This is a post in my series on owning your birth. It is my strong belief that your birth experience profoundly impacts your early days with your new child. The way you feel while birthing your baby can inform how you feel about yourself as a person, mother, and partner. If you feel respected, strong, and supported during pregnancy, labor and delivery, you will improve your chances of beginning your mothering journey with confidence and hope. If you feel disrespected, controlled, or unheard during pregnancy, labor and delivery, you may enter your mothering journey with fear and sadness.
Birth is normal and breathtakingly beautiful. But it is also mysterious and unknown, sometimes overwhelming and scary. With any labor and delivery, you can have an experience that is woman- and mother-centered. Feeling respected and heard, and experiencing your own strength and power during birth, comes down to owning the experience, even in its uncertainty. And often still, things won’t go as you expected. If you are surprised, overwhelmed, or sad about your birth experience, you will be better able to confront it and work through it if you feel prepared, strong, and confident enough to reach out for support.
You cannot plan your birth. Birth will takes its own course and we do best when we can let birth happen. But birth can happen best when we are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually at our best. In this series, I’ll share ideas about what you can do to own your birth experience.
Own Your Birth: Part 7 of 24
Practicing active relaxation during pregnancy can be so beneficial when labor arrives. Being able to relax during early labor and to relax in between contractions during active labor will help you cope more easily and reserve your energy for the times when you most need it.
Relaxing during pregnancy and labor
We may think we know how to relax, but when we’re coping with new and sometimes challenging sensations, it can become more difficult. There are so many different ways to relax. How can you choose what to practice? The best place to start is to think about how you choose to relax in your regular life. Do you listen to music or use particular aromas? Do you take a bath, lie down in your bed, or sit with a cup of tea? Do you already have relaxation strategies for when you’re feeling anxious or stressed out? Do you meditate, visualize, focus on your breath, or focus on progressively relaxing the muscles in your whole body? All of these strategies are ones that you can use during labor.
If you don’t do much of this in your day-to-day life, you can start practicing now to see what feels best for you. Your doula is also an excellent resource to help you sift through the options and practice what you might use for labor. I spend a significant amount of time during my prenatal meetings with mothers exploring different options for relaxation during labor. The earlier you hire a doula, the more time you’ll have to pick her brain about your options.
4 Relaxation ideas & resources for pregnancy and labor
- Breathing: A short video on breathing from childbirth educator, doula, and author, Penny Simkin
- Visualization: Think about a place, person, or memory that is calming for you. For me, it’s the beach where I visited my grandparents when I was little. Actively visualize yourself there and allow yourself to sink into the feeling. This may take some practice so it’s great to work on it during pregnancy. You can try it if you’re having trouble sleeping while you’re pregnant.
- Muscle Relaxation: Focus on relaxing each muscle in your body in order from your head to to your feet. This takes practice as well. You can guide yourself through the exercise or ask your partner or a friend to talk you through it. I do this with my clients and many really enjoy it.
- Yoga Nidra for deep relaxation: My doula sent this to me when I was at home during early labor and I loved it! Scroll down to the bottom for a free audio recording that talks you through Yoga Nidra. This can be used during pregnancy and early labor.
As you work through different options, you’ll discover what works best for you. You can go into labor with each of your relaxation techniques as another tool in your toolbox. If you’ve practiced ahead of time, it will be easier to remember and use the techniques during labor.
Schedule a free doula consultation
Are you interested in birth and postpartum doula services on the seacoast of New Hampshire or southern Maine? I serve Dover, Durham, Somersworth, Newmarket, Portsmouth, Kittery, Eliot, and surrounding areas.