Physical Changes in the Mother
As a women’s uterus, cervix and vagina are preparing for birthing, all the soft tissue of the vagina and pelvic floor begin to soften considera-bly. For a first pregnancy this softening may be hardly noticeable, but for second and subsequent pregnancies a woman may experience some side effects at this time. Most common are pressure on the bladder, increased mucus secretions, and engorgement of the vulva. It is important that a woman pay special attention to the pelvic floor in the last few months by continuing to practise gentle asanas right up until the time of birth. If the pelvic floor and lower back muscles are kept toned, they are less likely to suffer trauma during the birth of the baby and will recover more quickly in the days following. Throughout your pregnancy you will have been focussing on this area with the aim of building strength to support the increasing weight of your baby. In the last few months it is important to begin to allow the whole of the pelvis to relax and open. Practising the asanas from the Shakti Bandha Series is extremely beneficial. See the Pre-Natal Program – “28 - 40 Weeks”.
Another phenomenon is a softening in the mucous tissue of the nasal and eustachian passages (the nose to middle ear tubes). Unfortunately, it seems as though our body cannot differentiate between the mucous membranes of our nose and our vagina! This softening can cause a constantly running nose, nose bleeds, blocked and humming ears, and tinnitus. During my last couple of pregnancies I was very blocked in the right ear from about 4 months of pregnancy but used Jala Neti (the saline nasal wash) to great effect. See Chapter 10, “Cleansing Techniques – Jala Neti”.
In the last months as the breasts grow, slumping shoulders and pain between the upper back and neck can be of great discomfort. Particularly recommended for this are the shoulder and neck asanas from Pawanmuktasana Series.
Swelling oedema) in the extremities is very common, particularly in hotter weather, although mild swelling per se is a normal part of pregnancy and does not necessarily require any kind of treatment. The discomfort is quickly remedied by regular practise of the Pawanmuktasana Series, several times a day if necessary. See Prescriptive Yoga Programs – “Oedema and Cramping”, page 2027. Increasing rest, and Yoga Nidra can also help mild oedema, but remember that extreme fluid retention can be a symptom of toxaemia, which may include dangerously high blood pressure. If swelling persists or is accompanied by
headaches and dizziness, then medical attention should be sought.
Another common symptom is cramping in the legs. One cause is reduced calcium in the mother’s blood stream as her baby drains her system for his needs. A balanced diet is vital to reduce the likelihood and symptoms of this deficiency. See “Special Pregnancy Needs” page 205, and “A Whole New Body to Understand” 553. Cramping may also be caused by a depletion of electrolytes from excessive water consump-tion, so it is advisable to balance intake of fluids between herbal teas, water, fruit and vegetable juices. See Prescriptive Yoga Programs – “Oedema and Cramping”, page 2027.
As the weight of the baby increases and his position drops lower into the pelvis, the head usually becomes engaged in readiness for birth and you may experience aching hips, especially at night in bed. There can also be an increase in lower back pain and sciatica. These aches and pains can be greatly relieved by Hip Rotations, Gomukhasana, and Marjariasana (see the Index of Yoga Practices on page 2182).
Development of the Baby
The baby is now almost full developed, and is laying down body fat for insulation in the outside world, along with final development of the major internal organs. Babies obviously inherit certain genetic abilities and disabilities, but they are also conditioned in-utero by the experiences of life inside their mother. This is an area of growing interest for medical science, and each week we seem to hear new evidence of how certain illnesses and personality traits are suspected of having their roots in pre-natal development. Some illnesses, very close to the time of birth (for example rubella), can lead to serious neo-natal infections. It is therefore of great importance that during the months approaching birth the mother keeps herself in top health and away from contagious situations. Strengthening her immune system is very important to ward off likely infections which might pass across the placenta in her blood.
Most people are aware of the emotional impact that neglect has on a young child, and one should also consider the impact of neglect during pregnancy. Not just the physical neglect of not eating properly, or not resting properly, but subtle emotional neglect when a woman ignores the needs of her baby. This concept may seem foreign to those who have never considered an unborn child as being conscious, of having memory, and of actually knowing what its mother is up to