Pregnancy can often be a rather trying time, particularly when things don’t go the way you imagined it to. Fortunately, there’s a rather simple and natural way to help you beat those blues
Bump To Birth
As your bump grows, your brain is busy forging a brand-new skill which gives you a greater ability to respond to his needs and build a loving bond.
By Sonali Shivlani, Internationally Certified Pregnancy Consultant and a child nutrition counsellor.
Whenever I ask ‘What are your thoughts on labour?’ at the start of a class, all expectant parents look at each other very quietly for the fi rst few seconds. Then one mum will reply with ‘Pain’, another will add ‘Stress’ and then the dads pitch in with words like ‘Anxiety’, ‘Fear’ and so on. It’s interesting why this is the view point. When I ask the same parents what do they think they would be doing when their child turns one, their answer is ‘Celebrate’, ‘Party’ and so on. To that I simply ask, “Why not celebrate the actual birth day of your baby?” The fact remains, the day your child enters this world only comes once in a lifetime and we look at it with so much dread and anxiety. Our body gives us many signs and symptoms, sometimes even days in advance that labour is soon to follow. Here are a few facts to consider:
- Early labour is almost unnoticeable.
- The total duration of labour for a first time mom can be between 12 to 24 hours.
- Our bodies are designed to birth and all we need to do is trust our instincts.
- The calmer and more relaxed a mom is, the faster labour will progress. This obviously goes without saying, but the more stressed a mom is, the slower labour will progress.
- The environment makes a lot of difference. A woman in labour should surround herself with people who understand and support her choices, and not make her feel guilty. This means, you need to choose your labour companion wisely.
So it’s like this, preparing for labour is something you do from the time of conception. Right from creating a positive environment for you and your growing baby, to maintaining a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition and supporting it with pregnancy-safe exercises to prepare your body for labour, you need to consider these nine months as your training period.
Poised For Action
Closer to birth, your baby will start descending into the birth canal, and move into a birthing position. A baby which is well positioned will make delivery a lot easier. This means that the baby has to be in a head down position. This is also called the vertex presentation. If the baby is in a breech which means that the buttocks are presenting to the pelvis or if the baby is transverse which means that the baby is lying horizontal then it will be difficult for the birth to be vaginal and the doctor will discuss a surgical birth with you. In this situation you will be headed for a planned C-section.
However, there are some things that can be done to encourage the baby into the right position. Remember the baby’s head is the heaviest part and this will tend towards gravity. Hence little things like walking, doing half squats or even sitting in the butterfly posture, are often said to help widen the pelvis and encourage the baby to move to a head down posture.
Another position that is favourable to birth is the anterior position. This means that the baby is facing the mothers back. In this position, the baby’s head can align well into the pelvis and the whole process of labour is much faster.
Take A Breath
Breathing exercises help manage labour pains. However, you cannot just study them one day and expect to use them during labour and birth. You need to practice, practice and practice. Labour breathing means short and quick breaths. The key focus is use your chest, not the abdomen. Remember, you have to breathe in through the nose and exhale through your mouth. However, you need to concentrate and make it relaxed and gentle. Contractions can last for up to 90 seconds in intense labour so practice 90 second contraction breaths a few times every day, in the last few weeks prior to your due date.
Be Packed and Ready
Make sure that your hospital bag is packed. It can be super stressful if labour starts and you realise that you haven’t packed. After all, if you want to be comfortable in your hospital room, you most certainly need those bare necessities to help ease your experience and post-delivery recovery. So pack your bag as early as week 34 to avoid any lastminute stress.
The next thing to keep in mind is when you need to make your way to the hospital. This requires a discussion with your doctor about when she wants you to come to the hospital, and then plan your route accordingly. This would mean factoring in the time of day, traffic and alternate routes, to ensure that you are all prepared when labour actually starts.
