Part 4 - Comfort Measures For Labour
Welcome to the final part of my top tips and techniques to ease discomfort and manage the sensations of labour, however they may feel in your body (and remember everyone is different). So in this post you are getting the final 10, which makes a whopping 31 Comfort Measures in total!! So I really hope that you now feel so much more calm, positive and confident about your upcoming labour and birth. Being informed and educated and knowing you have choices is hugely important in having a positive birth experience.
I've been running these each day on my For Modern Mothers Facebook page. In this post you'll find a range of comfort measures for labour including - paracetamol, positive affirmations, music, quietness and self-belief. It's a balanced look at ALL your options.
# 22 - Paracetamol
So we often hear in early labour that a women will be suggested to take a couple of paracetemol to ease the discomfort, It's probably harmless, but is it actually helpful? I say this because paracetemol is known to inhibit prostaglandin synthesis. One midwife has called for research into whether paracetemol use in early labour might cause longer and slower latent phases, or even be a cause of 'failure to progress' (terrible, negative, demoralizing phrase. grrrrr). More research is required, but meanwhile you might like to think if its really going to help, and you might choose to avoid it.
Here's an article with more about it - http://undercovermidwife.blogspot.com/2015/03/paracetamol-and-labour.html
# 23 - Being In The Zone
Being 'in the zone' is something that top sports people talk about. It's a state where you are very present and focused, but also totally relaxed and just 'doing it'. It's the same in labour, when you are really 'in' it, and you are not in your thinking brain (the neocortex or new brain) but in your mammalian brain, the old brain (we talk a lot about our brains in my hypnobirthing course, and it's fascinating). When you are in the zone you can really let you body 'do its thing' and birth your baby. And it's the whole tool box of techniques you'll learn in hypnobirthing that will help you to access and stay present in this zone. Some people call it 'labour land', or the 'birth bubble' - but it means exactly the same thing. It's a place you withdraw to, and ride the rollercaster of labour.
So in labour you need to avoid anything that will take you out of the zone - people you don't feel comfortable with, chit chat, interruptions, lots of questions, bright lights. So make sure you birth partner knows all the answers, what you wishes are, and is confident in speaking for you.
The zone can be a special and magical place, don;' fear it. You will find your strength here, if you let it find you.
# 24 - Music
Music can be used though labour in lots of different ways. It could be uplifting music to make you feel good and help the oxytocin to flow, it could be music to move and dance to in early labour. Some women make a series of playlist of favourites - I've heard some people use something nostalgic like their wedding playlist, you can have an 'inspiring' playlist to uplift you, a list with a strong rhythm (good for rocking and moving to with surges), a dance playlist, songs that you imagine you would like playing when your baby is born. You can also use more calming and relaxing music, maybe you've used it in pregnancy as you've practiced some breathing techniques or relaxations, maybe you've played it to your baby already. So the music can act as a trigger to relax you in labour, as it relaxed you in pregnancy. Simple yet brilliant effective.
There is a scientific basis for this - music stimulates the brain, including the hippocampus, and it's widely accepted that it can influence our hormones and our mood. You get some lovely relaxing piano music that's been especially created for relaxation on my hypnobirthing course, and many women find that hugely reassuring and beneficial.
# 25 - Knowing Your Rights
Feeling confident in labour, and knowing that your have a choice about everything to do with every birth situation is SO important to know. What happens to you, your body, and your baby in pregnancy, labour and birth is completely, totally and utterly up to YOU. That I'm even telling you this is rather extraordinary, but its something women often don't know. And I hear stories of women looking back on their pregnancy, labour and birth and saying 'I didn't know I was allowed to do that', or 'they wouldn't let me'. So it's important to know this now, while you are pregnant, so that this doesn;t happen to you.
It can be due to white coat syndrome, or maybe we trust doctors and midwives more than we trust our own bodies, or often it's the language that's used (you are often told things, rather than asked).
You *should* be talked through the options available, you should be able to weight up the benefits or risks for you (using your BRAINS analysis), you should be making decisions with informed consent (and to be informed you need evidence-based information), ones that feel right for you an in individual. And I hope that this does happen for you in your pregnancy, labour and birth. That you feel fully supported and in the driving seat. But just in case you don't then having done a little homework can be really important, and simply knowing that in the birth room (wherever that is) YOU have the power.
