With our fast-paced and stressful lives, we barely have time to think about our pregnancy but because the wellbeing of your unborn baby can be at risk from stress, here is a sensory toolkit to help you relax and de-stress
by Angela Spencer of Babyopathy
Essential oils are one of my favourite sensory tools; they can be used in diffusers, used in bath or beauty products and even inhaled direct from the bottle. I always recommend my mummies to keep a bottle of lemon essential oil in their bag, especially during the first trimester, that they can whip out and sniff straight from the bottle if they’re feeling nauseous or light headed. There are many products on the market but I like to look at every stage of the pregnancy & birth journey and use the oils that support those specific needs. There are even oils to help soothe and heal their ‘lady bits’ after delivery!
Music is food for the soul according to the old saying and I couldn’t agree more, for both mummy and baby! A baby’s hearing begins its development as the ear buds appear around nine weeks and continues developing through their first conscious sensory connections to recognizing familiar tones and patterns in music and parents voices. It is recognizing tones and patterns that makes music such a useful tool. By using the same relaxation music to go to bed to, not only will you be influencing your baby’ bedtime routine from within the womb that they will find familiar once born, but you will also be helping to relax yourself and de-stress from our busy lifestyles.
Meditation (or mindfullness) is key to helping to mummies deal with the effects of our busy and stressful lives. There is a worrying increase in the number of mummies (and daddies) suffering from post-natal depression and I believe there are a number of factors involved; we are disconnected, from family, from people in general and in many cases reality. Social media gives us distorted views of reality that we feel we must live up to, we spend our days and most nights glued to a screen of some sort and we no longer live in the generational communities we used to. Our network of knowledge and experience has dwindled and in an age when we have access to the world’s knowledge we seem to know so little. So, taking some time, to meditate, be empowered and positive is key to turning around those trends and reducing the impact of post-natal depression.
Nutrition is an often-forgotten sense, especially when it comes to pregnancy. However, did you know that what you eat in the three months before falling pregnant can impact the health of your child’s teeth? Eating healthily and regularly is important to both your wellbeing and that of your baby. Skipping meals and not staying hydrated are all things that can negatively impact your pregnancy and baby’s wellbeing. It is also very important to take a folic acid supplement (and for at least three months prior to conceiving) and I also recommend Omega-3 oils and a good multivitamin, it’s very hard to ensure you are eating everything you need to during pregnancy.
Massage is such a beautiful and indulgent tool and in my opinion an underused one! Pregnancy takes a great toll on your physical and mental wellbeing and the motherhood journey is a tough, never-ending one (trust me on that as my children are 19 and 23!) and so taking the time to pamper yourself before you embark on that final stage is important. It helps to keep you skin moisturized and supple, it helps to create conscious sensory connections for your baby and crucially, reduces the effects of stress.
Yoga and Exercise
We don’t necessarily think of yoga or other forms of exercise as part of our sensory toolkit but in my opinion, it should be. Keeping mobile and supple also helps build your strength and stamina needed for the birth and those all-important first weeks. Yoga admittedly isn’t for everyone but finding a form of exercise that is right for you, even just walking (preferably in nature) is key to a healthy mind and body.
I’ve already mentioned how important rest and relaxation is during your pregnancy journey but a good night’s sleep even more so and right from the start too! Poor sleep can adversely affect your health and pregnancy wellbeing resulting in conditions such as hypertension, gestational diabetes and headaches. Have you ever wondered why you feel so tired during your first trimester, nothing much is happening after all right? Wrong! The placenta is forming and so your body is having to work extra hard to make it and more blood so your heart is pumping faster. Also, especially during the first three months there is an increased secretion of progesterone which causes fatigue. So, give in, get an early night and enjoy as much sleep as possible!
OK, I know I am really stretching the boundaries of a ‘sensory’ item for the toolkit here but hey, I think I’m allowed. For me, if you have a question that is playing on your mind, you need it answered as worry is just another form of stress. So, talk to people, read those articles and blogs and empower yourself with the knowledge you need to experience a positive pregnancy.
Feet Up For 30
Putting your #feetupfor30 minutes each day is the theme of my awareness campaign, Routine in the Womb, this year. It encourages mums to rest and relax for at least 30 minutes each day to combat the effects of stress when pregnant. I include it under the ‘touch’ sense as you are physically putting your feet up on something for 30 minutes and can also take the time to connect with your baby through resting your hands on your belly or even a gentle belly massage.
It may not seem like part of a ‘sensory’ toolkit, but it is very important to your mental health wellbeing. Having someone (and a woman that has been through childbirth is always better) that you trust completely and can talk about anything with and ask any question, and I would recommend also to be at the birth, is so important. So many times I have had a mummy message me through my social media and will start with ‘I know it’s a silly question but’ or ‘I can’t ask my mum this’ and my response is always – it’s never a silly question if you need an answer and I’m happy to answer any question if a mum needs to know something.
When it comes to the birth though, I strongly believe a woman needs another woman by her side. Yes of course her partner should be there if they both want it but it’s actually quite traumatic for a man to see their partner go through childbirth and be powerless in their eyes to help them or know what to do. I like to give them the job of holding the ‘Labour Day’ oil for mum to inhale during each contraction as at least that way they feel in control of something. However, mum also needs a woman there who preferably has been through childbirth too, understands everything she is going through, and can anticipate what she might need, and can know her birth plan and wishes so can speak for her if she’s not able to herself.
Angela Spencer has owned and operated children’s nurseries for over 25 years – opening her first in 1993 at the age of 21 – and was named in the Top 10 most influential people in Childcare by NMT Magazine in 2017 before finally selling the nurseries in 2018. Babyopathy, Angela’s baby & child development programme, priorities sensory stimulation and was named as Mother & Baby Magazine’s ‘New Routine for 2017. Her new book Babyopathy (2nd Ed.) empowers women to have a positive and relaxed pregnancy and early years.