October 2020

You're Already Ready

By Laura Maxson LM

Most of the resources needed to cope with labor already exist within the pregnant body. Be open to the flexibility of whatever might work in the moment works best when surrounded by those who can help along this journey. Preparing for labor is often more about a mindset of trust than an elaborate plan. Simple can still be powerful.

It is expected that labor will hurt. What might be unexpected is that by giving into the process, the pain can become a song in the body and the voice becomes a powerful instrument, taking the intensity of labor and channeling it down deep and through the body. The simple act of making a controlled noise during contractions can be an extremely powerful tool to express the body’s resonance with the forces of labor.

Often serving the same purpose as sound, movement provides an outlet for the power of labor. With each contraction, a simple repetitive motion such as rocking the body, nodding the head, swaying the hips or dancing the hands releases tension. It provides a sense of timing or predictability that unconsciously counts down each contraction. The act of not moving, of being completely still and relaxed, can allow the powerful current of a contraction’s energy to pass through the body, as electricity passes through high tension wires. Changing positions can feel disruptive in the moment – but surprisingly, after a few contractions settled into a new position, labor can seem more manageable.

Checking out
There is timelessness to labor that puts most into labor-land. One minute can last an eternity, and yet, the hours can fly by. Covering clocks, putting down the cell phone and ignoring the passage of time can help labor flow without a watched-pot feeling.

Warm water can provide relief from a strong labor. A shower or bath helps muscles relax, stress recede, and oxytocin (the contraction hormone) flow more easily. Surrounded and embraced by warm water, a laboring person’s skin is stimulated all over, reducing the sensation of contractions. Being joined by their partner, either fully in the tub or shower or just close by, can help to more completely let go. Getting in the tub can remove gravity and allow buoyancy, allowing for easier movement . In the shower comfort positions can include sitting in the spray on a labor ball or the shower bench, holding the support bar while squatting, or just leaning into someone else. Most find privacy, warmth and unexpected respite in the shower – especially enjoying the hospital’s unending flow of hot water. At times a bath isn’t safe, check with your care provider.

Birth Doula
One might not think the presence of a birth doula could take the place of an epidural, but it often does. A birth doula suggests and facilitates techniques such as those mentioned above, while promoting privacy and intimacy between the laboring couple. She helps create a trusting, calm labor situation that helps labor progress in a very natural and manageable way. Some birth doulas are providing virtual labor guidance during the pandemic’s hospital visitor restrictions.Position Preference ~ Not many make a plan to give birth on hands and knees, but it is one of the most instinctual and comfortable positions for birth. Side-lying and squatting are some other favorites. Sometimes the birth position unintentionally ends up to be flat on the back or semi-reclined in the hospital bed because the need for the bed to be broken down (the bottom taken off) for the delivery takes precedence. A care provider may receive an unexpected opportunity to practice alternative delivery positions when the suggestion to roll over to the back for delivery is declined. Babies can come out in just about any position a person can assume, and unless there is a medical need the position of comfort should win out.

An Open Mind
It is not expected that someone will ask for the very things they have requested not to have. Planning to avoid a routine IV is fine, but someone who finds they can’t keep anything down in labor may discover that an IV is the perfect medicine.

Declining early rupture of membranes doesn’t mean breaking the bag is out of the question when hovering at 8 centimeters and considering Pitocin. A plan to avoid continuous fetal monitoring might end up with a baby showing signs of distress, necessitating continuous monitoring. These can be welcomed as the appropriate application of technology in her labor.

The simplest things are often what have the most profound effect on how a person copes with labor.

BirthNetSantaCruz.eventbrite.com – Virtual Meet the Doulas – Nov. 21, 2020
Birthnet.org – information on safe, joyful and empowering birth, and an online searchable database of birth doulas, childbirth educators, lactation support and other care providers.

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