9. Relaxation


#10 – Breathing

Test your knowledge! Take the quiz at the bottom of this page. Got questions? WErite them in the comment box and I’ll answer them!

Creating a comfortable environment to give birth in is also important because when you feel safe, secure, and at ease you’ll relax more,  be less stressed, anxious, or nervous.

 Remember, you want to always err on the side of calm to keep the Stress Response from kicking in and taking over your body and mind.

I know what you’re thinking!  You’re going to a hospital right? So, how can you possibly create a quiet, calming environment in a hospital?

There’s lots you can do! You can create an atmosphere of comfort!

Here are what some couples have used and done to make their environment comfortable and relaxing for the mom and the birth of their baby:

  • scented bed pillows from home
  • music
  • aromatherapy
  • dimmed lights
  • photo collages and hung them on the wall (pictures of babies, cribs, baby related items, etc.)
  • framed pictures of loved ones, or pets
  • music boxes (playing happy birthday, or favorite tune)
  • a favorite throw
  • a favorite scent in the air (using a “plug in” scent diffuser) like the Scentball
  • favorite books (poems, quotes, etc., to read or be read to)
  • played cards,  backgammon, and other assorted travel games

Believe it or not, your environment can contribute to increasing or decreasing your comfort level and stress! Creating a pleasant atmospher will help you to feel relaxed and calm. So use those things that make you feel good. Pack them in your “Labor Bag”. Just one suggestion – NO CANDLES! If you’re going to a hospital to birth baby, there is oxygen set up in each labor room and this combo, candles (heat and flame) plus Oxygen could cause a KABOOM! Something you most likely would  not want to experience. 🙂

Now, let’s recall some brief info about the “Stress Response” …

Unlike the Stress Response, which is an automatically triggered by emotion and threatning events – real, imagined, or anticipated,  the Relaxation Response has to be initiated.  You have to consciously intend to be in a relaxed state, physically and mentally to experience the benefits.

You are not familiar with relaxation on a regular basis, norits benefits during pregnancy and  labor. It requires regular practice. Women who have used focused  relaxation methods have responded to the labor process better than those who do not.

Breathing, visualization, hypnosis, meditation all induce the relaxation response. These are the skills your want to develop and use during pregnancy and  labor because of their emotional, mental, and physiological benefits for pregnancy, labor, postpartum, and parenting!.

Learning and using relaxation skills with medications actually help them work better. Also, relaxation helps to reduce anxieties if having a Cesarean birth, or an induction. Relaxing regularly and throughoutpregnancy can decrease the risk of preterm delivery and gestational hypertension (high blood pressure).

Relaxation and Pain

Remember this: Relaxing into discomfort decreases it’s intensity

Think of this analogy:  Yhe ocean. Did you ever “ride” the waves of the ocean? When you “coasted” on the energy of the wave the ride was smoother, right? You flowed with the wave’s current. Did you ever go against the wave? Dive into it? Did you experience more turbulance as a result?

Your labor contractions are the waves. “Ride” with them and the process of labor will be smoother and more satisfying.

Pain is a subjective experience (Review the “Anatomy iof Pain”). It’s well documented that if you focus on different ways of thinking, you’ll decrease your perception of pain.

Two words come to mind here: Judgement and evaluation. When sensations are analyed and labeled it can actually increase the perception of pain. For example: “this is painful, it feels like a stabbing throbbibng pain, and it hurts so bad, it’s unbearable” as a result, the perceived “pain” will magnify.

However, if you let the sensation just be what it is and think “ok. this is different, I’m just going to breathe through it, it’s temporary”, the perceived discomfort will decrease.

Pretty interesting, right? You bet!


relaxation skills will be the most important “tool” you use, even more than drugs for pain-releif during your birthing experience.

Many people have used relaxation techniques with great results! If you have never used them, they may seem awkward at first even silly. But that’s ok! Learn and use them – you’ll be amazed at how helpful they are.

With practice (there’s that word again) you can do them comfortably and you can use them for years to come! Yes! These are also stress management tools, so when that little one is making you crazy down the road, ( LOL) you can take a break, take a deep, relaxing breath, daydream for a few minutes, and regroup!  It’s an AWESOME tool for life in general!

What are they?

  • touch, massage
  • music
  • visualization/daydreaming
  • deep, slow, breathing
  • meditation
  • hypnosis
  • movement

Now, let’s recall why they work.

  • Touch, heat and cold compresses lessen the perception of pain by The Gate Control theory which says  these sensations block pain sensations to the brain. These sensations travel to the brain faster than pain signals
  • Visualization works because you are “disassociating” yourself from the present moment through “daydreaming”, a natural form of self-guided imagery, and imagining  yourself to be some place else. A Very powerful tool.  This is why hypnosis works in childbirth using imagery and suggestions to change one’s thinking. Actually, daydreaming is a natural state of self-hypnosis!  Also, they keep your mind engaged, focusing elsewhere than on the contractions. As a result and with regular practice your imagined state will overpower what you are feeling physically. It works.
  • Music has the pwer to shift your state of mind depending on the music you’re listening to. The Beatles can make you want to start dancing, lifting your spirits. While classical, or Reiki music will put you in a more, quiet, perhaps reflective, and calm mood.
  • Breathing slow and deep stimulates the Relaxation Response and slows down systems in your body such as your heart and blood pressue rates while improving oxygen flow throughout your body
  • movement can block pain signals to the brain
  • slow, deep breathing is the #1 skill to reduce stress and anxiety, it also ensures good oxygen to you and baby
  • meditation has been around for centuries, but it’s a cutting-edge method to use during pregnancy and labor. The idea is to stay focused in the presant moment without conscious judgement of what’s happening within you or surrounding you. Breathing is used an an “anchor” to keep your thoughts spiraling out of control and to recognize them as just thoughts – they are not who you are.

