Labor Tools: Relaxation
What it is:
Relaxation is the term used to describe the physical and mental states of being calm and without tension. Women who are able to relax during labor are able to reduce their distress and cope better with the process of giving birth.
How it works:
Dr. Grantley Dick-Read theorized that women who were more fearful and anxious during labor were more physically tense and therefore felt more pain in labor. He believed that by actively relaxing a woman could prevent this Fear Tension Pain Cycle.
Relaxation helps in a few ways. First, by reducing the body's production of catecholamines, relaxation helps to prevent an unproductive or dysfunctional labor. Secondly, by releasing the tension in the body, relaxation allows the body to move in response to the contractions preventing unnecessary pain in labor.
What type of relaxation is best?
There are two ways to answer this question, and depending on what type of person you are either one or both could be correct.
First, the type of relaxation you can master the best will probably be the easiest to use during the stress of labor. This means if you are a visual thinker and find visualization to be an easy way to relax, it may work well as a relaxation technique in labor.
The other way to look at it is that the type of relaxation that is the most difficult for you will provide you with the most benefit during labor. For example, if you always tense your shoulders in response to stress and it is difficult for you to get them to let go, learning to actively relax your shoulders will allow you to get through labor without excess tension in your shoulders and upper back.