Practicing for Labor

You're about eight weeks away -- time to start practicing for delivery!

Believe it or not, you're only about 8 weeks from your due date, and this is the perfect time to start practicing relaxation and breathing techniques that you'll use during childbirth. Even if you have already decided to have an epidural or opioids to relieve pain -- or if you change your mind about natural childbirth and ask for pain medication midway through your delivery -- these techniques can help you manage any discomfort you do feel and actively participate in your baby's birth. Use these techniques, in addition to those you learn in childbirth class, to teach yourself to work with your body and make labor easier on yourself and your baby.

These techniques may be especially useful in early labor. If your baby is moving and you haven't broken your water, stay at home for early labor.

Relaxation techniques for early labor. One of the best ways to relax during labor is to learn to isolate different muscle groups in your body. Your uterus must contract to push the baby down and retract the cervix over the baby's head. If other muscles are tight during contractions, you're wasting energy and oxygen. By learning to relax the rest of your muscle groups, you can focus on allowing most of your oxygen to travel to your uterus.

To learn how to relax your body during contractions, work with your partner or labor coach. Prop yourself up against the pillows in your bed or lie on your side. Starting with your toes and moving up toward your head, focus on relaxing each individual set of muscles in your body.

Have your coach issue different commands, one at a time, asking you to contract different muscle groups. For instance, if your coach says, "Contract your left arm," raise that arm and make a fist. Your coach should check to see that the rest of your body is relaxed by lifting different parts of your body. They should feel heavy and loose in his hands. Then have your coach say, "Relax your left arm." You should focus on letting that arm fall slowly until it's heavy enough for him to feel the weight of it in his hands.

The goal here is to learn how to relax your entire body while one muscle contracts. Ideally, during early labor your coach will be able to help you relax your entire body when your uterus is contracting. How long you will be able to keep doing this throughout labor depends on how skilled you are at relaxing your muscles and the type of labor you are having.

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