Coping with Contractions

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.