Your favorite tips/techiniques/suggestions for RELAXATION during labor - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 01-21-2010, 07:20 PM - Thread Starter
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First, I just wanna say, I love this board. Thank you all for being here!

I want your best tips for how to relax during labor. With DS1, I went into it with the idea that it didn't have to be painful if I could just relax my body. Well, let me tell you, I TRIED! But I guess I'm just not one of those blessed women who have no pain during labor. The labor was only 7 hours total (not too, too bad for a first timer) but I pushed for 2:20. I was in a lot of pain, and completely exhausted! I was really shocked at how painful it was even though I was trying to relax.

With DS2, I figured that since the "shoot's been greased " it would be shorter (which my mom's was) and less painful. Wrong again! The labor was still almost exactly 7 hours and the contraction still HURT even though I was trying to relax through them. The pushing stage was very short though, phew!

This time, I'm going into in with a more realistic attitude. I've accepted that I'm not one of those women who will probably ever have a painless labor, and that's ok. My sweet babies are worth every minute ! I recently watched the birth video of DS2, and I realized that I was not very effectively relaxing my body. Every time a contraction came, I could SEE my body tense up. It looked like I was trying to run away from my own body or something lol. Makes me wonder how much shorter it could be if I would just relax!

So, what do you do? I want to welcome each contraction knowing it's a step closer to holding my baby, but it's harder than it sounds. TIA for any suggestions.

Rachael belly.gif , Daughter of the King, Wife to DHflowersforyou.gif (12-31-03), Mama to DS1blahblah.gif  (5-9-06), DS2 bouncy.gif (10-20-08), DS3 happytears.gif (7-28-10), and thankful to be expecting #4 1sttri.gif at the end of December2012.

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#2 of 11 Old 01-22-2010, 12:49 PM
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A glass of wine and a warm bath... Hypnobabies... Getting a massage, vocalizing, focusing on taking good, deep breaths ... these are all good ways to "relax" during labor. I'm not one of those that is good @ relaxing. I think walking is a great way to speed up labor, and it's the only thing that helped me deal with the pain last time, but it's not exactly restful. If I could do it over I would at least give hypnobabies a shot. HTH!

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#3 of 11 Old 01-22-2010, 03:01 PM
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i've been thinking about this a lot lately.

i had a pleasurable labor and birth, and so i'm working on creating a program to try and recreate that with other women. it is yoga and mindfulness based, as i think that these were important elements to my experience. so, i want to "experiment" with a number of clients (they will know!) and then they will share their experiences.

i'm just trying to see if what i experienced can be "recreated" similar to this woman in doctor-midwife in the UK who uses ayurvedic techniques to create "painless" births. she's pretty successful, and i am building on her info and another course (mindfulness based childbirth), as well as my own experience and information.

with this, it is important to note that i am really only focusing on the mind and it's impact. Different bodies have different neurological structures that would increase or decrease sensory response to stimuli (pleasure/pain matrix, etc). so, i have left this element out of the equation per se, which is also why i assert that having a painful birth doesn't mean that you have a "mental problem" with birth. Bodies are different, and some bodies are more prone to extreme sensory experiences (pain or pleasure, hot or cold, sense of weight/pressure or lack of sense of weight/pressure, etc) and this obviously also impacts the experience of birth (and everything else in life too).

anyway, it has been on my mind. and so far, my mind has churned out some possibilities:

1. my meditation practice--i've been meditating for 18 years, and i would describe most of my labor as "peaceful, meditative." seriously, the longest part of labor was absolute bliss in this way. Deeply aware of my body and what was going on, but no pain, just a pleasant feeling with each contraction and a totally still mind observing that experience.

is this because of meditation? can a newbie meditator have a similar experience? if a woman starts meditation in her pregnancy, will she be adept enough by labor to have a similar meditative experience?

