Relaxation & Meditation Techniques for an Easier Labor

The key to a natural birth is relaxation.  Sounds easy, right?  You just have to relax.  But in truth, relaxation is a learned skill.  As with any skill, your ability improves with practice. Be patient with yourself. Don't let your effort to practice relaxation techniques become a stressor.  If you notice you’ve tensed up, or your mind has begun to wonder, gentle redirect yourself back to your relaxation.  

I encourage couples to try as many relaxation techniques as they can, including a few described below.  You may not like one now, but it may work well during labor.  Bear in mind, some people, especially those with serious psychological issues or a history of abuse, may experience feelings of emotional discomfort during some relaxation techniques. Although this is rare, if you experience emotional discomfort during relaxation techniques, stop what you're doing and talk to your doctor/midwife or a mental health professional.  Abuse issues are sometimes triggered unexpectedly during pregnancy, labor, and birth so be sure to bring up any concerns with your doctor/midwife as soon as possible.  

There are several main types of relaxation techniques, including:

  • Autogenic relaxation:  Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this relaxation technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness.  You repeat words, a mantra, or suggestions in your mind to relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a peaceful setting and then focus on abdominal breathing and lets go of tension, allowing your body to work during labor.  This can work well if you’re laboring alone while your waiting for your partner to arrive.  Some mothers find they do better in labor by turning inward.  Partners can still support mom in a number of ways, including holding space.  
  • Progressive muscle relaxation:  In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly relaxing each muscle group.  During pregnancy, practice this technique by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and face. You can also start with your face and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for at least 5 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.  This allows you to become more aware the physical sensations of both tension and relaxation.  Practicing with your coach allows your partner to observe what you look like when tensed and relaxed.  During labor, you coach can help by looking for areas of tension and massage or remind mom to relax those areas.

  • Visualization:  In this relaxation technique, you form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation.  Coach can describe the scene including as many senses as you can.  If you imagine relaxing at the ocean, for instance, think about the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves, and the warmth of the sun on your body. You may taste salt water in the air.  Another version is to describe a situation where mom overcame an obstacle or achieved an accomplishment.  Thinking about a past accomplishment can give mom the confidence she needs to achieve her goal of natural birth.  

  • Mindfulness Meditation:  Mindfulness meditation practice couldn’t be simpler.  Start by tailor sitting.  Once you’re comfortable, the next step is to do abdominal breathing.  Pay attention to the sensation of your breath going into your nose, down your throat, and into your lungs.  Follow the breath with the mind’s eye as it goes down the chest and to your abdomen or to baby.  With mindful meditations, your attention will inevitably leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this, simply acknowledge that your mind has wondered.  Don’t bother judging yourself or obsessing over the content of the thoughts, just gentle return to the breath.  

Other relaxation tools:  

  • Having photos of nature scenes for mom to look at or coach to describe.  
  • Nature sounds, white noise, or relaxing music.
  • Aromatherapy.  
  • App or other audio guided relaxation.  
  • Hot water bottle or rice packs.  
  • Candles (you can use batter operating ones for a hospital birth).
  • Eye mask.
  • Massage oil or lotion.

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Flourish Baby is committed to diversity and inclusion. Amanda Dean supports all birthing, breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and human milk feeding families, inclusive of their race, ethnicity, immigration status, national origin, creed, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, family structure, primary language, ability, or socio-economic status.

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