Relaxation, preparation, and knowledge are essential aspects of a positive birth experience.
Each labor is different. If you have listen to your friends’ stories, it does not mean your labor will last for ten hours like theirs! The length of the labor and contractions mostly depends on the elasticity of the uterus spout, which is individual. Pregnant women are usually excited and worried at the same time. If you are well prepared you will feel safer, especially if you know what is going on with your body at each stage.
Labor can be a fulfilling moment and it is likely you will enjoy it more if you are relaxed and calm. Exercises of relaxation and breathing techniques can help you stay calm and take away the pain more easily.
You can practice relaxation during your whole pregnancy as it has no contraindications. To perform it, take a comfortable position: in the first trimester and most second you can lay on your back, and in the third trimester you lay on one of the sides.
During labor, relaxation enables the natural processes for the canal opening. It also saves your energy between the contractions that is necessary for pushing the baby out. One of the best ways is to learn to isolate different muscle groups in your body. Your uterus must contract to push the baby down and retract the cervix over the baby’s head. If other muscles are tight during contractions, you are wasting energy and oxygen. By learning to relax the rest of your muscle groups, you can focus on allowing most of your oxygen to travel to your uterus.
The main hormone that helps you to labor effectively is called oxytocin. It shapes the frequency, length and strength of your contractions, and works best if you feel calm, safe and relaxed. This means you will have more energy, and your baby may also cope better.
As your labor gets stronger, your body will produce higher levels of endorphins, also known as feel-good hormones. These are your body’s natural opiates, which alleviate pain and will help you to feel better and cope with your contractions.
Endorphins can also regulate the strength of your labor, slowing things down when it gets too intense. They can even alter your perception of time and help you to zone out from what is going on around you. This is perfect for helping you to focus during labor.
The goal of relaxation exercises is:
- decrease body tension
- stress relief
- better blood circulation
- better breathing
- decrease of the breathing speed
- deep abdominal breathing
- chest breathing, short, fast, and shallow breaths, interrupted by deep inhales and exhales, so called breathing between the first and second phases of the labor periods
- breathing while pushing in the second labor stage
The following are some ways you can use your mental energy to focus on bringing your baby into the world:
- Quick body scan: Scan your body from head to toe to notice any tension and then release the tension with exercises like head rotations, shoulder rolls, shaking arms and hands, ankle rolls, and pelvic tilts.
- Progressive relaxation: Begin by relaxing the muscles of your head and face. Release down the back or your neck, across your shoulders and arm, down your chest, abdomen and back, all the way down your legs to your toes. Breathe slowly, releasing more and more with each exhalation.
- Each time you release a muscle, concentrate on the positioning of that muscle and on the feeling of complete relaxation. It may help to think of a comforting touch smoothing gently from your brow, up into your hair, over the top of your head and down your body.
- Visual Imagery: Imagine a relaxing place, a sunny beach, a fireside, a bubbling brook, or a pristine lake surrounded by mountains. Use some pictures from favorite vacation spots to help you.