Exercise, pregnancy, Third Trimester

Exercise and Pregnancy: The Final Months

I’ve spoken earlier in my pregnancy about my exercise routine and how I’m incorporating that into my pregnancy. I managed to continue going to barre class about twice a week until the end of October, when I was about 34 weeks pregnant. Since then, I’ve continued to walk most days, and have tried to make time to do some yoga every week. I will admit, I did find it a bit more difficult to motivate myself to exercise since I stopped having the accountability and scheduling of the barre class. I mentioned in my weekly update that my doula has lent us a copy of the Spinning Babies Daily Essentials DVD to use for the last few weeks of my pregnancy and it’s definitely helped re-invigorate my workout routine.

So the first few weeks of November, when I officially cancelled my gym membership, I gave myself permission to be a little lazy. I mean, I still had to walk a fair amount, since I walk about 50 minutes, round trip, to get to and from work four days a week. And I tried to make sure I got in at least one more day per week of walking, usually our weekly trip to Vigilante Coffee. So I was still averaging over two miles per day of walking, though it was more like 3.5 miles five days a week, rather than a couple miles every day.

But after I got the Spinning Babies DVD, I made more of an effort to work on stretching and strengthening exercises from that DVD. The difference between that and my workouts before is that now I definitely see my goals as explicitly preparing for childbirth, rather than for general fitness. My doctor has even reminded me to walk for a half an hour every day, so I’m trying to make sure to fit in some walking time every day, even when I don’t walk to work. It helps that we have some lovely walking trails nearby.

And then, I do yoga and Spinning Babies exercises. I can do the full 35-minute Daily Exercises routine or the 28-minute yoga flow from the DVD when I have the time and energy, but I try to do a little every day, even if it’s just my favorite 3-4 exercises. And my Hypnobabies course actually recommends doing a small set of exercises everyday. So I do my pelvic tilts, squats, and butterfly stretch every day to keep my body supple and ready for childbirth, while windmills help release the lower back pain that has crept up as I’ve gotten bigger. Unfortunately, I had to stop doing forward-leaning inversions when my acid reflux got bad. But I notice that my body feels better when I do these exercises more consistently. Plus, I can still do my weekly lunchtime yoga class at work, since the instructor is a coworkers of mine and the class is small enough that she can tailor it to our needs.

In this way, I’m helping keep my body flexible and supple, and my mind quiet and prepared for the rigors of childbirth. I’m not going to be running any marathons soon, but I am preparing for the next endurance event on my schedule.

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Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week One Recap

Well, I’ve finished my first week of the Hypnobabies self-study course at home, and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts thusfar. I’m finding the program really interesting, and I think it will be helpful for my childbirth experience, regardless of whether it’s the only comfort measure I use. Specifically, I’m finding that I really appreciate the daily relaxation and meditation break that the practice involves because a fair amount of my pregnancy has involved worry about both the pregnancy and the birth at the end. Week one is really more of an extended introduction to the Hypnobabies program, and to the idea of self-hypnosis in general. It’s interesting because the week one slides hint at things to come, but don’t really delve into the specific self-hypnosis techniques that you’ll learn later on.

The main takeaways from week one, for me, were the importance of focusing on positive birth experiences, retraining your mind to think of childbirth as a positive, empowering thing, and using the special Hypnobabies language around pregnancy and birth. It definitely seems hokey at first to call “labor” “birthing time” and “contractions” “birthing/pressure waves,” but as someone who has used meditation in the past, I understand the necessity to challenge and rewire your brain on a deeper level. And it’s nice for me, as someone who has anxiety, to take concrete steps towards reducing my anxiety around the idea of having to actually birth the baby at the end of this. I will say that I think the two hypnosis tracks from week one, plus the pregnancy affirmations track, would all be appropriate to use earlier on in your pregnancy. I think if I ever have another baby, I’d probably start listening to the three tracks from week one earlier on, and start the official course with week two later on in my pregnancy.

Joyful Pregnancy Affirmation:

Now, affirmations are seriously not my thing. But I was able to find a meditative space where they were helpful. Oddly enough, I’ve used mantra meditation in the past, but it was always in Sanskrit, so there was less involvement from my conscious/analytical mind when I repeated a mantra. It was merely a way to focus my mind and keep it from wandering. So by treating the pregnancy affirmations the same way, I found a kind of meditative benefit from them, except that rather than listening to them only while sitting in meditation, I would listen to them whenever I had 40 minutes to do so. I listened to them at work while eating lunch, while commuting, while falling asleep at night, and any other time I could snag a chunk of time. I definitely feel more calm and positive about the idea of giving birth after listening to them, even if I don’t always pay attention to every word. Similar to my comments about the positive affirmations in some of the Circle + Bloom meditations, there is a sense with these that you have to accept the positivity and not try to argue with it, which is easier if you’re not fully paying attention and analyzing them the whole time.

Your Special Safe Place: 

This was the first self-hypnosis track that I listened to during the program, and it’s really more of a guided meditation and visualization, although I imagine the visualization is going to come into play later on in the program when you get into the deeper hypnosis tracks. I enjoyed this track more than I thought I would, probably because I realized that my “special safe place” is actually a real place that I go semi-regularly and just makes me feel happy and relaxed. The photo above is from it: the deck of my in-laws’ lakehouse early in the morning when most everyone is still asleep and it’s very cool and quiet. So having a guided visualization to take me there was a profoundly relaxing experience during my pregnancy, especially since later pregnancy has made the 5-hour-plus drive to get there sound less appealing.

