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Relaxing During Labor Helps You Give Birth Faster: 3 Doula-Based Tips How to Do It
PHOTO BY ferlistockphoto/iStock
  • Most first-time moms understandably do not know what to expect of labor and childbirth. People say it's painful, yes — but how painful? Some say it's unbearable while there are those who say they didn't have a hard time. But judging from the photos of women cringing, with fists clenched, and their mouths fully open as if in agony, it's easy to believe this is how births should really be. If you ask an expert on the subject matter, she will likely tell you that it is not.

    Thammie Sy, a licensed physiotherapist, certified doula, and the founder of Birthing Beginnings, told SmartParenting.com.ph at the recent launch of the new So Sure bladder leakage pads that if you want to give birth faster and more efficiently, there is one thing you need to do while in labor: relax.

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    How relaxation aids childbirth

    Your next question would naturally be, "How???" given that labor and relaxation usually do not go together. But according to her, studies show that being calm as you prepare to give birth helps the process to progress faster.

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    1. Relaxing helps you secrete "labor" hormones.

    Oxytocin, the primary hormone that is responsible for efficient labor, is released more readily when you are relaxed. As your labor gets stronger, your body will also produce endorphins, the "happy hormones," to help you cope better with the contractions. 

    2. Fear is the enemy.

    According to Thammie, fear magnifies the pain you feel. "Once fear comes in, automatically, we tense up. And the tension increases the pain in our body. You already have the strong contractions, plus the pain everywhere else because you're tense, so [fear] increases the pain that you're feeling, and then [the pain] increases the fear that you're feeling. It becomes a vicious cycle," she explains. 

    3. Anxiety could stress your baby.

    When you're stressed, your body produces adrenaline, which could reduce the supply of oxygen-carrying blood to your baby. Adrenaline also suppresses the release of oxytocin, and that could slow down labor.

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    How to relax while in labor

    Is it possible to relax while you're in labor? Yes it is, says Thammie. She gives the following tips:

    1. Breathe.

    Sometimes, when we're deep in thought, we may not be aware that we aren't inhaling or exhaling correctly. "Intentional, slow breathing can help a lot in relaxing. Deep breaths and exhaling actually release the tension from your body. The intensity of the contraction is still the same, but how the brain perceives it is different. It [will] not [feel] as painful anymore."

    2. Be conscious of your body.

    Thammie suggests an exercise you can do to make you aware of tension you may not know is present in your body. "Before you go to sleep, from head to toe, tense up one specific part of your body, and then release the tension. Contract it, and then release it. That makes you aware na tense pa pala ito, especially in the shoulders, we don't realize, meron lagi. But if you go through your entire body, para kang may checklist. It trains your brain to see the difference. 'This is what tension feels like; this is what relaxation feels like.'"

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    3. In a moment of panic, focus. 

    You probably know what to do until panic sets in, which is quite normal for those in labor. Thammie suggests focusing on something as some sort of a reminder. "You can have a visual cue, a focal point, or a [word of] affirmation to remind you to relax. That's what I teach dads also," she says, underlining the importance of having strong support — either from the husband, family members, or a doula — while a woman is in labor. "If the wife starts to panic, just go back to the breathing." 

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