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A Pregnant Pause

Written by Dr. Jennifer Barham-Floreani   
Tuesday, 01 December 2009 00:00
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A Pregnant Pause
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Pregnancy is obviously a time of great physical change in a woman’s life, but take the time to honor the emotional journey as well.

Pregnancy is a transformative time in a woman’s life, bringing about powerful physical, mental and emotional changes. The mind and body work together to form an intelligent organism in which every part affects the whole. Pregnancy is an ideal time to assess the quality of conversation that you have with yourself—and enhance it, if possible.

The brain has two parts that govern emotions and feelings: the limbic system (often called the seat of emotions) and the pre-frontal cortex (which regulates our feelings). Emotions are communicated to the body via the nervous system, which uses neurotransmitters to release chemicals that cause positive or negative physiological changes.

When we are stressed or anxious, for instance, our nervous system stimulates particular organs and glands to produce chemicals that put our body in a heightened state. While this is appropriate in certain situations, most of the time it’s merely a conditioned response stemming from stress or anxiety. Sustained over a period of time, this chemical release can be detrimental to our health. Fear, tension and anxiety affect muscles, tendons and ligaments and can create subluxations (misalignments) in the spine, which in turn affect our nervous and immune systems. These chemicals can also cross the placental barrier and have a direct effect on the developing foetus.

Therefore, pregnant mothers must not only take care of themselves physically, but mentally as well. While unpleasant feelings are a natural part of life, it is wise to create calm thoughts as often as you can during gestation.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Some women feel very ill during the first trimester, which, if the symptoms continue throughout the pregnancy, can lead to severe physical and mental fatigue. Other women struggle more with the overwhelming emotions that pregnancy can engender. Expectant mothers may feel daunted by significant bodily changes: bigger breasts, a protruding belly and overall weight gain. Far from experiencing the ‘radiant glow’ of pregnancy, these changes can leave women feeling grotesque and unhappy.

Whatever feelings you have about your pregnancy, it is important to honour them. Acknowledge and express your negative emotions, and then balance those thoughts with positive visualisation. In doing so, you enrich not only your birth experience, but your other relationships as well.

Releasing Negativity

On the surface it appears that pregnant women all experience a similar event. Deep down, however, each of us carries specific references from our past that create our own reality. Some references may be more traumatic than we expect. Address your uneasiness, if you feel safe to do so, and look to where these emotions are anchored.

Take a deep breath and try to relax. You might feel anxious about your capacity to parent, but remember that nothing in life happens by chance. You’ll be amazed at the support available to you if you choose to move through life with a positive and gracious attitude.

When I was pregnant with our first child I tried to find women who had positive labour stories to tell me. Such women were few and far between. Over the years, having since spoken to hundreds of women, I’ve realised that it wasn’t so much that their labours were horrific—it was more that the words they used to describe them were cries for acknowledgement. Labour is hard work, and it’s a hell of a lot harder if you don’t have the right support.

Before your labour, sit down with your birthing partner or a close friend or relative and write down the attributes of your ideal birth. Also write down your fears and concerns, so that you can discuss these with your midwife. Take time to discuss your partner’s concerns as well, and clarify the role he or she would like to play during the birth.

It is important to acknowledge the references—your prior experiences, expectations and preconceptions—you both have around birthing. Discuss where these thoughts might have originated and whether they support your current birth choices. What actions do you need to take to feel differently, if necessary? Who can you speak with about them? What can you read?