Source: @luisaalexandre Instagram
Did you know that the jaw and pelvis are physiologically connected, and that the alignment and relaxation of each deeply affects the other? Did you know that when we relax and soften the jaw, the same relaxation occurs in the pelvis and in the muscles of the pelvic floor?
If you visualize your pelvic bowl, with the hips on either side, and then you focus on your jaw, you will notice that they have anatomically similar structures. The top jaw and the large opening of the mouth are very similar to the top and base joints of the pelvic floor, and the biological tissue of the cervix is very connected to the tissue of the throat. In fact, the word cervix is the Latin word for neck. The jaw and pelvis are also connected on a cellular and fascial level--there is a large fascial line that runs from the tip of the coccyx (the tailbone) to the tip of the tongue.
Those anatomical similarities hint at an important piece of birth knowledge: When the jaw and throat are relaxed, the buttocks and pelvis will be, too, which greatly impacts the ease of labor. My own mother, who birthed three babies without medication and with no complications, shared with me, “I was given good advice before my birth. ‘Let your jaw be so relaxed that if you had false teeth, they would fall out of your mouth.’” She attributes a large part of her ability to birth naturally, to this priceless advice she received before the birth of her first child.
Of course, not all birthing people have this experience, or are given this information before they give birth. I hope this blog can spread the word about how essential jaw and throat relaxation are for creating a more easeful and empowered experience for birthing people.
During the birthing process, our bodies undergo rapid, enormous change, which can often create stress, shock, and strong emotional releases. This is totally normal and part of the journey of birth for many. It is also totally normal for many birthing people to physiologically react to the intense sensations by squeezing the buttocks, contracting the vagina, and clenching the jaw. If you've given birth, this may ring a bell for you.
Bringing conscious awareness to our jaws and our pelvis during birth, and learning to release this oftentimes subconscious tension, can dramatically ease any unnecessary tension and stress during childbirth. Doulas and partners can support the birthing person during the birth and in the weeks leading up to it by reminding them to relax their jaw and trust in their bodies’ wisdom above all.
Some Practical Tips to Relax the Jaw and Pelvis
Before and During Birth
• In the weeks leading up to your birth, put a timer on your phone that rings every 10-15 minutes. When it rings, let go of the pelvis, relax the jaw, and remove the tongue from the palate. Take some deep breaths into the body and continue with what you were doing. Keep up the timer until the relaxation becomes a habit.
•Practice deep inhalation and exhalation. When you exhale, sigh and make a sound. This releases a lot of tension in the jaw.
• During birth, massage your belly and jaw to relieve tension. This is also something a doula and/or partner could help with. Massage from the inside of your mouth, the muscles responsible for opening and closing the jaw; a doula or partner can massage from the outside. Simply by keeping gentle pressure there, you can begin to release some of the muscle tension, helping in turn to soften the pelvis.
• Yoga Postures: Squatting, Cat position, or any posture that stretches the neck and opens the pelvic floor. Lion’s Breath is also great.
• During pregnancy and birth, move your pelvis often: in eights, infinities, circles, back and forth. Move as you like--just keep it moving.
• Deep Breathing: Inhale 4 counts, hold 4 counts and exhale 4 counts. This technique immediately makes breathing deeper and more meditative.
• During birth, sing, make your mouth and throat vibrate, let go. Your voice is a unique medicine that has been specially designed to heal YOU! When we sing, Oxytocin is released in large amounts and assists in the body feeling safe and supported, which are key in birth. Singing also helps to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system and activate the vagus nerve, which brings the body out of fight or flight and into a state of relaxation, peace, and calm.