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How can yoga help you prepare for a Cesarean section?

Posted on January 23rd, 2013 by | 0 views
by Sünje O'Clancy, MA

Most women attending prenatal yoga classes begin their journey toward labor and delivery with a natural birth in mind. However, sometimes intentions and preparations are not enough to realize the birth experience we visualize. While there are women who choose C-section, the majority of pregnant women do not enter into the birthing process with that in mind. One example of a woman who wanted a natural birth is Anna.[1] Like many women, Anna attended prenatal yoga classes regularly to help her feel good throughout her pregnancy while preparing for labor and delivery. These Yoga classes also held the added benefit of supporting her planned home birth with a midwife.

Anna acknowledged that learning to be present in the moment is one of the most important lessons of yoga. She also recognized practicing this moment of presence includes focusing on the breath. By remaining mindful of the ebb and flow of our breath, we deeply connect with our intuition and ourselves. Focus on breath also aids us in remaining fully present in the moment through each step of surgery, so that the wondrous moment when your baby is born may be fully experienced. Moreover, this state of being helps to face challenges with clarity and compassion. For instance, instead of feeling overcome with negative notions of failure and disappointment when faced with a C-section, Yoga practitioners can embrace the gift of new life and appreciate the options provided by the support of modern obstetrics in guiding their baby into this world safely.

In Anna’s case, her due day came and went. By the time she hit the 41-week mark, her midwife was compelled to transfer care to her Ob-Gyn. Her doctor allowed her to go to 42 weeks, and then scheduled an appointment to induce. After 19 hours of labor Anna’s son was born via a last minute C-section. When asked how yoga helped her, Anna reported that during labor she was able to work with her breath in ways learned during her yoga practice. Breath became her most valuable companion, helping through the kind of unforeseen anxieties often experienced by many mothers during a C-section. It was true that she went to prenatal yoga classes to prepare herself physically, but Anna also discovered she benefitted even more on a mental level.

In fact, having learned flexibility during her yoga practice helped with adjusting to the changes of her birth plan in many ways, whether it was with the disappointment of not being able to birth at home, or mourning the fact that she couldn’t go into labor naturally when she had to be induced. When Anna was fully dilated, and it was time to push, the fetal heart rate monitor indicated that her baby was in distress and needed to come out. Anna and her doctor had to move fast. Her doctor said that she could either agree to a C-section right away, or try pushing for no more than 5 minutes, after which a C-section would be absolutely necessary. In this moment, after long and exhausting hours of labor, instead of allowing herself to get caught up in disappointment, Anna was able to trust intuitive wisdom, which told her that there was no way she would be able to push her baby out in 5 minutes. She remained flexible and open to adjusting her birth plan yet again, staying with her baby’s journey into this world breath by breath.  As she agreed to the C-section she was completely confident about her decision, and therefore able to embrace it. “My yoga practice gave me the confidence and wisdom I needed,” she says. As she felt the pressure when the doctors took her baby out of her belly, she knew her ultimate goal was reached – she had become the happy mother of a healthy and happy baby.

It is no surprise that Anna’s recovery was easy. Women who practice prenatal yoga throughout their pregnancy have a good chance for a faster recovery after their C-section. As Dr. Mary Starr states, “classes like Pregnancy Yoga have helped not only women who have had natural births, but also those who have had C-sections. Muscles that are fit and flexible rather than tight and un-toned can contribute to good healing.”[2] Prenatal yoga classes also offer a safe place to deal with the feelings, thoughts and emotions that often come up when faced with a (planned) C-section. Being in the company of other expecting moms makes it easier for mothers-to-be to voice their concerns openly without fear of judgment. It provides a space to find the most understanding and compassionate supporters, as well as a wealth of shared information and resources. And we might even meet someone like Anna, who faced her C-section with an open mind, grace, and gratefulness, and who will understand and share her story.


Sünje O’Clancy, MA is a registered prenatal yoga teacher (RPYT). She has been teaching prenatal yoga since 2000. The happy mother of two boys, Sünje is the founder of Yoga Rascals, a kids yoga company. More at She can be reached via email [email protected] or phone 619-865-9506.

[1] Name changed


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