Coping Strategies

Enjoy the Pain Free Moments of Labor and Birth

While most childbirth education classes focus on how to cope during contractions, at Nona, we emphasize what to do in between contractions.  Why?  For most women, the majority of labor is spent in between contractions. This means that for most of labor, women are not actually experiencing pain (with a few exceptions).  In fact, during an average 12 hour active labor, only about 2 hours is time spent in a contraction.  So, at Nona childbirth education classes, one of the primary skills parents learn is how to take advantage of the time when you’re not experiencing contractions.

Most of your labor will be spent in between contractions

Where can you be soft?

One of the ways I teach this is to ask birthing parents to notice where they can be soft in between contractions.  Typically, the intensity of a contraction can cause birthing parents to hold on to tension which over time can increase pain and lead to exhaustion.  While it is very difficult, if not impossible to stay relaxed during a contraction, parents absolutely can be soft in between, which will equal less pain and less exhaustion overall.  

Letting go of tension, or “being soft” in between contractions can mean a less painful childbirth experience!

The key is remembering that you can take advantage of this time, or to have support people who can help remind you.

Focusing your attention on where you can be soft also helps to occupy the thinking mind which may be busy anticipating the next contraction or fretting about how difficult the last one was.  Softening in between contractions; starting with the shoulders, head and neck, hips and low back and even the muscles in the face, helps to keep your thoughts from wandering to things that might cause you to hold more tension and even forget that you’re not experiencing pain in that moment. 

Here’s how it works:

  1. After a contraction, get into a supported resting position.

  2. Take a deep breath and exhale, allowing your body to release the tension from that contraction

  3. Now allow your attention to rest on the breath, and notice where you can be soft in your body, softening a little more with each breath out.

  4. When thoughts come through and distract you, just notice them and rather than engage those thoughts, return to the breath and soften where you can.

That’s it, but it takes practice to feel confident in this skill.  To learn more about the importance of the time in between contractions, register for the Nona Mindful Birth Education Series.  To learn more and to practice this technique, register for the Nona Yoga & Support Series.

Move Through your Contractions

What’s the number one thing everyone wants to learn about childbirth?  

How to get through the contractions!  

We’ve already talked about how to rest deeply and the importance of the time in between contractions. Now we’re going to talk about the key to coping with the intensity during contractions.

Tension is a normal reaction to pain, but holding tension in your body throughout labor can lead to exhaustion and diverts energy away from the uterus. While it’s normal to experience some tension with your contraction, you will not hold nearly as much tension if you are moving your body.

Moving your body = moving the tension.  

Being still = stuck tension, more pain

Movement = Less Pain

This works regardless of the position you’re in or the type of breathing you do.  It’s very simple: moving rhythmically will help you cope with the intensity of your contractions.

It’s easiest to do rhythmic movement in an upright, active position such as standing and swaying, sitting on the birth ball, or being on hands and knees. But, you can integrate rhythmic movement even if you have to be lying down for some medically indicated reason.  You can rock your hips, or move your feet or even rock your shoulders back and forth during the contraction.  

Any movement in the body that is intentionally rhythmic will help you to cope.

I like to encourage birthing parents to let their breath be the guide for their rhythm. In other words, allowing your body movement to be in sync with your breath will be helpful. Partners and support people can also attune to the birthing parent by matching their own breath and movements with the birthing parent’s rhythm.

After rhythmic movement through a contraction, get into a position to rest deeply and soften.  

Move through your contractions.
Rest deeply in between them.

To learn more about coping with contractions, register for the Nona Mindful Birth Education Series.  To learn more and to practice this technique through yoga and discussion register for the Nona Yoga & Support Series.