Relaxation and labor might seem like two contradictory concepts, but relaxing while giving birth is actually achievable if you use the right techniques and have the support of a good birth partner. In fact, being able to remain relaxed throughout your labor will help you have a more positive birth experience. Read on to learn more about the benefits of relaxation in labor and how to achieve it.
Benefits of Relaxation
Stress is never good for an expecting mother, particularly during labor when the body needs to maintain its strength and energy reserves for the actual birth. In addition to tensing your muscles and leaving you feeling exhausted, tension and anxiety trigger the release of fight-or-flight hormones that can decrease the blood flow to your uterus, which might reduce the uterus’s ability to contract effectively. On the other hand, remaining relaxed may encourage your body to produce oxytocin hormones that act as natural pain relievers, and will keep your muscles loose, making it easier for you to breathe rhythmically and supply your body and your baby with more oxygen.
Preparing Yourself for Labor
The first step to learning how to relax in labor is to be more aware of your body and know which relaxation methods help you calm down and release your stress during your pregnancy, since you can use these methods while you’re in labor to release your body’s stress. Take the time during your pregnancy to determine which parts of your body tend to tense up when you’re stressed. Do you frown, grind your teeth, or tense your neck and shoulder muscles? By recognizing the signs, you’ll be able to identify when your body is stressed out and take the right steps to loosen up.
When you notice yourself tensing up, take a deep breath and try to relax your muscles as you exhale until they feel loose. Use this technique regularly even when you’re not stressed out until it comes naturally to you; this way you’ll be able to easily identify areas of tension during labor and effectively relax them. Similarly, when experiencing contractions during labor, take a deep breath at the start of each contraction and try to relax as you exhale. It might help to focus on repeating a single word over and over as you breathe, such as “re (inhale) – lax (exhale)”.
Your Birth Partner’s Role
A birth partner is someone who can stay with you during your labor to help you relax and support you when things get a bit intense. Your birth partner can be your husband, mother, sister, or a close friend, and the role they play often involves the following:
• Helping you get the care you need by drawing the attention of the medical staff to any issues you would like taken care of.
• Keeping you informed of what’s happening with the baby while you’re giving birth, which can put your mind at ease and make you feel more involved and in control.
• Helping you keep your breathing rhythmic by breathing with you and giving you queues when to inhale and exhale.
• Ensuring your physical comfort by arranging the pillows around you and giving you a massage when you need to relax.
• Giving you emotional support, since you will be in a new and unfamiliar situation that can understandably leave anyone nervous and stressed.