Part 1 - A Month Of Comfort Measures For Labour
Welcome to August, and my whole month of tips and techniques to ease discomfort and manage the sensations of labour. By the end of the month you are going to feel so much more confident and relaxed I hope about your upcoming labour and birth.
I've been running these each day on my For Modern Mothers Facebook page, and thought I'd put them together here as a series of blog posts for easy reading. So here is week 1 - comfort measure numbers one to seven. Catch up with the other 24 (yes really!) tips and techniques over the next few weeks.
#1 - Use Your Breath
Breathing in labour has become a bit of a cliche since the 1970's. But breathing calmly and deeply without stress or strain is a great way of centring yourself and gaining a sense of confidence and control - in labour, in pregnancy, or any other stressful life situation! It also helps you to be present in the moment, and not letting your mind to wander off into other worries, that that's really powerful too.
Full breathing with a longer exhale than inhale brings your nervous system into it's 'parasympathetic state' - in other words it's relaxation response. That's why the breathing we do in pregnancy yoga classes, and in my hypnobirthing courses are SO important. Practice the breathing each day (before you go to sleep in bed a night is a great time, as calming and relaxing to the body and mind).😊
Do let me know if you have any questions about either the yoga or hypnobirthing breathing.
# 2 - Active Birth
Staying active in birth is a brilliant way both to feel more in control (rather than being 'passive') in labour, and feeling more comfortable too. It's not just a physical thing, it's a state of mind too - being part of and active in your birth experience. Active Birth is a term coined by the brilliant Janet Balaskas in the 1980s, and she wrote a classic book on the subject (with brilliant leotards in the photos!).
Finding positions and movement in labour and birth that feel right for you are important. Each woman and baby will be different. Often women find they develop a ritual of movement to deal with their surges (contractions), moving into certain positions each time they feel one approaching - rocking, swaying, circling and vocalising and then resting in between. Being intuitive and connecting into your body and what it needs in the moment is the important thing.
So you have an idea in pregnancy 'what' these shapes and movement might be, lots of the things we do in pregnancy yoga are 'active birth' positions you can use in labour.:) And you also get a printable mini guide to Active Birth in my Hypnobirthing & Birth Preparation classes too.
# 3 - Food & Drink
Keeping nourished and hydrated is really important in labour. You need lots of energy to keep your body working (yes it's called 'labour' for a reason, and your uterus that's doing all that work is a muscle - it needs energy to function well). So have lots of snacks at home, and packed in your bag too - as low blood sugar and dehydration may make you feel weak and it can make it harder for your body, as well as harder to deal with the sensations.
Totally your choice what you want to snack on (as with most things pregnancy, labour and birth - don't forget you hold the power, choices are yours to make). Some women swear by jelly beans, flapjack, honey on toast (or just from the jar), coconut water or homemade energy balls. Your partner can keep reminding you to eat and drink, really important. And make sure you pack some for your birth partner too! 😊
# 4 - Water
You don't have to have a 'water birth' to benefit from the brilliant soothing benefits of water. It could be a gorgeous candle lit bath at home in early labour to get the oxitocin flowing (in France they sometimes suggest this with a glass of red wine, or Michel Odent says champagne!). It could be standing under a power shower and giving your lower back a powerful massage, perhaps whilst stamping your feet in the water (obvs be careful not to slip!). It could be your birth partner scooping warm water over your back in the bath or pool. Water is a feminine element, and it's often used to help people and animals in pain - so there is a logical that it could help ease the intense sensations of labour.
Being in an actual birth pool also has lots of benefits for many women; its bigger and deeper than a bath so you can really be submerged, and there are handles to hold and so you can move into different positions, plus the bottom is padded too for your comfort. The fact that it's like a little nest or cocoon around you with its higher sides, also provides a wonderfully private space which is a *huge* benefit in labour (as oxytocin loves privacy, and hates being observed). In fact I'll be doing a blog post and a Facebook live next week all about waterbirth, so watch out for those.
Any questions about water just shout 😊
# 5 - Gas & Air
The first of the 'drugs' in my Comfort Measures series - but don't worry it's not going to be a chemistry lesson! 'Gas & Air' is Entonox, a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide (laughing gas). You inhale it through a mouth piece, and because it's inhaled it enters the body quickly, and also leaves quickly - so if you don't like the feeling it gives you, you won't be stuck with it for long. Gas & Air is available to you at a home, a birth centre and in a hospital, and you can use it in a water birth too (see yesterdays post about water).
Some women love it, and others dislike it intensely - making them feel sick, dry mouthed or woozy. You are in control and many women like this aspect, and it can also be a distraction technique too. You can also combine Gas & Air with aromatherapy by trying a hankie or piece of gauze around the mouthpiece and putting a few drops of essential oil on there, so you get a waft of the aroma each time you take it. And there's more on aromatherapy later in the month too 😊
# 6 - Quiet & Dark
The environment you labour and birth in can have the most profound effect on your experience. Keeping the room dimly lit (think candles, tealights - real, or battery in hosp, fairy lights etc) will allow you to focus inward and let you birth hormones flow (oxytocin in particular - yes I'll be mentioning oxytocin *a lot* in this series of posts!). So that your body can do what it is designed to do - birth your baby.
Think of where other mammals go to give birth - your pet cat with find a dark, quiet, private space to birth, maybe tucked away under a bed. So as we are also mammals, and we need the same conditions for a physiological uninterrupted birth, do the same (well similar - I doubt your bump would fit under a bed!!). Create a dark, quite, private space that you feel totally relaxed and at ease in - and know this will help your body to birth in the bets possible way. Interruptions, bright lights, sudden noises or lots of chit chat can make it more difficult to cope with the intensity of labour.
#beacat #rockyourbirth #confidentbirth
# 7 - Yoga
So how could it take me so long to get to this one! As a pregnancy yoga teacher of course I cannot extol the virtues of yoga in pregnancy enough. The mix of movement for the physical body, clearing some space in the mind and releasing worry and stress, having some time to connect to your baby, spending time in a guided relaxation and learning brilliant breathing techniques for pregnancy, labour and parenthood too. And connecting with other mothers to be, and sharing the experiences - in yoga we call in Sangha (meaning community) and its a wonderful thing to be part of. You cannot underestimate how important having a support network around you is in early motherhood. So pregnancy yoga - it's all good!In labour you'll find the yoga breathing invaluable, and the ability to tune into your body more easily so helpful too. As well as already having practiced movements and positions to labour and birth in. So much of what we do in a pregnancy yoga class with help you cope with labour more effectively. 😊 If you don't already come along to a class - then here's where you need to head - https://www.yogaformodernlife.com/pregnancy-yoga-classes-y…/
See you on the mat! Susan xx
So that's the end of week one. I hope you find this series posts helpful and informative. Do let me know if you'd like any more details on anything I've mentioned here. And don't forget that I run my For Modern Mothers Hypnobirthing & Birth Preparation classes every month in York. It's a complete birth preparation course covering everything you need to know for a positive and confident birth without fear. Now booking for September, October and November.