As we know from some women’s birth stories and in documentaries such as Orgasmic Birth, childbirth is not always a painful, negative experience. Why is that? Well, relaxation is key to reducing or eliminating pain during labor and birth. Unfortunately, our society has led women to expect pain from childbirth. We are not educated about our body’s physiological birthing abilities, rather we are taught to fight the way nature intended us to birth. That birth is something to fear, when it is not. When you feel fear, your body tenses up, and this creates pain which creates more fear. Ultimately, you end up in a cycle of fear, tension, and pain. However, the use of the following relaxation techniques during labor can help overcome any feelings of fear, tension, and pain:
- Words of Affirmation
A method of pain relief, hydrotherapy is when the birthing person is immersed in water while laboring. This could be in a bathtub, birth pool, or another body of water. The effects of being fully immersed in water can be extremely relaxing and calming. In fact, a systematic review found that hydrotherapy lead to “a significant reduction in the epidural/spinal/paracervical analgesia/anesthesia rate amongst women allocated to water immersion compared to controls”.
If a tub is not available, sitting in a shower and allowing the water to fall down the birthing person’s back can also be relaxing.
In books such as Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent, you can read stories of women swaying, moving, and dancing through each surge as a method of comfort. While it may seem counter-intuitive to move to create relaxation, it really does work. Consider positions where the birthing person does not have to carry their own weight but still has mobility. These may include:
- Sitting on a birth ball and leaning on the edge of the bed
- Kneeling on the floor and laying over a birth ball
- Squatting with the support of their partner
- Leaning against a wall
- Swaying with their arms around their partner
Music & Lighting
Beeping noise, bright lights, and loud voices can be distracting and anxiety-provoking. When someone is in labor, you can help them relax by turning down the volume for any machines in the room (such as an electronic fetal monitor), playing some soothing music, talking in low voices, and dimming the lights. Think about restaurants and how nice restaurants may set the ambiance with candlelight and instrumental music. This is all to create a positive atmosphere for customers and it is no different at a birth. The environment is a big factor in how comfortable one may feel, particularly when giving birth.
Physical touch is a proven method of triggering the production of oxytocin and endorphins when done right and in the right circumstances. Particularly, light touch massage on the back, arms, and neck signals the receptors in the skin and sends signals to the brain that trigger the release of oxytocin and endorphins. It is a great way to remind a birthing person to relax their muscles, release any tension, and remain loose and limp.
Often birthing persons enjoy oft touch massage during early labor, but they may not during transition or the actual birthing phase. Always communicate with someone before touching them and do not touch them if they do not want to be touched.
Words of Affirmation
Never underestimate the power of words. Especially as labor progresses, encouragement and affirmations might be just what the birthing person needs to get through each surge. An encouraging “Breath. You’re doing beautifully” can help keep the birthing person focused on what they are supposed to be doing at that moment and provide reassurance that everything is okay. Affirmations can be used in combination with any of the other relaxation techniques listed above for ultimate relaxation. However, during the birthing phase, affirmations may be the primary method of relaxation. You see, if you wait for the urge to bear down (the fetal ejection reflex) to happen naturally, the body will be doing all of the work and the best thing a support team can do at this moment is provide reassurance.
Additional Methods of Relaxation During Labor
To explore more methods of relaxation you can use during labor and birth, we encourage you to enroll in one of our childbirth education courses, such as our HypnoBirthing course. This course teaches parents physical methods of relaxation as well as deepening techniques for ultimate relaxation. Contact us to learn more today!