Learn a relaxation method, PRACTISE daily, and stick with it! The more you become familiar with them, not only will you be able to choose what you like best quickly and easily, but you’ll be able to do them with ease, and panic-free because you KNOW what to do. Also through practice, your relaxation skills will become more effective over time.


Notice how you are sitting, standing, or resting. Are you comfortable, or can you pick-up any tension or discomfort in your body, or in your face? If you can’t that’s ok. Start becoming aware of the sensations of your body. The following techniques will help you to relax. Do these with your partner.

  • Place your hands on a tense body part, for example, the shoulders. Slowly, gently, but firmly press down on the shoulders, applying a gentle pressure, and then slowly let go. No massage here, just gentle pressure. If there is frowning, place a hand on the forehead, and gently apply pressure to ease the tension.  Do this on the legs, thighs, hips, arms, and where ever you sense, or your partner expresses tension.
  • Place your hands on your partner’s arm and gently, but firmly “knead” the muscles in a rhythmic manner, as if you were kneading bread dough. No pinching. Pinching=ouch. You can do this on the legs, arms, hips, where ever your partner likes it.  Take turns so both of you know what it feels like.
  • Massage the body with a lightly scented oil (natural base oil such as grape seed, or apricot with a scented essential oil added to it) in gentle, firm, rhythmic circular motions.
  • Hand massage! Hands hold a lot of tension! This is a great to do in late labor. With both of your hands, hold one of your partner’s hands, palm up, in yours. Place your fingers underneath the hand so that your thumbs are on top with access to the palm of your partner’s hand. Again, with gentle pressure, massage the hand, up,down, side to side, and in circular motions with your thumbs. Knead the soft padding at the base of the fingers….  Now, do the other hand.
  • Gentle stroking, place your hands on mom’s shoulders. In ONE direction moving your hands down her arms and out. Start again at the shoulders and move down again. Avoid moving your hands back and forth, this can be irritating.  Gently stroking your pregnant belly in a circular, rhythmic motion often feels good too.  This is great for early labor. Maybe not as labor progresses because those little hairs on your belly can actually increase pain sensations – same thing on the arms.  In late labor concentrate on hairless parts of the body, palms of hands and feet.
  • Progressive Relaxation. Tighten a muscle group one at a time throughout your body, from head to toe. Hold it to the count of 5. Release. You can do this from head to toe, or in reverse, or just where you feel the tension. This is a good one! This is a great exercise because it connects you with your body and releases pockets of tension. It’s also a way to connect with your innate intuition.

Props for Touch/Massage

  • Stress balls! Purchase two of them for tensed hands to squeeze and knead to release the tension.
  • Make a massage roller– place 4 tennis balls in a sock. Tie at the end. Roll evenly over lower and upper back – ahh…
  • Massage oil– gentle, smooth, moist, rubbing creates warmth
  • Use an ice cold soda can from the vending machine and roll on the lower back
  • Use warm compresses to the lower back, or under your belly
  • Warm showers/tubs! Just let the warm water run over your belly and back. Feels great! Relaxing in a tub is also good during labor. Sitting in a tub of body temp water can be very comforting during labor. Buoyancy “pads” your contractions and at times has been known to speed up labor if used when you’re around 5 cms dilated. Talk to your care provider about this, and yes – it’s safe.
  • Birth Ball!! (fitness ball) This is the best! A must have! Gets you in a semi-squat position, opens the pelvis, takes pressure off your lower back. Using the “birth ball (really an exercise ball) helps you to move through contractions and helps with “pain” management.


Music is a fantastic tool to use!  It has the power to take you places, to daydream, to remember special times in your life, just like scents (do you remember grandma’s cookies)? Use music to help create your relaxing environment because music can set the “tone” in your labor room, or at home.   The music can be anything that you find relaxing – jazz, classical, new age, nature sounds, anything that makes you feel good!  Most places accept CD players and iPods. Music is GREAT for baby too!


Visualization, self-guided imagery is another powerful tool.  It is so powerful that certain images are suggested NOT to use because they may actually induce labor!  Such as imagining the actual birth of your baby. If you do this imaging too early in your pregnancy, before 36 weeks, you could go into preterm labor. So play it safe, with safe images, up until you are closer to term in your pregnancy. During labor it’s fine.

Think about your baby, floating in magical waters (babies are natural swimmers at birth).  Think of a special place, a very special place you like , would like to visit, or have actually visited. You can visit the clouds, take a stroll in the woods on an autumn day, kicking the leaves as you walk and smell the air. Notice everything about this place: the time of day, smells, color of the sky…everything.  Visit this site – Relax-Online.com

Where ever it is, it should be a special, and loving place. Think of how this place makes you feel. It should feel comfortable, safe, peaceful, and has a loving atmosphere.  Give it a name.  The next time you say the name, it will be easier to get there.  Sit back, or lay down, close your eyes, take a deep breath, let it go slowly, focus on your breathing, say the name, and drift off to your special place.

Now, when do we use these tools? We’ll find out in the Labor + Birth section. Let’s continue with more on Breathing and then Movement.

Lesly 🙂

#10 – Breathing

Now, take the quiz below. Got questions? Write them in the comment box and I wll answer them!


There are 4 questions.

How can environment affect your birthing experience?

What does the "Wave" analogy express?

Relaxing into discomfort decreases its intensity

What is the most important "tool" to learn and use during pregnancy and labor?




2 Responses

  1. January 10, 2012

    […] relax daily and through out the day […]

  2. April 3, 2012

    […] levels and you’ll feel more anxious and fearful. This will increase your pain. But if you use relaxation methods and focus on breathing and mental exercises like visualization, hypnosis, meditation, […]

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