2. body awareness, comfort with discomfort--this comes from my yoga asana practice in particular. in my practice and in my teaching, i take the notion of pain is a problem, but discomfort is what you want to experience because it teaches you more about yourself--your body and your mind.

since the mind is a part of the fear-tension-pain aspect, i have focused on this. in postures, we often discover that the discomfort is an emotional process, and over time, yogins seek the discomfort spot and go "ahhh!" they know it is uncomfortable at first, but as their bodies relax into the posture, they get that sense of release and that feeling of "ahhh!" so, they start seeking it out! i even have students say "this feels too easy" or "i only feel a little discomfort, can you help me find that deep spot?" so, yeah, they WANT the discomfort.

i have noticed in myself, that when we are in a space of discomfort, the mind starts to chatter a lot about getting out of that discomfort, about how if you don't you're going to DIE. seriously, my mind is a drama queen.

anyway, i find that this can become a fear, that goes to tension, and then pain, as opposed to becoming comfortable with discomfort.

when one is comfortable with discomfort, they observe that the mind is being a drama queen about it, and they breathe in and begin to quiet the mind (head toward meditation really). they observe how the mind is moving in reaction to the discomfort, and then might even contemplate whether or not that is the reality of their experience of their body in the pose.

so, in yoga, we hold a pose and it is uncomfortable. and the mind might say "you're going to dislocate your knee if you keep doing this!" and if we then still the mind and observe the body, we might discover either "yes, i need to move before i dislocate my knee" or we might (and more often do) discover "no, my knee is fine. this is uncomfortable, but it is the right movement and it will lead to healing." THEN the joint relaxes and the discomfort goes away and we are left with the "release" feeling.

So in labor, and this really clicks in with UC and the intuition ideas, the whole process is simply observing what is happening. Feeling things fully, calming the drama of the mind, and then going into that wisdom/intuitive space to discover what the right action it--to move, to rest, to eat, to not eat, to get help, to hang in, to breathe deep, to push, whatever that is.

Now, a question with this is, can a beginner get similar results? is 3-6-9 months enough time to learn these techniques or does one need to have an established practice and experience in this aspect of yoga for it to transfer to the birth itself? i have practiced for 29 years (since i was 4), and i have taught for 14. so, i'm experienced. will it work for people new to it?

and with this, if it will work for newbies, does it need to be taught in a specific way (with a specific focus on this) in order for that to happen more quickly, for the idea to "click" more quickly with them?


i have to get back to packing right now, but those are a few of the ideas in my mind at this point. I'll come back and keep going if i can.

many blessings to you!
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#4 of 11 Old 01-22-2010, 11:49 PM
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ok, so having packed and having found an old high school friend on FB and discovering that she's making a living as an actress-singer in LA (awesome!), i now have a bit more time to move back to this post.

hmm. . .what else am i thinking about this whole relaxation, pleasure bit?

meditation, yoga (body/mind--release)....

i'm exploring the process of hypnosis--what it is and how it works. i have only started to learn about it, and we have all heard how hypnobabies and hypnobirthing works for so many mammas. i want to know how it works. so, i've just started on this.

I think i'll also talk about mindfulness, which is commonly defined in buddhist circles as a process of simply being aware, or simply observing. the idea that thich naht hanh puts forth is that when you are washing dishes, only wash dishes. focus intently on washing dishes and only washing dishes. when you are walking, walk. when you are doing this or that, then just do this or that.

in buddhist parenting and caregiving circles, the process is to be present with the individual, rather than concerned about outward elements such as what one "should" be doing or what milestone the child should acheive or what have you. it's about being present.

I think that this can have a huge impact on labor and birth. By simply being present with the experience--without giving it a label such as pleasant/unpleasant or peaceful/not peaceful or what have you--you simply experience it.

and often, when we are simply experiencing, we are in a state of ease, not analysis, not emotional turmoil of any kind. . .but rather a sense of general contentment.

and that general contentment is relaxed, calm, and observant. we are simply being labor, being birthing.

i should also note that this is also a form of meditation, but i find it a very, very accessible form of meditation--probably the most accessible form. it is where i tend to start all of my students with their meditation practices because we can learn to just do dishes, or just feel our feet while standing. . .it makes it an easy focal point to return to.

