Nearly 40% of women who give birth in New Jersey have a C-section, one of the highest rates of Caesareans in the country. Facing such a daunting statistic, more mothers-to-be are looking for ways to improve their chances of having an intervention-free birth. Shakti Yoga now offers classes to educate local women on their birth options.
Movies and television shows frequently depict labor as a painful, dangerous process. And for their part, hospital birth classes, with a focus on medical intervention such as technology and drugs to manage pain, can reinforce such a view. South Orange resident Ires Wilbanks, a certified prenatal yoga teacher, has teamed up with veteran certified nurse midwife Kristina Kohler to provide expectant mothers and their partners with an alternative approach.
Through their labor and delivery workshops at Shakti Yoga in Maplewood, Wilbanks and Kohler offer women and their partners an exploration of how a woman's body is designed to give birth. Students learn how to use movement, touch, and vocalization to comfort themselves naturally. The classes cover everything from the role of hormones, the baby's journey through the pelvis, coping with contractions, how to use visualization, and tips for staying well rested and relaxed through the whole event.
"The body has its own inherent wisdom," says Wilbanks, the mother of two children. "It knows how to give birth--birth is an involuntary physical experience. We want to explain the birth process, how certain conditions can help women trust their own bodies without fear and imagining the worst. Yoga gives us the tools to stay present and strong through the whole experience."
The class is aimed at all expectant mothers, but many women who have already had a c-section have found the work extremely helpful in having a vaginal birth after caesarian, or VBAC.
"Looking back, the class I took with my previous pregnancy at the hospital was an advertisement for epidurals, procedures and IV's," says Amy Moringiello, who had a VBAC after the seminar. "This class was about us and was everything we needed. Ires and Kristina taught us that our bodies are amazing things and that all we need is to trust and allow things to happen, not to be afraid. I learned my rights, things I can ask for in the hospital, allow or not allow, what positions and techniques to use at home on a daily basis and which ones to use during labor.
Wilbanks has been teaching prenatal yoga and yoga for labor and delivery for six years. She received her certification at Integral Yoga Institute in New York, and has studied and practiced several yoga disciplines. Kohler is an RN and CNM and has worked as a midwife for 16 years. She currently delivers babies at Monmouth Medical.
In addition to the childbirth seminars, Shakti offers regular prenatal yoga classes, a deep relaxation workshop for expectant parents, "baby and me" yoga classes, and pre-natal and post-natal massage.