The next coping method is rhythm. You may have seen some women literally rock it out to songs like “The Tootsie Roll” and “Watch me Whip” (see additional resources below for these videos). You can totally do this to add some rhythm and fun into your labor. Here are a few additional ideas to give you a variety of smooth and soothing options for your birth:
~ Your body can sway in various rhythmic ways while sitting on a birth ball, standing up, squatting, leaning over something, or even slow dancing with your partner. Having a rebozo wrapped around you for various positions and movements can also provide some additional comfort and relief!
~ Not only can your body take on a rhythm but even your breathing patterns can do this too! There are different variations of long, slow breathing, where you may inhale through your nose for 8 seconds or more, and repeating the same count as you breathe oxygen down to your baby using an open throat. Your breathing pattern may change to shorter counts of inhaling through the nose and breathing down your open throat, but regardless of the number of breaths you take just be aware of your body’s need for rhythm. (Caution: When finding a rhythm, beware of breathing patterns that restrict oxygen flow or don’t seem to flow naturally.)
~ Some moms even find the need to be vocal in labor, and your sounds can even take on a rhythm. When being vocal, it is important to remember, though, to keep your mouth open and aim for low sounds (like oooohhhhh). This helps your jaw to be relaxed, your throat to remain open, and your cervix is encouraged to open. High pitched sounds (like eeeeehhhhh) cause your jaw to tense up, your throat to tighten, and therefore your cervix may remain tight and closed (try this yourself to see the difference.) Midwife Ina May Gaskin is known for making some of these connections between an open mouth and open cervix (for more information on this view the link in the sources section below).
~ Another example of rhythm can be various positive affirmations in labor, which you can either say yourself or have someone else say them to you, and even sway or breathe along with the words. Some examples of affirmations are “I CAN, and I WILL,” or “My body is OPENING, my baby DESCENDING.”
~ Other examples of rhythm can be seen in various touches, which can also be done in conjunction with your breathing pattern. For example if you breathe in for 4 counts, your arm or back can be stroked upward along with it, and then if you breathe out for 4 counts, the stroking would follow downward in a rhythmic pattern. You can do various types of touches, depending on the mother's needs in labor. There are various types of massages that can be performed (to the neck, shoulders, back, legs, arms, hands, feet), as well as light touch massage with just your fingertips or a rebozo being felt. Some benefits of the light touch is that it naturally produces endorphins that help your body manage discomfort, and also aids in relaxation and oxytocin bring able to flow freely (for more information on light touch massage view the link below).
~ Another rhythm can be made by your birth partner or doula by conducting their hand with your breathing, so with the above example, the hand would sway upward in the air 4 counts, and then down. Penny Simpkin even shares an idea of wearing a ring while “conducting” as an attention grabber and visual for the laboring mother while she breaths.
~ To add variety to this topic of rhythm, you can even visualize various things in conjunction with your breathing, like a kite flying higher for 4 counts, and then lower, or even a boat riding over a wave and then down (whatever you like).
~ One final example of this topic can be brushing a mother’s hair in a rhythmic fashion, which again can be synched with her breathing.
This final coping mechanism just reiterates that you are repeating some kind of action over and over. All the rhythmic examples above can provide a ritual during labor if you do them repeatedly. Performing rituals in labor can be an important coping mechanism for many moms who need to take the focus away from their discomfort, and they direct it toward this predictable activity that they do during labor. Birth can be intense, and sometimes leaves a mother feeling like they have lost control of their bodies. However, rituals allow a mother to feel in control and take charge of her body during birth.
There are a few things for you to consider about rituals. One important thing to remember is that rituals may need to change, and that is ok. Just listen to your body and find what works for you when you need it. Also, sometimes a mother may need help from her doula or birth partner to help her FIND a ritual during labor, especially if she has been doing a ritual for awhile and develops the need to change it to a new one. It is important to be aware of her options so that you can help her find what she needs. And finally, some rituals will require literal, consistent support. I heard a story about a mother who relied on her husband to press on her back during contractions, and when he stepped away for just one contraction, the mother lost that predictable movement that was helping to keep her calm, and she was unsure how to cope. Never underestimate the importance of a ritual for a mother!
My goal in sharing this is to provide you with options for your birth! I think these techniques can be utilized in all birth situations, whether you are planning a natural childbirth, or up until you feel the need to explore other options for pain management. Some of this information can even be useful for keeping your mind and body calm for a cesarean. As a doula, I have personally witnessed moms finding great success in these techniques, and I hope it provides confidence and coping for many more moms in the future! If anyone has some sentiments from their own birth using relaxation, rhythm and rituals I would love to hear your stories in the comment. Please share this information along, and thank you for reading!
Penny Simpkin (2008) The Birth Partner (3rd ed.) Boston, Massachusetts: The Harvard Common Press
Ina May Gaskin-open mouth, open cervix http://www.yogamatrika.com/2013/08/15/spread-your-lips-for-a-better-birth/
"Watch me Whip" birth video http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/pregnant-woman-whip-nae-nae-hospital-induce-labor-article-1.2385708
"Tootsie Roll" birth video http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/08/20/tootsie-roll-pregnancy-pain-labor-baby-viral-video/32040059/
Sounds in labor http://wonderfullymadebelliesandbabies.blogspot.com/2010/03/open-mouth-open-cervix.htm
Birth affirmations http://desertbirthandwellness.com/pregnancy-and-birth-affirmations/
Affirmations and visualization for birth http://www.midwiferygroup.ca/downloads/third/Affirmations%20&%20Visualizations%20for%20Birth.pdf
Hypnobirthing (please message me for instructor information in Jacksonville) https://us.hypnobirthing.com/
Hypnobabies (please message me for instructor information in Jacksonville) https://www.hypnobabies.com/
Light Touch Massage http://www.hypnobirthinghub.com/blog/release-natural-painkillers-light-touch-massage/
A Moment in Time Doula Services, LLC