Labor Tip: Take the Breaks
Updated: Feb 21, 2022
Your labor may last a while. That is normal. An easy way to cope is to enjoy the rest periods during the process. This is not groundbreaking advice but it can make your experience much more positive.
The only way we make it through an event like giving birth is that we get small breaks in between. This perspective is really important. In childbirth class, I teach this acronym to get parents thinking differently about the discomfort of labor.
Pain in labor is different than the pain we experience in normal life
Today I want to focus on that third one: INTERMITTENT.
This is a big topic I focus on when I am helping parents prepare for giving birth. Yes, labor can last a long time, yes it's a lot of work, and you will get through it one. minute. at. a. time. Our contractions come and go, they build and they release, the pressure grows and breaks like a wave. You feel almost normal in between, especially during the earlier stages of labor.
Often times when I am supporting parents in-person, a big part of my job is to keep them present. We don't think about how long it's been, or how much longer it will take, you just stay in the moment. If you lose this perspective and start watching the clock, it's easy to get overwhelmed and start to panic.
This is not a fancy tip, but it's important. There's nothing wrong if you need an outside voice and reminder. It's a very NATURAL and HUMAN response to forget these small things when you are experiencing discomfort or stress.
How many of you reading this may have a tight jaw. Is your brow furrowed? Are you holding any tension in your body? Can you release your shoulders?
In ordinary life this can be helpful. In labor, it's essential to preserving your energy and keeping the process moving along. Extra tension in your body is a waste of energy and can increase your discomfort. A tight body also means a tight pelvic floor, which can mean extra resistance for the baby as they move through the pelvis.
As much as you can, you want your body to be loose and relaxed: face, jaw, hips, shoulders, limbs, your bottom.
During the breaks, your support people and your doula can work together to help your body relax and recover. During prenatal meetings, I meet with you to demonstrate and practice some coping techniques and show your partner how to support you. Some of these include shoulder press, head squeeze, hip shakes, belly lifts, side lying release.
Giving birth is a big process. No doubt about it. But when you focus on one contraction at a time and take advantage of the rests in between, you will make it through.
The sensations can be very intense but when they are over, you can rest and recover. YOU WILL GET A BREAK. Sometimes just two minutes, sometimes longer, but there's always a break to catch your breath and calm your body.
What helps you relax when you have pain or stress? What do you already know calms you and helps you stay present? Music, movement, scents, massage, touch? Bring those things with you to the birthing space. Feeling calm and finding comfort in labor isn't fancy or complicated, it's all about finding what works for you.