Once you learn about what you can do with your body and mind during contractions, you’ll be amazed at your ability to discover and stay in your comfort zone.
1 CHOOSE A SOOTHING ENVIRONMENT
Your birth setting must feel safe to you. It should have sufficient space so you can walk and bathe, along with furniture and items to enhance movement and pain relief: a CD player, rocking chair, birth ball, low stool, squatting bar and soft bed. You should be encouraged to try a variety of positions. Access to appropriate medical care is crucial if problems arise.
2 ASSEMBLE YOUR TEAM CAREFULLY
Knowledgeable, caring midwives, doctors, nurses, partners, loved ones and doulas create a supportive birth team. When you’re treated with respect and patience, stress and inhibitions decrease, and you can find your best coping mechanisms more easily.
3 LEARN ABOUT LABOR
Find out everything you can about labor. Read respected books and magazines; view Web sites and videos; enroll in Lamaze classes; tour the hospital; talk to your healthcare provider, doula, family and friends. Familiarize yourself with the procedures and customs at your hospital or birth center, and ask about flexibility. Such discussions are best had before labor. More knowledge means fewer surprises.
4 EXPRESS YOUR FEARS
Are you worried about pain and labor, needles, medicines or losing control? Speak with a knowledgeable and trusted friend, your Lamaze educator or a doula. Voicing your concerns can bring relief as well as practical solutions. Developing a birth plan can help you prioritize your preferences and calm your fears.
5 PRACTICE FOCUSED BREATHING
Breathe fully in a slow, relaxed way during contractions. Release tension with each exhalation. Slow, relaxed breathing usually helps you focus on your labor. If you lose your rhythm, your partner or doula needs to help you regain it with eye contact, rhythmic hand or head movements, or by talking you through contractions.
6 USE IMAGERY/VISUALIZATION
Focusing on what makes you happy — your partner’s face, an inspirational picture or a favorite object, perhaps — engages your senses and decreases pain awareness. Listen to music, a soothing voice or a recording of ocean waves, and imagine yourself in an even more relaxing environment.
7 TAKE A WARM SHOWER OR BATH
A warm shower is soothing. You can sit on a stool and direct a handheld showerhead onto your abdomen/back. Bathing in warm water can relax you, and may even speed up labor.
8 KEEP MOVING
Walk, lean, sway, rock and squat as much as you can. Moving can actually change the shape of your pelvis to help your baby move through.
9 USE WARM/COOL COMPRESSES
Place a warm pack on your lower abdomen, groin, lower back or shoulders during labor. A cold pack or latex glove filled with ice chips soothes painful areas. Cool cloths provide relief as well.
10 INDULGE IN GENTLE TOUCH OR MASSAGE
Whether someone holds your hand, strokes your cheek or hair, or pats your hand or shoulder, touch conveys reassurance, caring and understanding. Have your partner or doula massage you with light or firm strokes, using oil or lotion.
Lamaze International promotes a natural, healthy, safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting practices. To find classes in your area, or for more information, visit www.lamaze.org.