Having a baby isn’t as fun as making one, but research has shown simple relaxation techniques can shorten labour and make you less likely to need medical intervention
1. Try hypnobirthing
Feeling calm is crucial to staying confident in labour. Hypnobirthing uses self-hypnosis, relaxation and breathing strategies to help you manage pain, release anxiety, deal with birth fears and stay in control.
‘By practising the techniques in pregnancy, you’ll know when and how to use them during the birth,’ says hypnobirthing trainer Rosie Goode. You’ll get the best results by combining a workshop with a CD or download.
2. Use breathing exercises
Combining breathing with counting is very effective throughout labour.
‘Slow, deep breaths increase the amount of oxygen getting to your muscles, which helps them relax, while counting keeps your mind occupied,' says Rosie. Try 7:11 breathing – breathe in deeply for a count of seven, then breathe out for 11.
3. Stay in the moment
‘Your brain’s evolved to alert you to possible danger ahead so, even if you’re OK, it could generate panicky thoughts, triggering muscle tension and making labour slower,’ says Rosie.
Keep your mind in check by focusing on the present – using a breathing technique will help, as will repeating a birth mantra to yourself.
4. Use aromatherapy
Smell is a powerful sense and can conjure up memories and emotions. ‘When you’re practising relaxation exercises during pregnancy, burn lavender oil,’ says doula Sophie Fletcher.
‘Have it with you during labour and it will trigger an association with relaxation.’
5. Have a massage
Feeling stressed? Get your partner to vigorously rub your back and the backs of your legs.
This stimulates the metabolism, which helps your body process adrenaline and lactic acid, so you feel calm again. Between contractions, light massage helps to stimulate the release of calming chemicals in the body.