taking as much time off work as you can before having your baby so you can really rest and give time to surrendering into yourself.


Once baby is born, these techniques are equally beneficial to allow deep rest for new mothers. Time is of the essence when it comes to rest for new mamas, so using the above techniques help you move more quickly into deep relaxation that can often be more nourishing than a quick nap.


Not only will taking time to rest and relax over this special period benefit you and your baby, it will give you life long skills and life long benefits.


The relaxation response yields many long term benefits in both health and well-being and can be bought on with very simple mental focusing or meditation techniques. People eliciting the relaxation response open a kind of door, clearing and rejuvenating their minds and bodies, readying themselves for new ideas and suggestion” Dr Herbert Benson (author of Timeless Healing: the Power and Biology of Belief)


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