Since the moment you found out you’re pregnant, the thought has probably crossed your mind: I have to push a giant baby out of me! Seems scary, right? It doesn’t help that many, if not most, women fear the big day they have to go into labour, even though moms are more than excited to meet their newborn. Our culture in North America has done a very good job portraying birth as unbearably painful, undesirable and even dangerous. But why? Birth has been around for a VERY long time. And, you’d be surprised to know that our bodies are made to open up and channel our babies to the world. Am I really trying to tell you that the pain that’s depicted in movies isn’t real? NO! There is pain, and it’s real, and it is intense, but with the right tools to help shape our mindset and with the right techniques, you can create a positive birth story and have a beautiful (not so scary) transition to parenthood.
Here are some common techniques used to improve women’s overall labour/birthing experience:
1. Foot massage
I remember during pregnancy when I made the switch from high heels, flats, to flip flops (almost in the sequence of 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimester). I distinctly remember looking down from my desk at my feet, and seeing them protrude from the tops of my shoes. I painfully peeled them off and dreaded the moment I’d have to leave work and put them back on. There are many reasons women feet swell during pregnancy, such as carrying excess fluids, hormonal changes and baby putting pressure on veins. When a partner rubs a pregnant woman’s feet, the feeling is oh-so-nice. Use a nice massage oil like grapeseed or almond (if you’re not allergic to nuts) and ask your doctor or aromatherapist which essential oils you can add to the mix.
2. Lower back massage/ counter pressure
Lower back pain in late pregnancy can be agonizing. It’s one of the reason’s we say, “I can’t wait to push this baby out!” in our late weeks of pregnancy. There are a few reasons we experience lower back pain, one is that our body releases a hormone, relaxin, which makes joints and ligaments loosen in preparation for childbirth – this very process also causes pain. Another reason for back pain is that your baby’s head is quite literally pressing in your spine. There are ways to relieve pain without resorting to medication – get your partner to rub your back. A comfortable position is to kneel on your knees and lean on a pillow or birthing ball (don’t lay directly on your baby), and have your partner rub your lower back and hips until you’re comfortable. Alternatively, if you don’t have someone around to help dig their fingers into you, take two tennis balls and shove them in a sock; then, standing, press your back and the tennis balls against a wall and sway back and forth. This should provide nice relief.
On a normal day, music has powers to transform moods, bring people together and bring about more positive life experiences. Why should it be so different during labour? Most of the pregnancies I’ve seen at the hospital don’t have music, but some of the best birth stories are ones that incorporate music during labour. Soft music, like acoustic guitar is absolutely relaxing, but think about what type of music you like to listen to, and be prepared with a bluetooth device, or permanent soundtrack. Streaming at the hospital can be quite expensive so just ensure you plan ahead.
4. Warm bath
Many women while in labour cope better while submerged in a warm bath (I am not talking about a water birth here – maybe another time) as a relaxation and pain management technique. Water has a very therapeutic effect and has proven to reduce pain. If you’re in the bath during active labour, ask your partner or doula to give you a head massage, a shoulder massage or hand massage. Layering multiple techniques is also an effective way to deal with labour pains.
5. Breathing techniques
In yoga and in many activities that require us to push our bodies to the next level, various breathing techniques can and do effectively boost concentration and our endurance. When you focus on your breath instead of the pain you’re feeling, you are creating a positive distraction. In the case of labour, not only are you giving yourself something to focus on while you work your way through deep waves of contractions, you are also providing your baby with a big boost of oxygen. Before labour, try practicing some deep breathing techniques. Try this: take a long, drawn out breath (count to 5) in through your nose and exhale by pursing your lips (almost like you’re whistling). For more breathing techniques, check www.BabyCentre.Ca for other useful tips.
Using comfort measures during labour is NOT about robotically using one technique after the other, it is about finding the right one that works for you at the time. Try switching it up when you feel ready. I strongly recommend learning some basic meditation techniques before labour. Meditation is not only for hippies, it’s for all people to want to be successful in gaining focus and training your mind to do the best it possibly can. If you have questions/comments/suggestions or would like some more information, please leave a comment below.