an example that anyone can experience is sitting outside when there are mosquitos. we all know that they bite, and many of us take preventative measures of all kinds. but what if you just sat there. what if you jsut decided that you wanted to sit in this lovely spot as the sun went down, and you wanted to be there, and part of being there involved mosquitos?

so, the mozzies bite. and, the bumps raise, and you become aware of the itch. what if that's enough. that's it right there. you are being sitting-sunset-dinner. there's no judgement of "OMG! MOSQUITOS ARE BITING ME AND I ITCH! IT MUST STOP!" just, i am sitting, i am sun set, i am dinner.

what one often discovers is that the itch dissipates, or at least doesn't become a cause for mental or emotional alarm. the bites do not sting so much, or at least don't become cause for mental or emtotional alarm.

and, we needn't act on the alarm when it goes off. we can just accept that "right now, i am being dinner."

so, think about this in terms of labor. I am being contraction, i am being rest between contractions, i am being sounding, i am being lunging, i am being drinking tea, i am being contractions, i am being birthing.

it just is. mindfulness is just about being present--without judgement or reaction or alarm--with whatever is.

And that releases, or at least removes the fear-tension-pain.

because often it goes like this contraction--fear next contraction's discomfort, knowing it will repeat and increase in nature--tense at/during contraction--contraction increases in pain.

this is, btw, just the mental part. again, i am not speaking to anatomical differences.

so, what if it went. i am being contraction. i am being contraction.

i noticed tha tmy contractions increased in intensity. . .they got stronger. but they were never painful. i never felt pain.

i admit that i have a high threshold, so perhaps the anatomical nature of my body is predisposed to this. but, i also know that i never feared the next contraction, never feared any part of it, and was completely being with the experience of labor and birth.

and being present moment to moment, i was simply experiencing. that's it, just experiencing.
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#5 of 11 Old 01-23-2010, 01:55 PM
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awesome thread! this is exactly the thing I am wondering about too! will have to read it more closely when I have more time.
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#6 of 11 Old 01-23-2010, 01:57 PM
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zoebird ~ thanks for your posts. I found them very interesting and inspiring. I think you should write a book, I would totally buy it.

A wife to A, unschoolen mom to C (7), T (3) & little A (9 months).
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#7 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 10:08 AM
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First, let me tell you that I've had 5 babies. The first was the most ridiculously excruciating thing ever. It lasted 32 hours from the first hard contraction and b/c the nurse didn't know what she was doing (long story) I pushed for 3.5 hours. I knew there had to be a better way. Over the next 4, the labors have been completely different...5 hours, 3 hours, 1.5 hours and 11 minutes (although that was too short) and relatively painless.

There is a book titled "Childbirth Without Fear". That is, hands down, the best that I've read. I'll tell you what I think the key is. You can't wait until you're in labor to practice relaxing. For example, if you lie down and relax your head (scalp, forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, chin) then move to your shoulders, etc. By the time you get to your belly you'll realized that your head is tensed again. Like zoebird said, body awareness is very important. It takes practice to be able to keep your body in a relaxed state with NO distractions...imagine how much harder with contractions. If you actually practice, though, it's very possible...and rewarding. The book is great. He talks more about that and gives stories about women doing that when "Twilight Sleep" was all the rage.

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#8 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 12:40 PM
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i plan on it.

this is why i'm going to run the classes with other women. essentially, i want to see if the process that i experienced can be repeated for other women. i'll want women who have birthed before and women who have not, those TTCing and those already pregnant, and i'll teach them these various techniques.

i want to design it like a real study (even though it will be no where near a truly scientific study with the various controls, etc), so that i can extract as much information as possible and the women can record their experiences as well.

once i have a clear sense that these things can be learned--at least for some or even many women--then i'll write it up and include the women's stories in it as well (of course, with their permission).

and then, hopefully, someone will be interested in publishing it.
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#9 of 11 Old 01-25-2010, 04:24 PM
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in regards to learning to relax before getting to labor, i wanted to touch on one of the practices that i felt really helped me get "out of my head" and into that "body wisdom" space: Cranial-Sacral Therapy (CST).