You can find out more about this at Birthrights and through AIMS and their resources (their 'Am I allowed' book is particularly good)
# 26 - Shaking The Apples
This is a brilliant massage technique called Shaking the Apple Tree or Shaking The Apples. It's a vigorous massaging if the buttocks and upper thighs - as if you were trying to make a ripe apple fall from a tree! This technique is to relieve pain and also encourage progress in labour, and relax the muscles around baby to make more room. 😊
There's a video you can watch here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c56hxOLR_WI
# 27 - Sexual Energy
Some say 'the same energy that for the baby in, can get the baby out'. So it could be kissing, cuddling to get the oxytocin (the hormone of love, that is hugely important in labour) or you could take it further to nipple stimulation and clitoral stimulation. It can take a bit of a mental leap to think abour labour in such a positive, sexual terms. But as well as the oxyocin flowing, it might actually feel really nice! So it could be worth exploring, but you might want some privacy with your partner (which is important for labour and oxytocin anyway)
And for some women birth can be an orgasmic experience! Yes really. One survey found as many as 6% of women who give birth experience this.
# 28 - Visualisation
'Where the mind goes the body follows'
This is another technique used by top sports people and their sports psychologists to make sure their mindset is as good as it can be (as well as their physical preparation). Athletes spend time every day imagining various situations and positive outcomes in their head, to prepare their mind and thing positive. For example Wayne Rooney finds out the colour of the opposing teams strip in advance so he can picture himself scoring against them. Jonny Wilkinson uses visualisation on the pitch to help him get the ball between the posts - imagining the path the ball will take, the sensation of the ball when he kicks it perfectly. Andy Murray sits in centre court at Wimbledon before a match focusing on past victories.
Lets take this technique into pregnancy. So you can use visualisation to spend a few minutes each day in pregnancy imagining your positive birth. Make it part of your daily routine. Picture the details of the space you are in, sounds or music around you, physical sensations you are having, any smells (more on aromatherapy, and scents trigger - see day #11). Picture yourself coping brilliantly. Feeling supported by your birth partner. Notice your breathing and take long, slow easy breathe ('Up' breathing form hypnobirthing or 'golden thread' yoga breathing). You could also add a positive affirmation or mantra, repeating the same one each day and in labour too. Getting you mindset fully positive and on board is *really* important preparation for bi
# 29 - Quiet & Calm
I've mentioned birth environment before, and having a birth space that's full of love, calmness and positivity is so important. It's all about the birth hormones...oxytocin again! You want to keep out of your thinking brain, the neocortex, so minimising chit chat and keeping those around you quiet is hugely beneficial. I don't mean no talking at all, and some reassuring words can be brilliantly helpful. But just being led by you, and your surges, and using language to support and not interrupt you.
You may also want to have some music playing in the background to drown out other unfamiliar or sudden noises (see day #24 for more on music)
# 30 - Positive Affirmations
I talk about positive affirmations in both my hypnobirthing & birth preparation courses, and in my pregnancy yoga classes too. They are a simple yet effective technique to bring positive thinking into your day both through your pregnancy and in labour too. There are lots of ways to use positive affirmations:
- You can say the affirmations, either out loud or to yourself in your mind
- You can use positive affirmation cards (and you get a set included on my course), and have them around your house, on your computer, by the kettle, by your bed, in your birthspace in labour.
- You can make big posters for the wall, or even bunting. colour them in if you like. Take them into hospital or birth centre and put them up on the walls (if that's where you are planning to birth).
- You can incorporate them into meditations and visualisations as you prepare for birth too.
It's another simple yet brilliant way to bring positive thinking and a positive mindset into your pregnancy, so you can feel more confident and positive in your labour. Let me know if you want any more info about writing your own affirmations.
# 31 - Self Belief
Do you really think you can do this? Have you prepared? Are you strong?
Of course you do.
Of course you have.
Of course you are.
So PLEASE believe in yourself.
Researchers have actually found that women who go into labour feeling confident and more able to cope. 😊 In labour, as in life, there are no guarantees. But it's true to say that your body knows what to do, so follow its lead and do everything you can to support it, and know that while it may be tough - you CAN do it.