With pregnancy comes massive change and growth, both physically and mentally. It’s truly a transformative time in a woman’s life as she spends 40 weeks growing a temporary organ (seriously) and a baby. The experience is life changing.
But pregnancy can also be full of fear, anxiety, physical pain and many unknowns. Hello My Tribe focuses on the wellbeing of women and mothers, and believes in guilt-free self-care. It’s imperative to take care of the mind, body and spirit throughout motherhood, and even better to start the habit of self-care during pregnancy.
This month, I sat down with Hello My Tribe expert Jill Birt to chat about physical and mental self-care during pregnancy. Jill Birt is a registered Labor and Delivery nurse, a survivor of postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. She is also a yogi, and founder of Prepared, a birth preparation platform. Birt empowers women throughout pregnancy with the teachings of yoga, the science of pregnancy and childbirth and practical tools to lean on.
Alex: How do the principles of yoga translate to pregnancy?
Jill: The truth about pregnancy, labor, delivery and motherhood is that just as life, they each are largely unpredictable. Often, the more we attempt to predict and control our experiences the more difficult they can become. Each are living experiences and therefore follow the path of present truth, and at times can become overwhelming, emotional and powerful. The study and practice of yoga brings about the connection of mind, body and spirit creating both physical and mental tools for strength and wellness. Through the physical movement and postures as well as meditation and breathing, a balance of state is achieved and equanimity can be found.
Alex: Which key areas of the body are important to pay attention to during pregnancy?
Jill: First and foremost, the “self.” Taking time to strengthen and sturdy confidence within her own abilities allows her to navigate with clarity. A woman’s intuition is strong and trustworthy. Physically speaking, the lungs are a key area. Pregnancy is physically taxing. Not only is there the obvious added weight and congestion of space, but also the large increase in blood volume which the lungs are working overtime to provide for. A regular balanced routine of both strengthening and stretching for the entire body is important. The pelvis and pelvic floor also hold high importance. Labor and childbirth is likely the most physically strenuous activity a woman will do in her lifetime, but one we are probably the least “trained” for. There was a time when the requirements of daily life provided adequate “training,” but our modern lifestyles do not offer these same levels of physical activity.
Alex: What specific movements are helpful as the body grows and changes?
Jill: Breathing exercises that encourage expansion of the lungs in all directions: sides, back, top, bottom. The lungs provide tremendous support to the whole of the body in so many ways. Yoga postures such as cat/cow, child’s pose, modified push ups, lunges (low, mid, high), Warrior 1 and Warrior 2, squats, wide legged forward folds and butterfly are all helpful movements during pregnancy.
Alex: What are your recommendations for a woman feeling extra tired during pregnancy?
Jill: Move your body. Take deep breaths all the way to the base and back of your lungs. This will increase the circulating oxygen providing energy. Take a walk outside, practe yoga, dancing, etc. Moving the body increases circulation and stimulates hormone responses that equal an energy and mood boost. Keep a regular schedule, including bed and wake times as much as possible. Hydrate and eat well.
Pregnancy brings so many unknowns.
What practical tools help calm the mind and heart, alleviating stress and anxiety?
- Pranayama (breathing exercises) such as ujjayi breath (in/out through the nose), counted breaths with the exhales gradually becoming longer than the inhales, and nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) are great.
- The practice of Pratyahara (drawing of the senses inward)
- Inversions where the head is below the heart such as downward dog and child’s pose
- Abhyanga (practice of self oil massage)
- Spend time with people who support and love you.
- Do things that make you happy.
- Believe in yourself.
- Find a spiritual connection.