The Final Weeks!
Your Birth Journey is about to Begin
By Tanya Goreing RRPr, Doula, Educator
As a Maternity Reflexologist and Doula, I work with many women in their final weeks and days of pregnancy to help prepare naturally for the beginning of their birth journey. What I have found by working with these women is that there is a lot of misinformation out there that leads to women feeling fear, anxiety, and having mal-positioned babies. All of this causes longer labours, more interventions and mistrust of the mom’s instincts.
I work hard to re-educate women in these final weeks and help them to work with their body to prepare for a happy, positive birthing experience. I encourage each woman not to focus on *the* date, but on the subtle changes she sees her body. I empower her to understand that every “sign” of impending labour is another step in the right direction and each of those signs is an important step closer to the birthing time. Every step made before the birthing time is a step that doesn’t have to happen once labour begins. That equates to shorter labours and less interventions which = positive birthing experiences.
As much as I tell people to be patient and trust, we are a society of “doing”! And this is a good thing when it comes to birth because we need to be active participants in our own birthing experiences. We need to listen to our body, move as it requires us to move, stop when it needs rest and learn to trust our natural instincts. And the final weeks of our pregnancy is a time to DO. Why? Well think of birth like a marathon. If you were about to run a marathon, would you wake up the morning of the marathon and jump out of bed ready to do your best?Or would you train and practice in the months, weeks and days leading up to the big day? Likely you would want to prepare for the event physically and emotionally. Birth is the same. It is a physically taxing experience that is emotionally charged. You will be pushing your body and mind to their limits. Therefore, you should take time in the final weeks and days to prepare for the experience.
Below is a list of things that a woman can do in the final weeks or days leading to her birthing time. This list is not exclusive, nor is it to be in exchange of recommendations given by medical practitioners such as mid-wives and obstetricians. Every body, every baby and every situation is different. You may find that some of these suggestions are not practical for you, and you may add other thoughts that seem like the best for your situation. Use this list as a guide.
3rd Trimester Suggestions
Red Raspberry Leaf tea – this will help to strengthen the uterine muscles for more effective contractions when they to begin. Some women are not recommended to do this. Speak to your medical practitioner to ensure you are not an at risk candidate.
Prenatal Yoga Stretches – gently stretching your body, especially if you sit for long periods of time through the day, is a great way to help prepare your body for the physical demands required of it during your birthing time. Find a class in your area or search for a DVD or online resource that is specially designed for pregnancy. You can also check out the book: Active Birth by Janet Balaskas
Sitting on an exercise ball – push your couch or computer chair aside and bring on your birth ball!! Sitting on a ball will help you stay in an upright position which means baby is encouraged to be in an optimal birthing position. Each and every time you lay back, even on a semi-recline, your baby is able to turn into a posterior position (spine to your spine) and this will cause back pain, hip pain and back labour once your birthing time begins. To help ensure your couch doesn’t call to you, have the exercise ball in the same room as your tv or near your computer, wherever you spend your leisure time. Not only will gravity be on your side, but the ball will help you to keep your pelvis open and if you decide to do hip circles (which I highly recommend!), you will be releasing any tension held in your lower back and hip area. And the ball will be your friend in labour as well.
Stay active – unless there is a reason you are on bed rest, staying active through walking and stretching are still necessary (although strenuous cardiovascular activity may not be recommended for your situation. Check with your health practitioner to confirm) even though you may be feeling like the goodyear blimp. Women in history were active in the household activities throughout their pregnancy and this included chasing toddlers, gardening, cooking, hands and knees floor mopping, etc. and they had less medical interventions in birth. Remember that the next time you are tempted to go put your feet up.
Final weeks (36 – birth) suggestions
Continue doing all of the above and also add:
Dance – Let’s get this party started!! Remember the days at the high school dance or the clubs when you had no inhibitions and didn’t care who was watching you shake your booty? Get back there by putting on your favorite “get moving” tunes and have a dance party in your kitchen or living room (even the bedroom – see oxytocin below)! Dancing releases feel good endorphins that are necessary for birth. The movements are also great for keeping your hips loose and open, and encouraging baby to be in an ideal birthing position. If you are more into formal group sessions, check your local area for Dancing for Birth TM classes.
Hydrate – again thinking about the marathon, do the athletes do it without being fully hydrated? Nope! Your core body temperature is elevated during pregnancy which can lead to sweating, thereby a loss of essential bodily fluids. During the birthing time this is heightened even more! As well, increased fluids will help keep your bowels moving regularly and this is good for making sure baby has lots of room to move into a good birth position. So do yourself a favor and remember to drink lots of water. (If you don’t love the thought of drinking water, you can naturally flavor your water with fresh fruits). Other sources of fluids can be used as well.
Reflexology – although reflexology by a trained professional can be safe and effective to help with many issues throughout pregnancy, as a certified maternity reflexologist I have seen first-hand the benefits of a series of treatments in those final weeks as you prepare for birth. Could you use a better quality of sleep in those final weeks to prepare for your birth marathon? How about hormone balance? All of this and so much more is available by receiving this amazing “foot massage”! I suggest finding a local reflexologist who has been trained to work with maternity clients, or who have experience working with this population.
Chiropractic – through pregnancy your body is rapidly changing. Similar to reflexology, chiropractic care all throughout pregnancy can be helpful for easing back and hip pain and restoring balance, but in the final weeks it will help to keep your hips and pelvis in proper alignment which helps your baby get into, and stay, in an optimal birthing position.
Staying upright and using gravity – anything you can do in the final weeks to stay off your back and maintaining an upright position is best! Do the dishes instead of letting the dishwasher do it, go for a walk, gentle lunges and squats. Even sleeping on a slight incline can be beneficial.
Perineal Massage and Kegels – these activities, when done properly, will help prepare and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This in turns is a great help during the pushing phase of birth to help ensure there isn’t any tearing or you don’t require an episiotomy. Well prepared pelvic muscles will also help your body birth your baby with less effort on your part.
Final days suggestions
Oxytocin – also known as “the love hormone”, this is the hormone released from your pituitary gland that begins contractions. It is necessary for bonding with baby as well. To help it be in full flow and ready for contractions to begin, you can do activities such as cuddling with partner, watching a romantic movie or reading a romance novel, nipple stimulation, looking at pictures of your wedding day or other loving events.
Bathroom breaks – because you are still remembering to stay well-hydrated, you will want to make sure you take the time each hour to use the bathroom. Even if you feel like you don’t have to go, the motion will help your brain and body get into an “elimination” mode, keep bladder empty so baby has room to move and open your pelvis.
Laugh, Have Fun, Relax – again you want happy endorphins flowing and to keep your body loose and open. The best way to do that is to release fears and anxiety and embrace positive thoughts, positive moves and be joyful. Remove anything from your life in those final days that are causing you stress (even if that means well intentioned friends or family who are calling to say “have you had the baby yet”). Watch funny shows or movies, find the joy in each new day as it brings you closer to holding your new baby!
What other ways can you think of that will help you prepare both emotionally and physically for your birthing time? We would love to add your thoughts to our list!
Your author, Tanya, is a mom, health care practitioner, doula and educator. Her clinical practice Soul Treatments, which specializes in the health of women and children, is in Cambridge ON Canada.
Tanya Goreing is the proud mother of one boy and the owner of Soul Treatments. The natural health of woman and children is her passion!