10 Tips for Relaxation During Labor
Techniques to promote relaxation during labor are important to reduce the fear of labor and subsequent perception of pain. Understanding how your hormones work during labor is key to realizing how important these techniques are. This is even more important now as you may be concerned about pregnancy and labor during COVID-19. Basically, stress will increase the release of hormones that continue to promote anxiety. On the other hand, relaxation increases the release of oxytocin which will continue to keep you calm and stimulate the uterus to contract normally. Bellow are ten tips for relaxation during labor.
Massaging the arms hands, lower legs, and feet can provide enormous amounts of pain relief and promote relaxation. These body parts also have pressure points that have been proven to help reduce pain and anxiety. Relaxing your jaw, dropping your shoulders, and waving your wrists are additional ways to relax.
A warm bath or shower during labor can provide relaxation, pain relief, decreased anxiety, lower blood pressure, and reduce the need for an epidural. Know that getting into a warm bath could slow down your labor. You also want to be sure that the water is kept close to body temperature.
Some people instinctively use breathing as a coping skill, but some will benefit from having someone to guide them. Learning how to slow your breathing and being focused on your breath can lower stress, slow your heart rate, reduce blood pressure, promote relaxation, and help keep your baby supplied with necessary oxygen.
Tips: Become aware of your usual breathing pattern and note the difference between chest and abdominal breathing. Count slowly to 8 as you breathe in and again as you breathe out. Visualize the oxygen traveling to your baby, create a mantra such as “breathe in the strength, breathe out the tension”. Use meditation and imagery along with your breathing. Partners can give instruction on breathing patterns changing the count, for example. Listening and following instructions can further help distract you, allowing you to relax even more.
Here is a quick breathing relaxation practice for labor:
“Find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and relax your face and body. Let your shoulders drop. Focus on your breathing and notice your abdomen rising and falling. Take a breath slowly through your nose, let the air travel down your chest filling your lungs. Slowly feel your belly inflate like a balloon. Through your mouth slowly exhale counting to 8 as you release your air. Feel all the tension flow out with your breath. Blow out that last bit of air in your lungs and repeat.”
When you find or prepare your script, practice it daily. This will help you find your “happy place” and develop the skills to keep focused during labor and birth.
Some vocalizations such as making low, deep moans while exhaling can help release tension, and vocalizing has been shown to help reduce pain levels. In contrast, high pitched screaming will create tension. Practice “labor vocalization” before you go into labor so your partner and team are aware of your labor sounds.
Create a playlist of your favorite relaxation music or download an affirmation playlist. There are several on YouTube you can stream. You can also record, print, or create your own relaxation scrips. Any techniques you learn will work best when practiced during pregnancy so that the body and mind are conditioned to relax when labor begins.
The benefits of having a doula are numerous. Studies show that a doulas presence reduces requests for epidurals by up to 60%, cuts surgical birth in half, and decreases labor time by an average of 25%.
Physically, a birth doula can reduce your stress during labor by holding your hand, rubbing your back, breathing with you, and helping you with positioning. Amongst others, she can use a birthing ball, a Robozo (a long scarf), and even her body. Childbirth support can make the different between a negative and a positive birthing experience and you want yours to be as good as can be, right?
First, a doula can help you emotionally. She will be the calm presence you need in the room. Most moms will find comfort in that itself because of the relationship of trust that was developed beforehand. For a doula like me, it is extremely rewarding to be coaching and encouraging a woman through some of the most challenging parts of labor and birth. Each delivery is unique and miraculous.
Second, a doula will educate you as a doula is much like a birthing coach. She will guide you through the stages of labor and will be there to answer your questions about the birth setting, interventions, and more. Having a doula in the room or having a doula virtually with you will keep you relaxed during labor. You can continue to ask any questions you may have as they come to your head depending on the situations presented to you.
Finally, a doula can assist your partner which can further benefit you. First, a doula can support your partner and any other members of your birth team should they need. Second, she can teach your partner how to help you so he/she can also participate in the labor.
7. Medication (opioids)
Medication (opioids) provides pain relief quickly without interfering with mom’s ability to move or push. It may help with anxiety and aid in relaxation. It does not eliminate the pain like an epidural. Basically, it decreases your perception of pain by taking your focus off the pain. There are possible side effects including nausea, dizziness, itching, and a drop in blood pressure. You will most likely be on a blood pressure monitor. Side effects for the baby include the nervous system or respiratory depression, particularly if the medication is administered shortly before birth. Other are excessive sleepiness, delay in breastfeeding, and thermoregulation issues.
Epidurals are generally safe! However, there could be side effects and risks. An epidural blocks the nerve sensations in the lower half of your body. It specifically targets your pain nerves, so it is possible you may have a sensation to your legs. Depending on the amount of medication used, you may have no sensation in your legs or complete numbness. While some women are able to move their legs, others will not. You will not be able to get out of your bed.
There are different types of epidurals based on the amount of anesthesia given. If you opt for a “walking epidural”, please note that it is a misnomer as you will still not be able to walk. You may be able to move your legs but you will still be required to stay in the bed for your own safety. I talk more about epidurals in my blog post facts you may not know about epidural and my vlog post “What do you mean I can’t walk with a walking epidural?”
Different positions work for different people. In my comfort measures workshop, we go over several positions that help encourage the baby’s journey through the cervix and down the birth canal by using gravity and positions that widen the pelvic opening. Determine which positions work for you ahead of time. You don’t want to be in the throngs of labor to discover a position that doesn’t work. Trust your body to know how to push. Pushing is instinctive. In fact, you might have what is called a premature urge to push (PUP) in which you will be instructed not to push while you have little to no control not to. Focus your strength and energy downward and keep your muscles release. Push only when the urge overtakes you and rests in-between. When you feel burning, also called “the ring of fire” stop pushing if you can or push very gently to allow your perineum to stretch and help prevent tearing.
10. Birth Partner and Birth Team
Choosing the right birth partner and the right birth team is crucial for a positive birthing experience. Your team can help you get into various positions. They can support you while you push by getting behind you and helping you get into an upright position (especially if you are in a semi-reclined position in a hospital bed as most women are). For temperature comfort, they can offer you ice chips, apply cold washcloths to your face and forehead, and fan you. For emotional support, they will encourage and support you with praise on how well you are doing and how strong you are. If you do have your baby in a semi-reclined position and a team member is holding your leg, showing them acupressure point KI1 on the bottom of your foot and have them know ahead of time to press on this point to help reduce anxiety and pressure on the perineum while directing energy from your head to your feet. A good support team will do their utmost to respond to all you physical, emotional and information needs. That will ultimately emphasize your relaxation during labor.
Preparation, knowledge, and team/partner support are important to keep you calm during labor. Being relaxed during labor will help you have a peaceful and positive birthing experience.
The information contained on this site should not be construed as medical advice nor should it replace the advice and individual care of your health care provider.
Hi, I’m Susan Finazzo! I’m a certified Birth Doula, Birth coach, and Childbirth Educator from Port St Lucie, Florida. In addition to that, I am also a Faith-Based Counselor. I have over 10 years experience helping women having a positive birthing experience and would love to make a difference on yours too!