In order to have a successful experience through your labor pains, the relaxation process needs to be mastered. There are many different types of relaxation techniques you can try, but I’ve found that guided imagery relaxation techniques alongside progressive muscle relaxation steps seem to work the best for mothers.
The two parts to relaxation are Physical and Mental. It’s not just laying down and hoping that your body will take a break.
|Physical Relaxation||Mental Relaxation|
|What you actually train your body to do during a contraction.||What you choose to focus on during a contraction.|
This post will focus on the Mental aspect. It works in conjunction with my post Progressive Muscle Relaxation Steps for Better Labor for your Physical aspect.
Many mothers find that even though they’re concentrating on relaxing, they become even more tense in a few places without thinking about it. This is why I bring the mental aspect into this. Your mind can control your body, but it also has to TRUST it too.
Reasons For Guided Imagery Relaxation Techniques
Being afraid of your labor pains increases stress hormones in your body. Your natural reaction to pain is fear of it which leads to increased tension. When we’re tense on top of a natural pain, our pain is exacerbated additionally. Have that fear and tension overpower our choice of relaxation directly conflicts with what our bodies are trying to do during contractions. It is the beginning of the pathway to intervention because a new mother fears they won’t be able to climb the mountain of labor, and choosing in the end to have a c-section or epidural.
But you’re here educating yourself about how to overcome that and better yourself for your labor. And you already know that relaxation is the best way to get through your labor. All the energy required to open up your cervix and push out that baby is limited. Wasting it on stress is awful and is like telling your body that it can’t do it all on its own.
Mastering a relaxation technique is critical for coping skills during any sort of stress, let alone labor and delivery of a baby. Your stress hormones will decreases, your blood pressure will decrease, your time in labor will DECREASE, and your risk of complications will decrease dramatically. By implementing these exercises I’ve outlined, you can rest assured that you have the skill set necessary for your labor.
What? A cascading effect – as if someone has dumped calming water over your head and it cascades down your body in one warming wave. Apply this technique after you have mastered the Progressive Muscle Relaxation Steps.
Starting with your head, imagine if someone has just touched you with a warmth that spreads downward through your body, relaxing everything it passes through. Now you’ve become so relaxed it’s as if you’ve completely let go of everything and you’re just going to drift immediately off to sleep.
This is where you start to cross over the line of the Physical aspect of relaxation into the Mental aspect. You’ve chosen to relax your muscles physically, now you’re using an idea or imagery to enhance how you feel and control your muscles.
Here are a few other things you can apply to the Cascading Effect that will achieve the same feeling of complete relaxation:
- Floating – You’ve had the warm water feeling flow through you. Now imagine as if you’re floating on water. If you’re a swimmer you know that the best way to float on water is by relaxing your muscles and letting the natural buoyancy of water tension hold you afloat. It’s swaying back and forth and rocking you to sleep as if you were a baby in your own mother’s arms.
- Sleeping – You know that feeling of great comfortableness when you’ve just woken up after a wonderful night’s sleep? There’s no alarm clock, no dogs barking or kids bothering you, just you having slept a wonderful sleep, so much that you don’t want to get out of bed. When we’re asleep we’re completely relaxed for the most part and just barely waking up from it without increased stimuli is a very powerful relaxation feeling.
Using the feeling of floating or awakening from sleep is subtle imagery. Once you’ve reached this point where you can control your relaxation up to this point, adding more clear and defined imagery can further enhance your relaxation experience.
Now understand, this is NOT imagery for the purpose of distraction from your current feelings. Distraction only causes conflict with such an exercised mind as yours. This imagery is to intensify your mental experience in a positive way, fully acknowledging your state of being in a complimentary fashion.
Try following these visualization steps after you’ve come full circle through your muscle progression and cascading effect.
- Think of an experience you’ve had that was entirely stress-free, an enjoyable moment of calm.
- Think of where this event happened and picture it in your mind as if you’ve gone back there in a dream.
- What did you hear?
- What were you doing?
- How did you feel?
- Now stay in that moment as if time no longer matters, you’ve become one with that place of tranquility.
- Picture yourself as you currently are, pregnant and beautiful, full of life and love, glowing with your state of being.
- You don’t want to leave because you know this moment is impeccably relaxing.
When you’re in the middle of a labor contraction, you’d add onto these steps:
- Acknowledge that you’re in labor in this glorious place. But you’re happy with that because you would never want to be anywhere else.
By this time you’ve likely fallen asleep…..I almost am writing this post. 🙂
My perfect place is on a beach in Mexico, the Mayan Riviera. We went there on vacation one summer and it was one of the most relaxing, stress-free places I’ve ever experienced. Our hotel was right on the beach and we could look out to the sunrise every morning.
They had these beds with billowing fabric right out on the sand that you could relax in just a step away from the water front. My husband and I rose very early one morning and went down to watch the sunrise. No one was around, all we could hear was the gently lapping waves and a slight breeze.
I picture this place whenever I’m relaxing for ANYTHING, let along contractions during labor. Find your place, use it for your good and enjoy your moment.
If you need help picturing something or aren’t sure of what you can do that will work for you, start with this video that will walk you through just listening to someone help guide you. Then you figure out for yourself what may work best.
Maybe you don’t believe that all this relaxation stuff will help with your pain. I’m sorry if you don’t, but I can prove to you that it does. (This is the same testing idea from the Progressive Muscle Relaxation Steps.)
You’ll need your husband’s help with this. While you’re in a state of relaxation, have him gradually squeeze harder and harder on a point somewhere on your body – an external pressure that you can’t control (much like a contraction). He can squeeze the muscle just above one of your knees, above your elbow on the back of your arm, or on top of one of your shoulders. Have him start softly, then gradually work up to squeezing as hard as he possibly can around a minute or two of doing so. Then he can gradually relax his grip in a backward fashion.
While he’s doing this, accept the fact that he will be squeezing something you cannot help. Stay in your place of tranquility (from your guided imagery), but don’t disregard the additional pain feeling. Simply know that you’re helping it and that it will cease after some time, still enjoying yourself relaxing.
Okay, so you got through that fine right? Because you’re implemented these steps of relaxation. But how does that test this technique?
Now have your husband squeeze the same spot at the full intensity as he did before, only don’t be in your relaxation state. Just sit there and watch him, not dwelling on relaxing. Did it hurt? (The first time I tried this with my husband I almost smacked him.)
It hurt because you weren’t relaxed the second time, even though you weren’t very tense either. It felt A LOT more painful because your body and mind weren’t focused in a way that helps you get through that external pain. After that little help from him, another round of him squeezing tremendously as you relax won’t seem like much of a problem.
This is EXACTLY what happens during contractions if you apply these methods regularly.
Do these DAILY right as you get into bed. You don’t have to have your husband do the squeezing thing if you don’t want to. But be sure to work through all the progressive muscle relaxation, cascading effect and imagery until you no longer need the muscle contractions to be able to fully relax. You’ll find yourself sleeping better, falling asleep quicker, and learning how to channel your focus into a state of mind that allows your comforts to take over your pains.
I often incorporate these into my regular bedtime routine so that I can fall asleep quicker and sleep better. Plus, it’s a moment just for me to find a place of bliss. Let me know in the comments what you have found works well for your relaxation routine. Happy Relaxing!