Being calm, relaxed and centered during labor and birth is the best way to welcome your child into the world. Yet our culture is geared to make women believe that childbirth can only mean pain and agony. We carry these beliefs into our birthing experience, if they have not been adequately dealt with, and they cause pain: we are what we think... True, there are other aspects to the pain in labor conundrum, but this post is not to discuss the scope of discomfort during labor, on the contrary, in this post, I want to make a list of all the many things you can do to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible during childbirth.
Before I commence this list, I want to say that comfort is a very personal thing and that this list is not intended as a bucket list: you know best what works for you, so pick and choose what's best for you, and know that you can decide on the spot.
- Preparation is very important for achieving a relaxed birth. Pinpoint your fears ahead of time and eradicate them. You can achieve this through meditation, art or hypnosis. Birthing From Within has some exercises on pinpointing and eradicating fears, but I found that the book focused too much on pain.
- Drinking Red Raspberry Leaf infusion throughout your pregnancy will ensure your uterus contracts optimally
- Drinking Nettle infusion throughout your pregnancy will get you the vitamins and minerals you need to endure labor
- Repeating Birth Afirmations, daily during pregnancy, is also a great way of attracting positive energy for birth.
- Making sure you have a good nutrition during pregnancy will also make labor and birthing easier: ensure a diet high in nutrients and low in processed foods and sugar.
- Engaging in mild physical activity - such as swimming, dancing, yoga or walking - throughout your pregnancy will prepare and strengthen your muscles for birth
- Squatting daily will prepare your pelvic region for childbirth
- Lavender is a go-to flower to achieve relaxation, for massage or vapor
- Clary Sage is an essential oil recommended specifically for labor, as it helps labor along and is also useful in expelling the afterbirth.
- Neroli, Jasmine, Geranium rose, orange
- Ylang ylang is a general mood enhancer and is also known to lower blood pressure.
There is also much to be said for bringing a vapor spar when birthing in the hospital, as the scents will take over the hospital smells and make the environment feel more secure and relaxing.
Read more: Aromatherapy for labor, suite 101
HydrationMaking sure you are well hydrated during labor will ensure the optimal functioning of the muscles. Drink throughout your labor, small sips, and preferably warm or lukewarm beverages. Infusions such as nettle, chamomile and Red raspberry leaf are ideal as they give you the added bonus of supplying you with the nutrients you will need.
Lots of sites will recommend sucking ice chips during labor, but I strongly advize against this. When you consume very cold drinks, your body needs to use energy to heat the liquid, during your labor, you don't have extra energy to spend, so room temperature or warm drinks work better.
HerbsChamomile tea relaxes and relieves tension
Red Raspberry leaf will ensure a speedy delivery of the placenta and optimal contracting of the uterus
Nettle gives you much needed vitamins and minerals
MassageMassage is a very personal thing, some women hate it while in labor, even if they much enjoyed it during pregnancy. I am one of those!! Just test what kind of touching feels good- if any. Massaging the lower back can give some relief if you have back labor, massaging the feet with extra care for the pressure points can bring relaxation, also temples and forehead or scalp if you are feeling a bit stressed.
MovementWhat a great way to get that baby moving through the birth canal!
- Moving the pelvis
- Rotating the pelvis on a birth ball
- take a shower
- lie in the bath
- rinse the body parts that are causing discomfort with warm water
Having a focal point can de-clutter your mind and help you transition into a meditational state.
- You can consider having an 'altar' with some items that can give you strength and focus
- Hang a printed mantra
- Repeat said mantra
- Hang a mandala on the wall near your birthing space
- Light a candle
- Play some nature inspired music - sounds of waves, pan flute... This can be a way to focus as well as a way to let go and familiarize an environment
- Repeating affrmations
Not only does breathing relieve tension, it also brings much needed oxygen to your muscles and takes away the CO2. It is very beneficial to start doing breathing exercises on a regular basis during pregnancy, to make them an easy go to activity throughout labor.
Making sounds can be a good way to relief tension and stress, but make sure your vocalizing is not doing the opposite: shrill screaming will heighten tension instead of alleviate it. It is again a good idea to practice vocalizing beforehand, so you don't feel inhibited and have learned the skill already. You can do this by vocal meditation or just singing aloud during the day or whenever you feel overwhelmed.
- Coordinating sound to breath: breathing out in a loud 'aaaaah' or 'ohm'
You just have to look up hypnosis birthing videos on Youtube to see that hypnosis is a great way to achieve relaxation during childbirth. I personally used the Birth Relaxation Kit during my last pregnancy and found that aside from being helpful for birthing, it was also very useful in finding balance during my pregnancy.
- Talking to your baby
- Feeling your baby's movements between contractions
- Imagining holding your baby in a mere instant
Birth SpaceMake sure your birth space gives you peace of mind, enables you to relax and centre.
I already mentioned using essential oils to familiarize a room if you're not birthing at home. Also bringing in something like a quilt or a picture or whatever draws you attention to something familiar.
Make sure that your birth space is well heated, so you won't catch cold after or during labor. Taking socks if you're birthing in the hospital is an easy way to make sure you don't get cold.
Being able to completely allow labor to overtake you does mean you are birthing in an environment that feels safe to you. It's up to you to fill in what that means.
It also means feeling supported.
Any negative vibe will get you out of laborland and into defensive mode, so choose carefully who you allow at your birth. Know that you can change care providers any time during your pregnancy.
This post has been added to the Tuesday Baby Link Up