After this, you need to just sit back and relax. Remember, it is best for labour to start naturally. Even though you may be feeling heavy and anxious, and possibly fending off a dozen questions from well-meaning family and friends about whether your labour has started, it is still best to wait. The uterus is the best place for the baby to develop and bringing the baby out a little sooner could actually compromise the development. If everything is healthy and normal with your pregnancy, perhaps it’s best to let your baby pick the day she’s ready to finally greet you.
Join us next month as we discuss pre-labour and labour signs and symptoms, and what to expect at the hospital. MB
MEET THE EXPERT – Milli Hill is a mum of three, author of The Positive Birth Book and founder of The Positive Birth Movement.
When it comes to giving birth, most women’s bodies don’t conform exactly to set patterns. A labour may start slow, get fast, stall, do a bit more slow stuff, then get cracking like you’re riding the runaway horse in the Grand National. But if you’re pregnant for the first time, you’ve probably got one burning question at the forefront of your mind: ‘What will it feel like?’ To try and help give you the answers, I’ve divided labour up into 14 phases—yes, you heard me right, 14!
Trying to conceptualise one of the most mind-blowingly unique experiences of your life by dividing it into sections is a bit like trying to describe your wedding day in terms of car journeys, or measuring out your life in coffee spoons. In reality, all of these phases will probably blend and blur into each other. It will be different for you. But it will also be something like this…
The Nothing Doing Phase
In the days and hours before labour begins, you might feel the increasing intensity of this phase. You’ll be bombarded by well-meaning friends asking, ‘Anything doing?’ You might feel like the answer is, ‘Nope, nothing to see here’, but in fact, the dance of hormones is almost certainly beginning, and there may be internal changes that you cannot see or feel, like your baby moving further into position or your cervix beginning to thin. It feels boring, frustrating, exciting, heavy, cumbersome and filled with anticipation. Some women feel physically really uncomfortable, others are energised and agile. Many start to feel small urges to withdraw from day-to-day life.
The Maybe Something is Happening Phase
This can sometimes be your mind playing tricks on you due to your desperation to meet your baby— and be able to put on your own shoes again—but more often than not, it’s the beginning of little signs that birth is more and more imminent. You might experience an increase in Braxton Hicks, those tightenings in your bump that are like practice contractions. You might feel hormonal, perhaps with rushes of oxytocin which can make you feel very positive and loved up, or adrenaline, which can make you decide that now would be a great time to launder your curtains. You might also lose your mucus plug, which is the little blob of jelly that seals up your uterus. This will sometimes have a pinkish tinge and is also known rather romantically as a Bloody Show. It feels as if you are spiralling inwards, connected to your baby, and you might be nervous, excited and emotional.
The Niggling Phase
Midwives love this word: niggling. They use it to describe women in the very early part of labour who are starting to feel those Braxton Hicks more strongly. The tightenings start to be harder to ignore and some women’s waters break. We could also call this the Yes, Something Is Finally Flipping Happening Phase, but it can be very ‘stop start’.
The Ramping Up Phase
Slowly but surely, the niggling phase gives way to something that feels a bit different, as labour gathers pace and ramps up. You might find that the tightenings, surges or contractions demand your full attention, and that you begin to get into a rhythm or dance with them. For example, each time you feel one approach you might lean on the chest of drawers, rock back and forward, moan and work your way through it until you feel it subside again. Then you might carry on with what you were doing. Between surges you will feel completely normal and often very energised, happy, or even a bit ‘trippy’ from the hormonal experience. If you’re not giving birth at home, you will probably travel during this phase. It feels exciting, dream-like, intensifying, rhythmical, powerful and like you are definitely going to have a baby!
The Cracking On Phase
Hold on to your hat, this is when it really gets interesting! You are totally, fully and unmistakably in the thickest, fullest and most intense part of labour. Your contractions will probably come more frequently, be more intense and last longer. You will probably not feel like talking or doing anything else. You will be in the place that some people call ‘Labour Land’, utterly focused on riding the waves and staying afl oat. Many people do find this part of labour really hard work and really intense. There is still some of the golden time between contractions, but they are closer together, and the peaks of them can be, well, cracking.
