By Richard Brennan
‘The more a woman accomplishes in her feminine, natural functions knowingly and wilfully, particularly in labour, in the birth of her infant, and in its nourishment, the more she learns, both intuitively and consciously. The more she appreciates herself in so doing, the more her self-appreciation radiates towards her infant and others – her husband, her other children, and society.’ Dr. William Hazlett
Many people do not realise that the Alexander Technique can be invaluable at the time of pregnancy, childbirth and caring for your baby. The harmful postural habits many women have are often exacerbated during pregnancy and after childbirth can be easily seen by the way they sit and stand. These postures often result in chronic back pain and general fatigue, much of which could be avoided by having Alexander lessons.
Some midwives say that they can often predict whether the labour is going to be difficult or easy by the general attitude of the mother-to-be: the more relaxed and easy going she is, the more likely it is that she will experience an uncomplicated birth. By having Alexander lessons during or immediately preceding pregnancy you can prepare yourself, physically, emotionally and mentally, for one of the most incredible experiences of your life. If you do suffer from anxiety or tension you may find that the Technique helps enormously in reducing your fear and apprehension about the birth and motherhood.
The average increase in weight during pregnancy is a staggering 12.5 kilograms (26 pounds 8 ounces). This will have a dramatic effect on the way you move, sit and stand and unconscious habits will often become magnified during pregnancy due to the additional strain your body is under. A common postural habit that many people have is a tendency to lean back while standing. This is due to a over-arching of the back and a pushing forward of the hips. It results in an imbalance and added strain, which affects overall posture and often results in back pain, all which tends to worsen as the womb increases in weight. This swaying back is so common in our western society that we are hardly aware of it and the fact that our posture is the root cause of many health problems is so often overlooked.
The extra weight of the developing foetus can also cause many of the muscles in the front of the body to be put under more strain, causing them to shorten and perhaps give pregnant women a ‘pulling down’ sensation. To compensate for this feeling, many women tend to arch their lumber curve, which then leads to the entire body being out of balance. During Alexander lessons you will be taught to release this muscle tension, giving you a sensation of lengthening and releasing both the front and back muscles. You may become taller as your spine lengthens as well as strengthens, which can help to support your baby with less effort. After a number of Alexander Technique lessons these muscles will be more effective in supporting the extra weight of the developing womb, giving you a feeling of increased lightness and ease.
After Your Baby is Born
The Alexander Technique can also be beneficial to you and your baby by making you aware of harmful feeding and carrying habits that so easily develop. By thinking of the way you hold your child you will naturally have more confidence and therefore have less tension, which your baby will automatically respond to. For example a common way of holding a child is to stand with most of the weight on one leg and use the hip as a ‘seat’ for the child – this will obviously affect your body alignment as the spine is pulled over to one side. This is a common reason why many parents suffer with backache and neck tension after carrying their children. A better way of holding your baby is to have your weight evenly distributed on both feet and use your arm or a sling under your child to support its weight – as a result your muscles will be less strained and your baby will feel safer.
Mothers can often be seen hunching over their babies when they are feeding them – since this position is adopted for many hours a week it can lead to tense muscles which become very uncomfortable. This discomfort can make you irritable and these feelings will be transmitted to your infant. All you need to do is support your baby with a pillow or large cushion on your lap.
Pregnancy and the post-natal year is one of the most important times of your life as you are physically and emotionally caring for a new life within your body. It is important, even in the early stages, for you to be as conscious as possible of the incredible process that is taking place as this will benefit both you and your child.
More information can be found in The Alexander Technique Manual and Change your Posture – Change your Life or at www.alexander.ie