In order to have a successful experience through your labor pains, the relaxation process needs to be mastered. There are many different types of muscle relaxation techniques you can try, but I’ve found that 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 Physical aspect. It works in conjunction with my post for Guided Imagery for your Mental aspect here.
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 Progressive Muscle Relaxation
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.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation Steps
Put yourself in a comfortable position, lying down or sitting up reclined. Starting at the bottom of your body with your feet, you’re going to gradually tense and flex all your muscles all the way up your body until everything is contracted. And you’re going to squeeze each muscle group as hard as you can and continue holding that as you move into the next muscle group, focusing on each one individually. You can have your husband simply read these steps out loud for you so you can simply follow the instructions without relying on stopping and reading this list.
- contract your feet
- contract your calves
- contract your thighs
- contract your butt
- contract your belly
- contract your back
- contract your chest
- contract your shoulders
- contract your arms
- contract your hands
- contract your neck
- contract your face
Okay, so everything you’ve got is tense and twitching as you try to hold all that tension in. Now you’re going to work back down your body from top to bottom in the exact opposite manner, relaxing COMPLETELY each muscle individually.
- relax your face
- relax your neck
- relax your shoulders
- relax your arms
- relax your hands
- relax your chest
- relax your back
- relax your belly
- relax your butt
- relax your thighs
- relax your calves
- relax your feet
This technique teaches you how to focus in on each separate muscle group for relaxation. Even though you think you may be relaxed, it’s not until you’ve fully tensed that muscle and released it do you realize that you can relax far MORE than you thought.
If you’d like to listen to something walk you through it, this video can be a great start. Give it a try.
Practice this technique DAILY right as you get in bed before you go to sleep. After a few weeks or so you’ll be able to immediately relax your muscles head to toe without contracting them. When you feel like you’ve reached this point, incorporate guided imagery into your routine.
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.
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, preceded by some healthy breathing. 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!