I’ve deliberately not talked about dilation up till now because I really want to discourage you from worrying about measuring the opening of your cervix in centimetres and focus instead on the experience of being in labour. However, transition means you’ve reached full dilation, which is roughly around 10cm, the size of a box of cheese triangles. Transition is a time when everything changes. You will feel this, and it will be happening in your hormones as oxytocin makes way for the adrenaline you need to wake you up from Labour Land, and energise you enough to give birth. This hormonal shift may even cause you to feel ‘fear’ at this moment, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot do it. It just means you are doing it. This stage can feel hugely emotional, but although it’s intense, it’s usually brief: it is like a wave of feelings that will wash over you and then pass away, as all waves do.
The Rest And Be Thankful Phase
This doesn’t happen for all women, but some experience a pause here. For some it lasts long enough to cause care providers concern that labour has stalled. More often than not, it hasn’t, and after these moments of gathering in fortitude and courage, the majority of women make the leap of faith into the final phases of bringing a new human onto the earth.
The Pushing Phase
Some people can take up to two hours, sometimes longer to push their baby out, while others go from fully dilated to baby in arms in a matter of minutes. Some women like guidance and direction at this point, others prefer to spiral inwards again and listen to their body. Some find they don’t actually have to ‘push’ at all, and that the effort is completely involuntary, like sneezing. You still have contractions, but they feel different because you feel compelled to push while they are happening, and some women prefer this more active phase of their labour. It can make you feel like being intensely quiet or roaring like a lioness. The physical sensations as your baby descends, through the cervix and down your vagina are some of the most extremely intense bodily experiences you will ever have. Some women can feel themselves stretching and widening. Some feel their baby rotate and move, moment by moment.
The Crowning Phase
For some, there is a burning sensation as the widest part of the baby’s head sits momentarily in the opening of your vagina. You are stretched wide. But it’s different for everyone, and the good news is, if you are one of the women who does not enjoy crowning, it is usually over very quickly.
The Head Being Born Phase
As your baby crowns, one or two more pushes will bring her head into the world. There’s one final stretching sensation, and then often a huge sense of relief, as you know the hardest part of labour is behind you.
The Body Being Born Phase
There is usually a pause after the head has been born, while you wait for the next surge to give birth to the body. After the hard work of the head, the body feels like a slippery eel, moving out of you with one final sensation of release. Sometimes you will feel your baby wriggle to move out of you with the final contraction. Giving birth to the body is hugely triumphant and relieving. It can feel very sensual, a fantastic physical experience, perhaps even orgasmic.
The Baby In Arms Phase
Yes, you’ve gone and done it! Your baby has been born! At the moment of birth you might reach down to take your baby and bring him up to you. Or a midwife might pass your baby up to you. Some prefer to leave their baby for a moment and take a look at him before picking him up. Now is the time for vital skin-to-skin contact, and remember, there is no rush to cut the cord. This is a moment of triumph for many, that magical moment of meeting your son or daughter for the first time. For others, the magic comes later on and they need some time to take stock about what you have just done. Physically, some feel hugely energised and on top of the world, whilst others feel utterly spent.
The Placenta Coming Out Phase
Just when you thought you’d utterly nailed this birth business, you realise you’ve still got one more job left to do, pushing out your placenta. The good news is that after a baby this feels like a teeny tiny friendly little portion of jelly. And once you’re through this phase, you can sink back on your pillows with your baby snuggled in tight, feeling like an absolute goddess. Delivering your placenta is usually easy-peasy, sometimes quite enjoyable and, frankly, a bit weird.