I sort of fell into this modality because my friend and massage therapist happens to have a talent for it. the first time i experienced it, i was having a prenatal massage, and she finished with a bit of CST.

well, my head and neck starts whipping around like i'm an owl or something! it was completely crazy. at first, i was a bit scared, but then i said to myself "my friend knows what she is doing; she wouldn't hurt me!" and i just experienced.

just then--literally as soon as the thought crossed my mind--my friend started laughing. i asked her what was funny, and she said "i'm not doing this." and i said "what?" and she goes "I'm not doing this, you are!" and i was like "what?!" because *i* wasn't doing it consciously.

so then i had a puzzle--did "I" know what i was doing or was i simply ok because i trusted my friends knowledge? could i trust myself enough to relax and just let what was happening happen?

well, in that moment, i decided that i could trust myself enough, that perhaps my body had enough wisdom to take care of itself during this process. so, i let go of my mind and just relaxed and let it happen.

after that experience, i had massage each week, alternating between 'regular' massage to help relieve the discomforts of my changing body and CST to begin to work on this trusting of my body.

what happened is each session was amazing dynamic movement--i can't even explain it. but what i learned was to let go and trust the process, even when i didn't consciously "know" what was going on.

some of the movements were "scary" for my friend and i--very deep back bends while 7 and 8 months pregnant and all kinds of weird inverted movements too. things that are typically prenatal "no nos." but we discussed how my body *knew* it was pregnant, and my body wouldn't do anything to harm that. . . we just both learned to trust body wisdom.

what this did is really bring me out of my analytical mind. i have a strong mind (as well as a strong will), and i am an analytical person. I am also intuitive and all of that, but i can say that i am strongly in my head. i'm probably more "in my head" than not for most things, ironically.

anyway, it got me "out of my head" and into simply experiencing my body with total trust rather than trying to understand, problem solve, or "do it right." it is simply the process of allowing the body to do what it does.

in the process of labor--and in particular unhindered labor--i was able to trust my body. i moved in whatever completely wild and weird ways my body wanted to move. Just as in CST, i would sound, breathe certain ways, and dynamically move. it would be whatever the body was telling me to do--withuot my mind thinking 'is this right? shoudl i do this or that instead?"

there was no planning, no forethought into what to do next, what was happening and how i "should" respond. everything just flowed--movement, breath, sound.

so, i also think that this method is a good training ground for learning to trust the body, and i also think it prepares the body and mind for birth in a lot of ways.

it allowed me to be open to the complete and utter unknown.

one of my preparations for birth was to see waht "normal" looks like--birth stories, videos, etc. so, i had an Idea. but. . .

I've never read a birth story where a woman begins labor in orgasmic lunges, laughing and laughing. I've never read a birth story where a woman meditates on her knees leaning into a chair for the day. I've never read a birth story where the last two hours are ecstatic sounding with deep back bends in the half breath rhythms (inhale, camel pose, exhale, hands and knees, inhale upward dog, exhale "child pose" which is where the push was).

never. so how could i plan it or expect it. how could i consciously create it?

i didn't. i simply followed the impulse of my body, i let my mind be still and quiet, and trusted my own body to birth the baby.

this relaxing of the mind really allowed me to simply experience and enjoy the process, as well as allow the body to move as it needed to to safely birth my son.

and, i believe, had i needed help, my body would have told me that--it would have become clear--and we would have sought that help.

but i do think that this was a big part of how my birth was pleasurable.
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#10 of 11 Old 01-27-2010, 07:03 AM
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Hey there,
I tried using acupressure throughout my pregnancy and it really helped me. I was able to use it to stop morning sickness which was amazing since I had been feeling really lousy from that and also with the help of my husband he was able to massage points on my shoulder and back that left me feeling really calm and relaxed. During labor it also helped relieve pain from contractions. Hope this helps
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#11 of 11 Old 01-27-2010, 03:38 PM
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One of my most favorite tips for relaxation during pregnancy was to sit and watch a tear jerker video armed with a box of tissues and a big bar of chocolate. I found out that bawling my eyes out seemd to release all of the tensions in my body.
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