Easing the Discomforts
By Jan Moeller, RNC
Perhaps more than anything, women want to
be in control of their own bodies. They want to make informed
choices about what they consider to be their ideal birth
experience. Many want to be able to try various methods
of dealing with the physical and psychological challenges
facing them during labor. Easing the discomforts of labor
is a partnership between you and your birth attendant.
Good obstetrical care offers safe medications
and a variety of anesthetic options. Within accepted professional
boundaries, there are complementary therapies which can
be utilized by laboring women, either alone or in combination
with the medical options. The environment: Choose a birth
place where you can feel comfortable and safe. Many birthing
centers and hospitals have rooms which look and feel like
a comfortable, cozy bedroom, with dim lights and relaxing
music available. Bring items from home such as pillows,
a comforter, roomy nightgown or sweats and socks. Include
favorite photos, music and a unique object to make your
Physical supports: These measures range
from special breathing techniques to varied labor positions.
Walking, lunging, squatting, slow dancing, dangling (a
stretch used to elongate the torso to facilitate the baby
coming down into the pelvis) or leaning can speed up labor,
reduce backache and encourage the descent of the baby
by using gravity. One of the ways to facilitate labor
is to remain in an upright position and out of bed.
Some women use the birth ball, rice socks
(heated socks filled with rice used on the lower back
or abdomen) or a rocking chair for relief.
De-stressing via massage relaxes muscles,
aids circulation, offers counterpressure and facilitates
communication between the giver and the recipient. Massage
includes gentle touch (effleurage), hand, foot, back and
neck rubs, acupressure and the use of manual or electronic
Hydrotherapy via the shower or whirlpool
tub has the power of relaxation and recuperation for many
women. The addition of a few drops of essential oils (lavender,
chamomile or jasmine) create an aromatherapy which can
be soothing during labor.
Thermotherapy, the use of heat or cold,
can also alleviate discomfort and promote relaxation.
A cold collar, frozen wet washcloths or special ice wraps
can be used to apply compression, as well as cold to the
neck or back. Heat via warm blankets, warm, wet compresses,
or a hot water bottle can improve circulation and encourage
relaxation during all stages of labor.
Touch, music, slow dancing, a soft voice,
squatting, dangling, visualization and concentration on
a focal point can also be useful tools in the physical
support of the laboring woman. Emotional support: Knowledge
and childbirth education preparation coupled with reassurance,
compliments and encouragement are critical during all
phases of childbirth. The presence of loved ones, a labor
coach or doula and a responsive medical team will help
to see that you are supported as you wish and your child's
birth is a safe, happy and empowering experience.
Jan Moeller, RNC, Manager of the Family Childbirth Center
at Milford Hospital. Direct caregiver in maternal-child
nursing for 10 years and manager of the maternity and
pediatric services at Milford Hospital for 13 years.
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