The Tea And Toast Phase
All being well, you are holding your baby, skin to skin. There may be a midwife or two taking an occasional peek at your nether regions, but frankly, you don’t really give a damn. If you do need stitches, you will get them now. And proving for every yin there’s a yang, you’ll also get the best cup of tea and slice of hot buttered toast you’ve ever had in your life! What does it feel like? Champion.MB
Pregnancy brings with it various skincare woes. Add to that equation your growing belly the changing weather, and you’ve got yourself a rather pesky situation. Josephine Song, global head, new product development, VLCC and co-founder, Global Vantage Innovative Group (GVig), Singapore, shares a few tips and tricks to keep your skin healthy.
Pregnancy comes with its share of ups and downs. All expectant mothers go through a magical experience, especially if you are pregnant for the first time. But for some women, it can mean months of nausea and fatigue, as well as dermatological conditions ranging from acne to hyperpigmentation.
The monsoons tend to make these dermatological conditions even worse as both the skin and hair suffer due to high humidity. Now, it’s a known fact that one’s skin is unstable as on some days it becomes extremely oily and other days it’s too dry. You never know what to expect and this instability renders your complexion dull and lifeless.
This is precisely why it’s important to care for your skin with a routine that’s suitable to your pregnancy skincare needs. However, before you do, make sure you consult the doctor and discuss the skin care regime before introducing a new ingredient to your gamut.
While all women respond differently to skincare ingredients, taking into account individual factors like skin type and sensitivities, make sure your routine goes something like this in order to make your skin glow even more during this special time:
WASH YOUR FACE: It’s important to rid your skin of dirt at least two to three times a day, especially before you go to bed. The monsoons usually cause dirt and pollutants to lodge themselves in your pores. Use a toner if you have dry skin or an astringent if you have oily skin, to clean your pores thoroughly.
MOISTURISE: Using a good moisturiser during the day is not enough. Our skin naturally repairs itself at night and daily moisturising before you sleep will also help keep wrinkles at bay, and will ensure that your skin glows. Do make sure to moisturise during your nighttime skincare ritual.
EXFOLIATE: Exfoliation involves the removal of the oldest dead skin cells on the skin’s outermost surface. If we don’t exfoliate, the dead skin cells stay on our skin, making your appear dull and lifeless. Moreover, this can lead to hair loss, breakouts, grimy feet, and much more. Therefore, a healthy skincare routine should always include exfoliation at least once a week.
SUN PROTECTION: Being outdoors, especially during the monsoons doesn’t necessarily mean you’re protected from the harmful rays of the sun. It’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect your delicate skin. But remember, all sunscreens are not created equal and with so many options, you can opt for one suited to your skin type and requirement. Also reapply sunscreen every four hours if you are not getting wet. Make sure to apply a generous amount. The easiest way to protect your skin is to avoid sun exposure during afternoon. This is when the energy from the sun’s UV rays is at its highest.
STAY HYDRATED: Drinking plenty of water has multiple benefits. It’s not only a means to help transport nutrients to your baby, it’s also a great way to ensure your skin stays healthy. Moreover, dehydration is also a common problem during pregnancy, particularly during the monsoons when you on’t usually feel thirsty. Make sure you drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water a day. On a particularly hot day, make sure you increase your water intake, depending on your state of hydration. Add lemon or cucumber to your water for a refreshing change.
EAT HEALTHY: Glowing skin is not only a result of external skincare. You must eat foods rich in antioxidants and proteins. Add fi sh and eggs, because they stimulate collagen growth. Check with your doctor on which things to include in your diet. Adding healthy vegetables and antioxidant-rich fruits to keep your complexion glowing.
EXERCISE: Exercise not only keeps you fit and active but it also helps to get rid of toxins and keeps your skin healthy and glowing during your pregnancy. Do simple workouts like pregnancy yoga every morning to feel good and stay fresh. If you feel too lazy to work out, taking a short walk is a great option to keep you active, as well as help you sweat to stay fresh and even aids in keeping your skin healthy.
