Sophrology : A Useful Technique for Pregnancy, Birth Preparation and Recuperation

Pregnancy is considered to be that amazing time when you are expected to feel blessed, beautiful and beaming like in the cover pictures of pregnancy magazines! But for some of us, being pregnant can also be difficult at times: I can be tiring, scary, frustrating or challenging.

The good news is that, whether you feel amazing or exhausted, the essence of pregnancy is constant change. Therefore, if you are ready to both receive help and help yourself, you are very likely to be able to transform your experience to a whole new level and often surprisingly quickly.

Using simple breathing, relaxation exercises, guided meditation and visualisation, you can follow a structured method that will allow you to connect with your consciousness, where all your inner resources lie.

Inner resources can be physical (eg. relaxation, strength, vitality), mental (eg. focus, letting go, presence, ability to see the future positively), or emotional (eg. feeling confident, positive, grateful, free).

Being able to connect within and discover these hidden gifts is extremely useful during this time of transformation when mind and body need to constantly adapt to the physical changes, while your life changes and you acquire a new perspective through pregnancy.

Sophrology is a comprehensive approach aiming at bringing mind and body into harmony. It has been created by a Spanish neuro-psychiatrist who researched different approaches to balance consciousness following Eastern traditions (yoga, meditation) and Western science (relaxation, psychology, phenomenology). Sophrology is widely used as a birth preparation method in Continental Europe and we see it flourishing now in the UK and other English-speaking countries.

On pregnancy, working and stress levels

Many women I see are busy ladies with a great career they have built over the years with effort and sacrifice; once pregnant they sometimes feel it is difficult to cope with it all. Their body hasn’t got the same energy levels it used to have and they have very little time to rest as the workload they have is high.
During the 9 months of a pregnancy a woman comes to terms with becoming a mother. In an ideal world she would take that time to integrate the changes she goes through and embrace each step consciously.
In reality, there is never enough time to look after ourselves, however we must remember the adverse effects that stress has on the body, from weakening our immune system (therefore making us more prone to catch viruses) to interfering with our digestive system (for example, we might experience heartburn, constipation, cramping). Stress also affects our ability to sleep well so we end up feeling fatigued during the day.

The baby is literally bathing in a sea of hormones, which is the environment the woman creates with her lifestyle choices and therefore it is so important to keep stress levels as low as possible to make the baby comfortable and give it the best chance to grow healthily.

However, when time to let this process unfold is limited and stress levels are high, Sophrology can help to remain connected to the whole process, dealing with it in a positive way and decreasing stress levels in the body.

What I can do for you

Just 15 minutes of Sophrology, either sitting on your chair during your lunch break, or just before going to sleep, can make a huge difference to your overall health as the months go by.I will tailor a Sophrology practice for you using simple body awareness methods, breathing and visualisations that will support you with what you find difficult.

For example, I can help you to:

  • Increase your energy level
  • Relax and learn to take a bit more distance with work issues or pregnancy issues
  • Recuperate quickly
  • Deal with any nausea or aches and pains
  • Preparing for stressful situations like speeches, travel etc.
  • Learning to identify stress and let it go
  • Starting to connect positively and confidently with your baby
  • Improve your sleep quality etc.

Dealing with the difficulties you have here and now, step by step during your pregnancy is the best form of birth preparation, meaning that when you are approaching 7 months into the pregnancy and you start the birth preparation, you will already have plenty of experience in connecting with yourself.

Pregnancy and my future as a mum/ as a woman/ as a partner

Along the journey, some women worry about how they will reconcile being a mum, a woman,a partner and how all these roles will coexist in harmony.Finding a positive way to deal with these roles with Sophrology is not about going in long term, complicated analysis.
By practising the method step-by-step, as you discover new inner resources, your roles as a woman often become much clearer. Practising Sophrology allows consciousness to open to new possibilities and feeling empowered that these roles can nicely coexist in your daily life. Sophrology notably uses powerful visualisation methods to help get you there. This intimate sense of trust we build with the practice allows a woman to remain connected with herself and trust that the world she will welcome her baby in is safe.
Some women also discover that pregnancy is a great time to free themselves from family patterns or old beliefs that no longer serve their present situation and find it very freeing to feel a weight lifting.

Pregnancy and body shape/body awareness

Our external appearance can be a source of worry.
By learning to connect in a positive way to the body, feeling it and learning to positively inhabit it, connecting with the life that is created within, a pregnant woman’s focus often shifts from the worry about her shape to feeling empowered with the life within. Sophrology allows pregnant women to accept and embrace this special time of life and find it meaningful rather than scary. Sophrology has a lot of gentle practices that involve body awareness exercises, standing, sitting or even lying. Women can discover a new way to inhabit their body and to listen to it.
This will be very valuable for the birth preparation phase, as you feel connected to your body and trust that it is able to give birth.

Pregnancy and health

Sophrology has a balancing effect on the body and mind. Breathing correctly, learning to remain relaxed, improving your sleep, and feeling strong and confident has a positive impact on the nervous system, the hormonal and immune system, the muscular system and so on.
The exercises Sophrology offers are all practised in a state of dynamic relaxation with eyes closed and therefore the brain goes into an alpha waves state. The alpha waves state is known to be a state in which the brain is active but rested and it allows for processes like cells repair to take place.

According to a study (The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2009) from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) where subjects were monitored with EEC electrodes before and after meditating, it was found that alpha brain waves increase with meditation. Alpha waves are produced in the brain during periods of profound relaxation and allow the brain to rest and regenerate. Alpha waves are typical of waking states, while delta waves are typical of sleep.

When health problems are present (for example with the onset of pregnancy diabetes, high blood pressure, nausea etc…), Sophrology can be a great support to feel better.

Pregnancy and birth preparation

Through a regular Sophrology practice especialy in the last trimester, you can prepare for the the arrival of your baby:

  • You feel ready for any type of situation that might emerge on the day of the birth, and feel equipped to deal with difficult situations
  • You acquire efficient and natural pain management skills
  • You feel in control, confident and positive giving you the best chance to give birth more easily
  • You can have a positive birth experience that will empower you for the rest of your life and give the best start for you and your child.

After the birth, continuing your Sophrology practice can also help you with:

  • The first months after the baby is born
  • Acceptance of the transition to a new way of life
  • Sleep
  • Energy levels
  • Dealing with family, expectations, beliefs etc…
  • Bonding with your baby and feel confident in your new role

Pregancy and recuperation

Although the media and society expect mothers to bounce back into shape after giving birth, managing your weight should be a long term process that needs to be manageable. It all starts with learning to let go of expectations and listening to your body, while having recuperation as your main priority. Feeling rested means that you will have more energy to look after yourself and your baby. With Sophrology we can help you feel confident and motivated to regain the shape you wish and support your energy levels to achieve your goals.

Your partner deserves attention too!

We mustn’t forget the role of fathers, who may be experiencing stress and anxiety during their partner’s pregnancy. Sophrology can help them through this process of transition, learning about their partner’s body changes and welcoming the arrival of the baby.

Sophrology for pregnancy and birth preparation plan

A typical Sophrology plan for birth preparation includes 6 sessions.

Other options are available if more sessions are required. Sessions’ recordings are available to help with practising in between sessions.

When to start

The earlier you can start practising Sophrology, the stronger you will feel. Start when it is the right time for you, but don’t leave it to the last week!

For an optimum preparation I recommend an integrated approach through the support of an osteopath and a nutritionist, plus regular exercise like yoga/swimming/walking.

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