There are many techniques women put in place when preparing for as relaxed a childbirth experience as humanly possible - opting for a waterbirth, going for some good old gas and air, or, if you're like Strictly's Janette Manrara – mastering meditation.
The former Strictly pro and co-host of It Takes Two, 40, appeared on the Loose Women panel just yesterday with husband and fellow former Strictly pro Aljaž Škorjanec, 33, where they found themselves opening up about their journey to conceiving their baby daughter Lyra who is now five months old.
The pair have been open about their experience of starting IVF to have Lyra before falling pregnant naturally and having a booked cesarean. Key to feeling calm for her booked birth, Janette revealed, was meditation.
"The day could not have been more magical," Janette told Nadia Sawalha, Kaye Adams, Olivia Attwood Dack, and Linda Robson. "I woke up in the morning and I remember feeling 'I don't know how I'm going to feel'. I don't know if I'm going to be nervous, or if I'm going to be emotional or excited or what.
"So I meditated in the morning," the dancer continued. "And I really connected with Lyra and my body and the day and the feeling. We were dancing, we were singing, there was so much joy in the air. It was such a birthday celebration!".
Parenting expert and founder of the parenting community app Carol, Holly Zoccolan, exclusively tells HELLO! about the benefits of not only practicing meditation before childbirth as Janette did, but throughout pregnancy. "Pregnancy often comes with its fair share of stress and anxiety. Meditation helps you manage these emotions by promoting relaxation and reducing stress hormones," Holly says. "A calm mind can lead to a more relaxed body during labour."
Holly tells us how meditation can also help women to feel in control of the physical pain associated with childbirth. She says: "Meditation can enhance your pain tolerance and help you better cope with the discomforts of labour. It allows you to focus on your breath and stay present, which can make contractions more manageable."
Blending that pain tolerance with managing your stress levels in the lead-up to giving birth will result in a more focused mind, Holly says. "Meditation enhances your ability to stay focused and centered. This can be invaluable during labour when you need to try to remain composed and centered throughout the process."
Acknowledging your own fears or apprehensions during pregnancy can also be achieved through meditation and time with your own thoughts and feelings. Holly says mediation "provides a safe space to explore and address any fears or anxieties about childbirth, allowing you to approach the birth experience with a more positive and confident mindset."
The same goes for the day of the birth when mothers will want to feel as calm as possible. Meditation can help women through contractions. "As labour progresses, meditation techniques can help you manage pain and discomfort," Holly says. "Focusing on your breath or a specific mantra can distract from pain and create a sense of control."
The parenting expert offers this advice for particular meditative techniques that women can feel empowered by mastering prior to giving birth.
"Deep, mindful breathing is at the core of many meditation practices. Learning to breathe deeply and rhythmically can help you stay calm and centered during labour," says Holly.
Body Scan Meditation
Holly adds: "This technique involves mentally scanning your body for tension and consciously releasing it. It's a great way to stay relaxed during labour."
"Visualising a serene and safe place or the process of childbirth going smoothly can help reduce anxiety and promote a positive mindset," the parenting expert tells us.
"Using a calming word or phrase as a mantra can provide focus and reassurance during labour," says Holly.
Holly says: "Practicing mindfulness involves staying fully present in the moment. This can be immensely helpful during labour when you need to concentrate on each contraction as it comes."
Holly also tells us that meditation isn't just something to keep in your pre-birth arsenal, it is also something you can harness as you adjust to life as a new mother as Janette has done. Holly says: "Many new mothers struggle with sleep deprivation. Meditation can improve the quality of your sleep and help you relax, even during short rest periods.
The parenting expert adds that "meditation can also be a way to bond with your baby during those quiet moments, enhancing your connection and sense of calm."
We don't blame Janette for channeling her inner zen prior to giving birth to baby Lyra. It is clear that there are so many benefits to taking that time for yourself to find your calm before such a life-changing experience.