Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Relaxation for a Better Birth

In my Five Steps to a Better Birth, I talk about key things to focus on in pregnancy to ensure your birth experience is safer, smoother and more satisfying. Previously, I listed these five steps as: Balanced Nutrition During Pregnancy, Exercise, Childbirth Education and BirthPlan, Focus on Fetal Positioning and Perineal Massage.

I am now revamping these five steps, to include the emphasis to Practice Relaxation during pregnancy. While perineal massage is still important, I will now include it in the list of suggested exercises. Now, let's talk about why you need practice relaxing!

The Importance of Relaxation in Labor

If you do nothing else to prepare for your birth experience, practice relaxation. Here’s the thing: your body already knows how to give birth. You have all the mechanics and hormones needed to birth your baby. If you fully relax and pay attention to what’s going on in your body, nature will take over and do what needs to be done to give birth!

To understand why relaxation is important, it’s helpful to take a good look at the hormones that make childbirth possible and how they function. I go into much more detail about this in my post about Love and Labor Hormones. Basically the hormones necessary for causing and progressing labor are oxytocin and endorphins. These hormones are at their peak when the mother feels safe, calm, relaxed, supported and happy. 

On the other hand, when the laboring mother is fearful, anxious, stressed, or feels unsafe or unsupported, her body will flood with adrenaline and catecholamines, which trigger the body's "fight or flight" mechanisms. This sends blood flow to the extremities and causes muscles to tense, which makes labor more painful and actually slows or shuts down the birthing process. This creates a need for interventions and can intensify, if not cause, complications and trauma.

Helpful Ways to Practice Relaxation for Labor:
  • Prenatal Yoga
  • Guided Relaxation
  • Prayer and Meditation
  • Hypnosis for Birth
  • Deep Breathing   

It’s important to practice relaxation every single day. Whatever method makes sense to you is fine; what is important is that you are able to relax every muscle in your body. For some, lying on a bed with comfortable pillows, listening to soft music with dim lights and candles burning is an easy way to relax. In this state, you or your partner can then focus on relaxing “top to bottom,” by first relaxing your forehead, then your jaw, then your neck muscles and shoulder muscles, etc. until you get all the way down to relaxing your toes. Once you are familiar with how it feels to be completely relaxed and to maintain that state for 20-30 minutes daily, it will be easier for you to return to that state during the intensity of labor.
Remember, your relaxation doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. What makes sense to you may not make sense to others. Experiment with some different ways to relax, all the while focusing on being limp, loose, soft and releasing tension in every muscle of your body.
Practicing Mindfulness in Relaxation

Whenever you practice relaxation, be mindful and aware of what is going on in your body and what you are feeling. Then think about and appreciate the purpose of each sensation. For example, when you feel your stomach rumbling, you can feel the sensations, and recognize and appreciate this is your body’s way of telling you it needs nourishment. The sensations you feel have a purpose and they are positive.
This is an extremely helpful tool for appreciating the intensity of labor. There is pain in labor; there’s no getting around that. Relaxing and stimulating the hormones that cause enjoyable sensations during labor can reduce unnecessary pain in labor. But there are still very intense sensations that we can describe as “Pain with a Purpose.” When you feel contractions, focus on how it feels and meditate on the fact that these sensations are your body working in an amazing and beautiful way to bring your baby into the world!

Affirmations for Labor and Birth

Reading, memorizing, reciting positive birth affirmations is a fantastic way of practicing mindfulness and encouraging yourself to yield to the birth process. You may even want to print some up and post them in your birthing room. These can be anything from scripture or poetry, or encouraging words others have spoken over you. Here are a few you might consider:

“My body was designed to give birth.”
“Birth is safe for me and my baby.”
“Each wave of labor brings me closer to holding my baby in my arms.”
“My baby is strong and healthy.”
“I trust my body.”
“My belly is full of light and love.”
“I am a strong and capable woman.”
“I have patience.”
“My body is soft, wide and open.”
“My cervix is blooming and opening like a flower.”
“I am at peace with the world.”
“There is no need for us to hurry.”
“I have an open heart.”
“I am strong and calm and beautiful.”
“Birth is a wonderful, safe experience.”

What helped you during labor? Share your tools and tricks for relaxation in the comments!

At Honeybee Mama I want to show mothers they don't have to be afraid of childbirth and that they can have the birth experience they truly desire. I'm committed to getting you the tools and resources you need to make informed decisions about your birth. If you're looking for resources to help prepare you for childbirth, check out my Childbirth Training Options or schedule your first conversation today!

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a person who has a horrible time relaxing. I was told how important it was to stay relaxed even before labor. So I used epsom salt and a bath every night with essential oils. Whenever I went into labor I had every intention of starting a bath. Labor progressed so quickly that I did not have a chance to get in to the bath. I tried really hard to relax from the first labor pain until I had a hard time breathing. I remember during the last push I willed myself to relax. I don't think it was a coincidence that that was the push that got my baby out. I am by means no expert. But like you said, your body knows what to do in most cases. Just "let it go", right? Heh heh! :-) - Keesha Doss


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