STRETCH MARKS: You’re tummy is rapidly growing and you are noticing stretch marks on your hips, tummy, thighs, arms and other areas of your body. These occur in up to 90 per cent of pregnant women is the result of your skin stretching. Stretch marks are also due to hormonal imbalance. During your pregnancy, it is vital to properly moisturise the stretch marks affected areas at least twice a day. Look for creams with vitamin E, collagen or elastin to help improve the elasticity of your skin, thereby reducing the likelihood of stretch marks.
While one’s skin can get adversely affected by the changing weather, it’s also one’s hair that can see a drastic change, especially during one’s pregnancy. The monsoon season can cause an excessive amount of hair fall and increased dandruff. And one’s hormones are all over particularly during pregnancy, it becomes important to take care of your luscious locks. Do not allow your hair to remain wet for a long time as this facilitates the growth of dandruff. Finally, make sure you check the expiry dates of the products you use to make sure you avoid skin damage, and more importantly, make sure your baby stays safe and healthy!|MB
By Dr. Shallu Kakkar , Additional Director ,Obstetrics & Gynaecology ,
Fortis La Femme ,Jaipur
Motherhood is a beautiful feeling accompanied by several physical and psychological changes due to hormones rush. These hormones not only bring structural changes in the body but also alter the functional ability of the brain. Around 50 to 80% of expectant mothers have reported having a memory lapse or concentration problems during or post delivery. Medical science defines memory loss as “amnesia”. When would-be mothers or new moms suffer from amnesia triggered by pregnancy it is called “Momnesia” or pregnant brain.
How real is Momnesia?
In a neuropsychological research, a memory performance test was run on 412 pregnant women, 272 mothers, and 386 non-pregnant females. Pregnant women experienced the worst problems in memory tasks which were more challenging. Though clinical test differs from the research studies and negates any structural changes in the brain during pregnancy, studies have proven functional changes are real. During pregnancy memory deficit is very common and real. In another scientific study, a research conducted on the MRIs of pregnant women disclosed functional connectivity in the brain is altered in pregnant and post-delivery women which makes the integrated functioning of the brainless efficient. This affects particularly those parts of the brain which are responsible for social reasoning and the ability to see other people’s perspectives.
The paucity of clinical evidence on structural changes in the brain during pregnancy has divided the neuropsychology community into two schools having different opinions about the structural changes in the brain. However, both agree on factional changes being real.
What forces the brain to work otherwise?
Hormones play the primary role to alter the functional ability of the brain during pregnancy. Studies have also pointed towards the loss of grey matter. Researchers have speculated this loss as brain subconsciously preparing for motherhood by giving up on a neural network that she doesn’t need which prepares her to bond with her baby better. However, lifestyle changes shall be given some credit too. Stress, anxiety, sleepless nights seem to be equally responsible for this disturbed functioning of the brain.
How to deal with the memory loss?
Few strategies can help in managing the situation better:
- Keeping notes of activities can sound old school but work wonder when memory is not that reliable.
- Maintain order at home, keeping things where they belong is a good practice and is very useful as practice turns any habit into a core memory.
- Try mnemonic devices. If you meet a new person, think of an association to help you remember the person’s name. For example, if you meet someone named Dahlia, associate her with the flower. Identification of flowers is an inbuilt memory that will help you save the new one in the system.
- Don’t deprive yourself of sleep. Sleep-deprived brain malfunctions more often.
- Do exercise to keep the body and mind healthy and stress-free.
- Share work burden with partner and family to avoid overworking and stress related to it.
Forgetting things is normal during pregnancy. However, visiting a doctor is advisable if incidences of memory loss are acute and rapid. Forgetfulness accompanied with other behavioural changes like feeling gloomy or loss of appetite and interest in other activities should be a clue that seeking advice from a psychiatrist will be helpful because staying happy is the goal. A happy mother raises a happy and healthy child.