Why & How to Relax During Childbirth

Relax… your body knows what it’s doing so you don’t need to do a thing! You don’t need to think about what comes next or what position you should or shouldn’t be in, or whether you’ve left the iron on! You’re having a baby and your body loves it.When your baby is ready to be born it will signal to your brain that large pulses of oxytocin is needed to start the process of birth. Oxytocin is a hormone of Love according to Dr Michel Odent and has been well documented and studied as such. Not only is it released during childbirth, but this wonderful hormone is also released by both men and women during orgasm, when looking into the eyes of a loved one, when sharing a candlelit meal and basically whenever doing anything that makes you feel love and bonding. It is interesting then that at a time when it is released in its highest doses (during childbirth) we relate the experience to pain and suffering. Surely if this hormone of love can create euphoria during orgasm, it can create feelings of Joy during childbirth.

The key to this is the ability to relax. During sex, if you had the lights on full, had a cold draught breezing over you, were trying to have an intelligent conversation and had a couple of people staring at you, it’s highly unlikely you’ll manage to orgasm from the experience! I suppose it depends on your sexual preference… but most people, men and women, would agree on this issue. So then, given that huge amounts of this hormone are needed during childbirth it is even more essential to turn the lights down low, switch off your thinking brain, stay warm and have some privacy.

Oxytocin is inhibited (blocked) by the release of the hormone Adrenalin. Adrenalin is the famous ‘fight or flight’ hormone that is released in times of stress and fear. It gives the body a boost of energy, increases awareness and allows the muscles to tense and the breathing to quicken so as to run or fight. Pretty much the opposite of the Love hormone Oxytocin. When Adrenalin is released during labour the body thinks it is in a dangerous situation and will often slow the labour down so as the woman can either fight or run and protect her unborn child.

During childbirth, any form of stress and tension the labouring woman is exposed to will slow down the whole process. A labouring woman must feel safe in her surroundings and with the people she is with in this situation in order to relax enough for adrenalin to stop being released. Other causes of adrenalin release, besides feeling unsafe, are; feeling cold, eating/drinking sugar, other people releasing adrenalin (it is a contagious hormone) and moving around too much.

The best way to relax during childbirth is to breathe. No matter where you are, who is around or what birth stories you’ve heard in the past, breathing will help you through the contractions and allow you to stay focused and calm.

Top tips to stay relaxed:

  • Keep Warm
  • Breathe
  • Trust your body
  • Keep your feelings positive

The more you practise feeling positive before labour, the easier it will be to feel positively during labour. Having positive feelings will make the whole event seem quicker and more enjoyable, rather than a struggle. If anyone around you expresses themselves in a negative way, either ask them to leave, change their attitude or turn their negativity into a source of determination and inspiration.

For example, “you’re only 5cm dilated” can make a woman feel like she’s failing, having done so much hard work and her body still isn’t ready. On the other hand, you could turn the statement around and say/think/imagine “I’m 5cm dilated, let’s imagine my cervix as 10cm dilated”. You’ll be surprised how changing your thoughts, images and statements will have a direct impact on your experience of childbirth and can even make physical changes very quickly.

You’re having a baby! This is the last time you and your baby will be so intimate with each other, so relish in every moment. Each contraction brings your baby closer to your arms and will make you a mother. Bring your baby into the world as you would like to be brought into the world. Allow yourself to be born as a mother as you wish to carry on as a mother.

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