The daunting task of “staying calm” during an event that you’ve had about 9 months to mentally and emotionally prepare for can be an overwhelming one! So what’s the secret to staying calm in labor?
A few thoughts:
With knowledge comes confidence. Having confidence in our body’s ability to give birth is essential for the process of labor. It’s a tough concept to wrap your mind around but believe it or not our bodies know what they’re doing even if we don’t! A laboring woman’s body responds naturally on a primal intuitive level, and with confidence in her body- labor will take its natural course!
Confidence is achieved through knowledge, and knowledge is power! Invest some time and perhaps some finances in being mentally prepared. Take a childbirth education class, ask an informed and trusted person your questions (that’s not google search!). Express any fears you may have before hand, seek and inform a support person of your wishes (friend, mom, sister, doula), and learn how your body works so that you CAN gain confidence in your ability!
Get creative with comfort measures! Take a moment to reflect on how you relieve stress, anxiety or simply relax after a long day, and brainstorm how you can implement that in labor! Whether it’s taking a warm bath, using a heating pad/hot pack on your back, zoning out to your favorite relaxation mix, meditation and breathing, etc.
If you’re a stress exerciser – make sure you can move! Go for a walk!
There are tons of ways to get creative in what feels like a small hospital room. Be it in the tub or shower, warm water is incredibly therapeutic. Soak in a warm bath, stand in the shower leaning on your partner, or bring a chair into the shower and have someone hold the nozzle against your back.
Take advantage of those expensive hospital beds and bend them in half if you have too! Raise the bed, use loads of pillows or a big ball on it, squat, rock on all fours, etc. Position changes are essential for labor to progress and your baby’s ability to navigate its way through your pelvis.
Look for a surface around the room that’s just above your waist height and plop a pillow on top of it. Rest your arms and head on the pillow and rock your hips side to side or around in a dancing motion. Feels good to move and yet at the same time you’re resting your head and not holding all of your weight on your tired legs!
There are many schools of thought on breathing techniques. The correct answer is, there is no “one correct technique.” There is only one wrong technique – hyperventilation. To avoid this you should always breathe naturally. At each stage of labor your breathing pattern might be different. One contraction to the next you might breathe differently. Focus on taking deep breaths. If you are breathing faster than you’re comfortable with- focus on a long out breath. This will automatically cause you to take a deeper inhale the next breath. Picture yourself oxygenating the baby. Consider taking a deep breath at the end and beginning of each contraction. We call this a cleansing breath, it helps you focus yourself mentally, gives a great supply of oxygen to the baby, and signals your labor team so they can support you through. Breathe as naturally as you need to during the contraction.
Touch is a powerful tool. Touch is able to ease pain, lessen anxiety, generate hope, and is believed to have the power to heal. Loving touch during labor can cause a hormone response in a woman that not only stimulates contractions but also replaces negative feelings of fear with positive, loving, and peaceful feelings.
So how to create this response in labor? A few tips – (this one is for you partners).
First off, every woman who’s ever gone through labor will tell you there is a time for comforting touch, and a time she does NOT WANT to be touched with a 10 ft. pole! Don’t worry partners this response is completely normal. You are not alone! When she reaches that point she will let you know- but until then the following techniques might be useful.
- Not every woman relaxes or enjoys touch/massage. Know your partner’s preferences beforehand. What does she like? Not like?
- Firm but gentle touch. A firm hand communicates confidence and I’m right here for you. Light stroking is frequently irritating for a laboring woman (unless on the belly – sometimes this gentle stoke is calming. For techniques look up ‘effleurage’)
- Key places – back (especially lower back), buttocks, inner thighs, stomach, hands and legs.
- Try to massage or stroke in a downward motion. Help her to focus releasing tension from head to toe.
- Notice tension held in the face and jaw muscles and remind her to focus and release tension from her face.
- Bring some massage tools with you to the hospital: hot pack, cold pack, massage ball, rolling pin, etc.
Feeling well prepared and knowledgeable about your options for labor and birth is going to build confidence and help you and your partner to stay calm in labor. Take a deep breath, let out the tension you’re feeling, and remember your body knows what it’s doing. Hopefully some of these tips will help you to achieve your very best birth!