Step 5 of 12 Essentials for Natural Childbirth: Relaxation, Part 1

Rhondda Hartman
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Rhondda Hartman

Natural Childbirth Expert, Author, Exercise & How-To Advice and Information - over 14,000 moms taught to have successful unmedicated births with joy.
Rhondda Hartman
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The meaning of the word “relaxation” as used in Natural Childbirth may be very different from your past experience. It is a skill that you will find useful for the rest of your life. Nothing is needed more in our stress-filled lives than learning to relax.

Here is what the word means to me and to you, from now on.

Relaxation takes mental activity to keep you physically inactive. In other words, you work hard with your mind to keep your body still and quiet! It is very different from sleep, when our minds probably fall asleep before our bodies relax. Relaxing takes mental discipline, especially while the uterus is in hard contraction.

During relaxation as used in labor, there is absolutely no sleepiness involved but rather a much heightened awareness and complete control over oneself. You may even think of yourself as “working hard” at relaxing. Remember, it is very passive work physically but hard work mentally. Relaxation must be considered the most important factor in an enjoyable childbirth experience. Relaxing is the crux of Natural Childbirth. The only help you can give the uterus with its work in the first stage of labor is to relax.

Step 5 of 12 Essentials for Natural Childbirth: Relaxation, Part 1
To do this requires tremendous concentration because the uterus contracts to a hard knot with each contraction. It is a sensation that you can ease your body through if you’re relaxed, but what a difference if you are tense! The uterine contraction has many times greater intensity when the muscles surrounding it are also tense and tight.

In the second stage of labor, we do something quite different. Here is my “nutshell” explanation of Natural Childbirth. You will hear me say it often!

Natural Childbirth in a Nutshell

1. In the First Stage of labor, use abdominal breathing and complete relaxation with each contraction.

2. In the Second Stage of labor, take complete, full breaths with each contraction and push as hard as you can while holding your breath.

Just remember that any part of your body in tension is going to add tension to the uterine contraction. That means it will hurt! That is why most people call a contraction a “labor pain.” It also detracts from the efficiency of the contracting uterus. That means your labor could be longer. Stay out of the way, and let the uterus do its work. You’ll feel better, and the labor will not be slowed down. And you might never use the “pain” word for your labor!

HOW:

1. Classic Position — Lie on your side on a firm padded surface with one arm under and behind you, the other bent in front of your face. Both legs are bent at the knee, the upper leg pulled forward to help support the weight of your body away from the baby.

Pillows may be used wherever necessary to make you more comfortable: under your knee, under your leg and foot, or under your head and chest to help hold your weight off the lower shoulder.
Use as many pillows as you need to make yourself comfortable.

Every part of your body should be supported. Try putting a pillow under your head, then pull the corner of the pillow down between your breasts. If that does not feel good, then keep adjusting until it works for you.

Relaxation is impossible if you are not in a comfortable position as you begin.

2. Variation of Classic Position — Your arms may be more comfortable in front, but avoid putting one arm on top of the other or holding your head on your arms, which creates a point of tension. To prepare for relaxation, keep in mind these necessary conditions:

  • The proper atmosphere includes absence of strangers, solitude, and a quiet, restful room with as little noise or commotion as possible. Avoid a glaring light, but a soft, dull light will probably be comfortable. Set the stage for this event. Make the environment suit you. It will enhance your relaxation.
  • Control your breathing. Use slow, steady, and relaxed abdominal breathing. I will discuss this technique in depth later on.
  • Complete concentration and attention to what you are doing is imperative. Closing your eyes helps you control your environment. You shut out and ignore everything.
  • Practice this every night as you go to sleep. Find what works and what doesn’t until you get the right sleep position.

Stay tuned for Relaxation, Part 2. Get Ready for Loose and Limp!

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