Tips for Relaxing During Labor
Imagine you’re heading out to dinner to enjoy some time alone with your favorite person. You have two restaurant choices. The first is a quiet, intimate place with low lighting, a candle and fresh flower on white linens at each table, soft music in the background, and tables spaced far away from each other. The second place plays energetic music, has peanut shells on the floor, is bright, bustling with people, and is full of back-to-back booths. Which one feels more soothing? Which one feels more suited to deep conversation?
Atmosphere matters — for dinner and for birth. Even if you give birth in a hospital, you enough control over how the room looks and feels to make a difference. Keep the lights low. Play music that you like. Bring a diffuser with your favorite scent. Bring pillows and a blanket from home. Hang up a picture or two to use as a focal point. Keep the door closed. All of these changes, though minor, impact how you feel in your hospital room.
Use of visualization and/or meditation or hypnosis, especially when done with guided tracks, can be immensely helpful during labor. Guided imagery gives you something soothing to focus on in place of the sensations caused by contractions. For most people, these techniques do not relieve all discomfort caused by labor contractions, but can greatly reduce your level of pain.
Taking a hands-on approach to contractions can be extremely effective at reducing pain. Your partner or doula (or both!) can provide light or firm massage, apply ice or heat to your low back, a cool washcloth to your face or neck, stroke your arms, brush your hair, scratch your back — anything that feels soothing in the moment (which changes depending on the intensity of labor). Holding a removable shower head over your back or belly can also feel very soothing.
Rhythm & Ritual
Finding your groove or being in a state of “flow” applies as much to labor as it does to getting things done on your task list. Use of rhythm and ritual often happens organically in labor. From finding a pattern of swaying and/or breathing to vocalizing with every out-breath, for example, getting into a rhythm or leaning on a ritual often comes naturally when you are well supported and encouraged to move and change positions. There is no one or “right” way to move or breathe in labor — do what feels best to you.
The best way to find relaxation in labor begins with taking a good childbirth class. Find a childbirth instructor in person or online to start learning the many proven ways to cope with labor.