Easy, Comfortable Childbirth:

This hypnosis track is more of a guided deep relaxation, followed by an explanation of the benefits of the Hypnobabies course, in my opinion. I enjoyed the deep relaxation, and I could see how hearing the course material while in deep relaxation could help, but I’m pretty sure the main point of this track is to get you used to entering and being in deep relaxation to prepare you for the physical sensation of hypnosis later on. But it’s a nice way to relax, at least.

So that’s my recap of the first week of Hypnobabies home-study. I’ve already moved on to week two, as I realized that reading all the slides and course handouts on Sunday helps prepare me to more fully focus on the hypnosis recordings the rest of the week. I’ll check back in next week to let you know how it’s going.

Previous Hypnobabies Posts:

Starting the Program

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study: Starting the Program

So first of all, I wanted to start this by saying that I am not a die-hard “natural” (i.e., unmedicated) birth advocate. In fact, I went into my pregnancy fully accepting that I would probably end up getting medical pain relief. Now, as I learn some more stuff about options for pain relief, I’m starting to realize that I actually want to make more of an effort to avoid an epidural, but that’s neither here nor there. The main reason I started looking into unmedicated birth techniques was because, if everything goes as planned, I will certainly not have the option of having pain relief at the beginning of labor (I have heard that you can get an epidural before starting pitocin if you get induced, but for the most part, everyone starts labor unmedicated) and I don’t really want to be floundering because I just assumed that “epidural, please” was sufficient thought to give to pain in labor.

Second, if you’re familiar with Hypnobabies, you’ll notice I’m using “unapproved” language to refer to labor. That’s mostly because it’s the words that my general audience will be most familiar with. But more on that later.

I was given the suggestion of Hypnobabies from my doulas. They suggest it over other self-hypnosis techniques because they consider it a more complete course on childbirth. I found the technique of self-hypnosis intriguing because of my past experience with meditation and deep relaxation. I’m already familiar with a lot of the breathing and relaxation techniques used in hypnosis, so I figured it would be a pretty natural progression, plus I know I’m personally willing to accept that I can effect changes in my body through a mind-body connection. I chose to purchase the Hypnobabies self-study course because my doulas’ recommended class is pretty far away from me, and I know my husband tends to giggle when he hears the term “hypnobabies,” so I can’t really take him anywhere.

I purchased the class around 26 weeks pregnant, and recently started downloading parts of the course. I went ahead and went through the Introduction last week, and spent the weekend downloading the first week’s audio files, and started going through the course material this week. Starting at 28 weeks means that I will finish the six-week course around 34 weeks, giving me 3-6 weeks to maintain my progress. This week, I’m going to give my general impressions, mostly from the outside, after having read the introductory material and listened to a few audio tracks. Then, each week, I’ll do a recap of how I found the previous week’s work.

So the introduction is mostly an introduction to the structure of the course and the concepts behind self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis involves putting yourself into a deeply relaxed state, where your subconscious mind is more suggestible to changes in your thinking about a specific topic, in this case childbirth. So Hypnobabies training ultimately aims to reset how your brain thinks labor will go. The idea is that you can change your thinking from assuming childbirth is a scary, painful thing, to thinking that it will be more manageable. From there, you also learn specific techniques to put yourself into a self-hypnotized state to help you cope with any parts of childbirth that are less than completely pleasant (i.e., painful). So when you go into labor, you can use self-hypnosis to get through specific contractions, while still being present mentally and able to interact with others between contractions.

The structure of the class is a bit more intensive than I expected. By way of comparison, if Circle + Bloom was a “get fit in 30 minutes a day” kind of program, Hypnobabies is a little more like meditative P90X. You will spend an hour or so each day listening to specific audio tracks, one that trains you in a specific self-hypnosis technique, and one track of birth affirmations. At least the birth affirmations don’t involve deep relaxation, so you can kind of listen to them any time (I like to listen to them at lunchtime at work). You also get a slideshow of each week’s lesson, which probably takes at least an hour to get through, if you do it all in one sitting. Personally, I’m going through one or two chapters per day of the weekly course slides right now. There is also a downloadable booklet that has an overview of the Hypnobabies techniques, plus a supplement specifically for the birth partner, which you can print out and take with you to the hospital (or wherever you give birth). It’s a lot of material, but you take at least six weeks to get through it.

One final note: Those of you who remember my post from last week about complaining about pregnancy might wonder how the positive thinking message of Hypnobabies meshes with my personal belief that you shouldn’t be afraid to complain about your pregnancy. Well, even the Hypnobabies material says that you should never consider that self-hypnosis requires you to ignore or overcome what you are currently experiencing. Yes, they want you to focus on positive feelings and thinking, but first you should accept where you are. Then, the self-hypnosis techniques can help you train your brain to help you move past fears and complaints, similarly to how cognitive behavioral therapy helps you move beyond anxiety. I actually find the techniques and affirmations pretty compatible with how I feel, given that they’re up front about the fact that you’re not actually expected to completely believe all the affirmations from the get-go. That’s the point of training for six week!

So that’s my first impression of starting Hypnobabies. Join me next week to see how my first week of the course went!