EASY BREATHING EXERCISES..
Relax and bond better with your baby
Different practitioners have different approaches towards meditation. While Dr Snehal Shah, homeopath and advanced clinical hypnotherapist uses the above-mentioned techniques to practise meditation, Dr Geetanjali Shah, Mumbaibased paediatrician helps her patients to follow a step-by-step approach for every trimester. “The first three months are very stressful as many women feel low and fatigued very soon. Relaxation, through corrective breathing, helps them regain their energy levels and also control morning sickness, nausea and other symptoms,” says Dr Geetanjali. The White Light Technique of visualisation is taught during the second trimester. “Here, expectant mum is made to lie on her back in a quiet place and breathe evenly, which would set in waves of relaxation through the body. Next, she is encouraged to visualise a white light entering her left leg and soothing her foot, calves, thighs and relaxing them. The same is advised for the right leg. Next, affirmations are sent across to feel that the light ascends through her body and enlightens the entire being,” explains Dr Geetanjali. In this state of trance, the mother is asked to connect and talk to the baby. “We ask the mother to tell her baby, ‘You are blessed and have blessed me with maternity. I pray that you develop physically, mentally and spiritually’. Slowly, taking deep breaths, the mother concludes the 15-minute relaxation technique,” says Dr Geetanjali. The third trimester deals more with managing labour, where affirmations are sent across while meditating. “We ask the mother to say to herself, ‘My baby is growing right’; ‘My baby is doing fine and descending slowly.’ Such affirmations are sent across to avoid pre-term labour and induce a safe birth,” says Dr Geetanjali.
The mother is also encouraged to talk to the baby and listen to what the baby expects out of her. These affirmations are sent across to train the mind to work in a positive way. “Repeated affirmations make the mind believe and accept them as truth. As the mind has an impact on the body and its functions, training the mind with the positive inputs helps the body to cope better and the baby to feel good in the womb,” says Dr Snehal.
WHAT IT DOES
Studies suggest that practising meditation for 15 to 20 minutes a day can have the following effects during pregnancy: Meditation increases the production of endorphins, small protein molecules secreted by the nervous system and other parts of the body. “These endorphins help to reduce physical pain and also help in pain-management during labour, if practised regularly,” says Dr Snehal. Stress can increase the production of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Excessive secretion of adrenaline and cortisol inhibits the production of oxytocin, a hormone that initiates labour. Also, higher stress levels can result in increase of blood pressure, blood sugar levels and also set the stage for gestational diabetes. Deep breathing through meditation can help reduce the stress and keep the hormones in check. It soothes the mind to stabilise the mood and also initiates better sleep. This in turn keeps the energy levels up. It also helps in increased milk production and prevents postpartum depression. It lowers blood pressure and heart rate and hence helps to decrease the incidence of pre-eclampsia.
HYPNOSIS: WAKE UP TO SLEEP
Hypnosis, like meditation, heightens the level of one’s awareness superficially resembling a sleep state. The aim of hypnotherapy is to make the subconscious mind active by sending out vocal affirmative commands. “Studies say that the mind is made up of the conscious mind and the subconscious mind, where 12 per cent of the mind comprises the conscious mind and the remaining 88 per cent is the subconscious mind,” says Dr Snehal. This also means that at any given time, only 12 per cent of the brain is used by an individual. “One can tap the energy of the subconscious mind through hypnosis. During pregnancy, this higher state of consciousness helps the mother to imagine the positive commands sent across by the practitioner and accept them as a reality. This creates a positive environment for the foetus to grow and survive in the womb,” says Dr Snehal. The mind has an effect on the physical body. “You do not realise this, but your thought process and state of mind affect the baby in the womb, who learns to pick up emotions and moods from the mother,” she says. Self-hypnosis practised at home by pregnant women does have a lot of positive effects, but it is advised to learn the basics from a practitioner who can guide you on the method. “The first step of hypnosis is to relax and focus on breathing with the help of relaxing music and verbal instructions. Here, you are made to sit comfortably on a chair or lie down on the floor. Once the mind is calm, rhythmic breathing like inhaling with three counts and exhaling with three counts is encouraged. This is followed by progressive relaxation of the mind and the body from head to foot,” explains Dr Snehal. Once you are relaxed and at ease, various verbal commands are sent across at this point to facilitate your subconscious mind. “Certain hypnotic techniques are used to awaken the subconscious mind and reverse counting is the most common. This helps you to reach a hyper suggestible state, where the mind is most receptive and responsive. Your mind is now programmed with auto suggestions, sending affirmations and you are asked to repeat them. This helps you to connect with the baby and develop the emotional bonding,” she says. Different verbal commands are sent across during each trimester. “For example, we say, ‘feel your baby growing and breathing in the first trimester’. Or for the last trimester, you will be urged to visualise playing with your baby,” says Dr Snehal. The last stage of the session involves commands that help you to visualise that you’re going through a healthy and safe labour. This makes you more confident and prepares you to deal with the labour which consequently results in a safe childbirth. After this entire process, the mother is urged to repeat the suggestion and is then brought out of the hypnosis. The entire process takes about 40 to 45 minutes. Once this technique is taught to you and reinforced two-three times, it can be practised by you at home.
For skeptics, Dr Snehal says that hypnosis is nothing like what is portrayed in films or television. “In fact, even though you are taken to a higher psychological state, your brain is most active and hence, is capable of taking in all the suggestions repeated to you. It is like feeding a programme into a computer memory to achieve target results. Similarly, once the mind is programmed and prepared, the body functions accordingly,” she explains.
HOW IT WORKS
First stage of labour: The secret of relaxation during the first stage of labour is maximum exhalation. Breathe in for the count of four seconds or as convenient and slowly breathe out for double the count. Repeat this process whenever the contraction is felt in the first stage of labour, while opening of the mouth of the cervix or dilating. An alternative to this process would be to breathe in air and breathe out reciting ‘aum’. You would feel relaxed and at peace with yourself with the simple breathing. At times, breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth also helps. But remember, retaining the breath and thrashing with anxiety and clutching onto things can cause tension, exhaustion and discomfort. Periodically breathe out to ‘let go’. Second stage of labour: The second stage of labour starts when the mouth of the uterus (the cervix) is dilated completely. This is the time to actively push the baby out and not before that. When you experience the contraction, take a breath, hold it and push down hard. Continue this exercise till the contraction lasts. If exhausted, breath from the nose and exhale from your mouth. Be more focused with these breathing techniques in the second stage as this is the only way you can help your baby to come out. Continue blowing till the baby is out. After the contraction passes, you can relax and continue with abdominal breathing. Third stage of labour: This is the state of complete relaxation and bliss. Breathe normally. The placenta comes out and separates within five to 15 minutes and a slight uterine contraction may be felt during this period as the placenta slips out.
WHAT IT DOES
Practising hypnosis can have varied benefits. Some of them are as follows: The breathing techniques and affirmations sent across relaxes the body and mind, helps in minimising the response to fear and pain of labour. Since hypnosis depicts an aroused state of awareness, it makes the mother more energised and in control of herself during labour to initiate a smooth delivery. It makes one more responsive to the uterine contractions, due to total relaxation throughout the birthing process. It helps to deliver in a calm and peaceful environment, which means babies would be more calmer and alert in their future. Stops rapid blood loss. It lessens the complications during labour, with fewer interventions lowers blood pressure.