Overcoming Stress in Labor

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stress in laborFor most women, birth is a powerful and intense experience.

As a result, it is common for women to seek ways for overcoming stress in labor well before the big day arrives.

As doulas, we believe that it is helpful to consider how clients handle stress, long before labor begins.

Perhaps you’re not entirely sure how you handle very intense or stressful situations.  In this case, it may be helpful to ask those around you who know you best.

When working with clients, we most commonly see tensed shoulders, clenched jaws, furrowed brows, and balled fists.  We keep an eye out for those things while our clients are laboring, and we talk about it prenatally, because one of they keys to a smoother labor is the ability to stay relaxed. When a client can no longer relax through a contraction, we shift our focus to relaxation in between.

These manifestations of tension or stress signal to us that our client may be having a difficult time releasing the tension during contractions, and we’re able to remind them to relax those areas.

Ina May Gaskin, a midwife renowned in the birth community, connects the mother’s ability to relax in her body and in her environment with the ability of her cervix to relax and progress in labor.  

She calls it “The Sphincter Law”. The sphincter law states that the cervix acts much like the other sphincter muscles in our body. For example, think about trying to pee with an audience! For most of us, this is hard to do because our body literally shuts itself down until we are able to relax. As a result, the cervix can not progress as easily when there are tension and stress as compared to when we actively release the stress and tension.

So, how do you experience tension?  Perhaps it is a racing heart?  Possibly a tightened jaw?  Maybe a stiff neck?  Perhaps in one, or many, of the ways below?

Tension Headache
Tired Eyes
Grinding Teeth
Clenching Jaw
Ringing in Ears

Muscle Tightness
Decreased Range of Motion

Muscle Tightness
Trembling Hands
Gripping Fists
Biting Nails

Heart rate increasing
Heart pounding
Difficulty catching breath

“Butterflies” in stomach

Muscle Tightness
Sore Back
Bad Posture

Clammy skin

Bouncing Legs
Trembling Feet
Sore or Achy Feet
Muscle Tension

Mental Processes
Speech Difficulties
Inability to Focus
Negative Thoughts

You can practice relaxing these areas during pregnancy and reap the benefits when you get to the labor room. With this in mind, being able to consciously identify tension and release it is just one way you can prepare – And invite your partner to practice with you!  In other words, this is a great reason to get a massage, connect through a guided visualization, or just enjoy some kind words or a gentle touch.

If you’d like to explore the ways you manifest stress further, check out our free “Stress in Labor” worksheet here: Stress & Tension Worksheet

Your Tucson Doulas have the skills and experience to help you explore how to de-stress during pregnancy and labor. 

Call or email us today to learn more about how you can have a less stressful pregnancy and delivery!












One Response

  1. Kari Dickinson
    | Reply

    Love this!

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