The last weeks of pregnancy can feel emotionally and physically intense as your body gets ready for your baby’s arrival. As these changes demand a slower, more purposeful approach to life, you also have a wonderful opportunity to connect with your inner wisdom as you prepare for a positive, mindful birth.
Cultivating calm through mindful practices will help you embrace the huge changes of the last trimester, and prepare you mentally for becoming a mother, as well as alleviating any concerns you may have about the birth.
As your pregnancy progresses, it’s natural for your focus to move to the big day. This can be a physically and mentally demanding time with the business of preparing for your baby’s arrival, but keep up your gentle exercise and stay tuned into messages from your body. Really indulge yourself during the last trimester. Take many naps, practice the hypnobirthing exercises, meditate, and read a great book or two. Make self-care and rest a priority, especially as restorative sleep can be hard to come by now.
If you haven’t experienced the bliss of pregnancy massage now is the time to. A gentle, nurturing massage relieves tired muscles and increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. It’s also time for another form of massage—perineal massage. If you’re a first-time mum, you can increase your chances of keeping a healthy and (maybe intact) perineum by getting used to the sensation of perineal stretching before labor.
Mindful breathing will be your best friend in labor, so get in many practices by using breathing techniques to minimize any aches and pains over the coming weeks. If you’d like to have a keepsake of your pregnancy to honor the awe-inspiring work your body is doing, then a belly cast is a great idea, or have professional maternity photos taken.
All About Your Baby
Your baby is in the final stages of preparation for life outside of the womb. Growth slows in the last few weeks, although it might not feel like it to you. Your baby also lays down brown fat stores which her body uses for heat in the early days if she gets cold (that’s why newborns don’t shiver).
Your baby is “practicing” breathing movements and she may even be dreaming during her short sleep cycles. Her hair is beginning to grow as are her eyebrows and eyelashes. Vernix, a waxy white coating, covers your baby’s skin. This “baby butter” has protective properties for your baby so there is no need to wash it off. Most babies also turn into the head down (vertex) position in the last few weeks in preparation for the journey ahead.
Preparing for A Mindful Birth
One of the most important factors in how you experience labor, and how your baby arrives, is influenced by whom you choose as your primary care provider and where you choose to give birth. A mindful birth can happen in hospital, at home, or a birth Centre—all are safe options for healthy moms.
As you continue to cultivate a mindful approach to your baby’s birth, consider all the options so that you feel your chosen care provider and place of birth have the skills, resources, and facilities to support a mindful birth. For healthy moms and babies, midwives are the recommended lead care provider for antenatal care, labor, and the postpartum period. It’s important to find a care provider who shares your mindful approach to pregnancy and birth, so keep looking until you find the right one.
A knowledgeable, loving birth partner is essential for a mindful birth. When choosing a birth partner (or partners) pay attention to the kind of energy they bring—will they be a calm, nurturing presence or an anxious one? They should facilitate the optimal environment and be a rock for you.
Make sure you and your birth partner take a comprehensive class so you feel ready to welcome your baby together, calmly and confidently.
Natural Remedies: Raspberry Leaf Tea
This herbal tea is a staple for many expectant moms, and should be introduced slowly only from the last trimester. It won’t actually induce labor, but it may reduce your need for intervention in labor.
Raspberry leaf tea is thought to tone the muscles of the uterus and shorten the pushing stage during labor. Start with just one cup a day from the last trimester, and see how your digestive system reacts. Increase to two to three cups as you get closer to your due date. It is also available in capsule form. However, there is some debate on which method confers the most benefits.
When the weather is hot, why not try iced raspberry leaf tea? Pour boiling water over four or five tea bags and steep for five minutes (or longer if you like a stronger flavor). Pour the tea into a glass jug and allow to cool. Add one cup of cold water to the jug and store in the refrigerator. Either drink it as it is, experiment adding fruit such as lemon or orange wedges, or add manuka honey if you prefer it sweeter.
Natural Remedies: Almond Oil for Perineal Massage
Regular perineal massage from about 36 weeks to birth reduces the risk of perineal tearing in labor. Do this for 10 minutes a few times a week using almond oil, which is moisturizing and packed with vitamin E.
Perineal massage gently stretches the skin and tissues around the opening of the vagina and perineum and helps you get used to the sensation of stretching in the perineal tissues. In an unmedicated birth that sensation provides feedback to you to breathe slowly and relax into the brief but powerful sensations, rather than tensing up and pushing harder. The slower and more controlled the emergence of your baby’s head, the less likely you’ll experience perineal injury.
Rub almond oil or any unscented organic oil onto your fingers, thumbs, and the outside of your perineum. Place your thumbs 5 mm inside your vagina. Press down (toward the anus) and to the sides until you feel a slight burning sensation. Hold for one minute. With your thumbs, slowly massage the lower half of the vaginal opening using a “U” shaped movement.
Natural Remedies: Medjool Dates
Known as the fruit of the gods, dates have become the fruit for the last trimester moms. Several studies suggest eating around six dates a day during the last four weeks of pregnancy can significantly benefit your labor.
In one study, the dilation stage of labor was significantly shorter in women who consumed dates compared to those who didn’t. Plus 96 percent of the women who ate dates went into spontaneous labor and didn’t have to be induced. Women who consumed dates were also less likely to experience heavy bleeding after birth.
Dates are rich in minerals and fibre, but high in natural sugars, so be aware of this if you have gestational diabetes. Either eat dates straight from the bag, or if you find they are too sweet for you, add them to a tagine or stew, or stuff them with almonds or cream cheese for a nutritious snack. Alternatively, make peanut date bites by blending together 10 pitted dates and 150 g of chopped unsalted roasted peanuts. When blitzed, form into small balls and enjoy.