Relaxation Techniques for Easy Labor

Re;laxing during pregnancy
Learning to relax is not just a skill for labor, but for life. This tool will benefit both, you and your partner, who also learns the techniques. Many tribal cultures believe that pregnant women should be protected in a calm environment to ensure the health of the baby and a good delivery. Modern medicine is just beginning to understand the effects of stress on the body, especially during pregnancy and birth. Studies have shown that women who have more stress producing factors in their lives during pregnancy develop a greater number of complications during pregnancy, labor, and birth.

Stress and anxiety cause the release of hormones and chemicals that produce the fight-or-flight reaction. These substances cause the body to be able to react quickly to a life-threatening event. Long-term stress keeps the body at constant readiness, but it can also lead to illness.

During pregnancy, stress can cause insomnia, fatigue, headache, nausea and vomiting, high blood pressure, and preterm labor. Long-term stress in pregnancy may result in a low-birth-weight baby, as the hormones constrict the woman’s blood vessels and reduce the amount of nutrients and oxygen that reach the fetus. In addition, the hormones cross the placenta and enter the baby’s circulation. This may predispose the infant to increased irritability, restlessness, crying, and digestive upsets.

During labor, the stress hormones can cause fatigue, a longer and more painful labor, and an increased need for interventions. The hormones can also reduce the blood flow to the uterus and placenta, and can cause the baby to have distress. Stress increases the risk of cesarean section, for either failure to progress or fetal distress.

Hints for the Labor PartnerThe following exercises are the best during pregnancy:

  • Attend childbirth classes with your partner.
  • Learn relaxation as a stool for your own benefit.
  • Practice relaxation with your partner.
  • Learn and practice breathing and pushing techniques with your partner.
  • Help your partner practice breathing and pushing in the different labor positions.
  • Provide your partner with sufficient pillows for support and comfort.
  • Offer your partner a massage.

After the birth, stress can interfere with the woman’s milk production and her ability to cope as a new parent. The body is less able to fight infection, as the stress hormones lower the white blood cells’ ability to recognize germs and to produce antibodies against them. Prolonged stress leads to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

relaxing for a better laborLearning how to relax your body is the single most important skill to develop as you prepare yourself for labor. Labor is hard work. The uterine muscle will contract intermittently over a period of hours to open the cervix and move the baby down the birth canal. This takes a great deal of energy. One source estimated that the same amount of energy is expended during labor as during a nonstop 12- to 18-mile hike. By relaxing all your muscles except the one that needs to contract—the uterus—you will keep more energy and oxygen available. You are less likely to become fatigued and may require less medical intervention.

When you hear the word relaxed, certain images come to mind—a rag doll, spaghetti, a drooping flower, a floppy hat. These are all images of extreme passiveness. A sleeping child is the picture of passive relaxation. What you will learn in the following pages is more active, conscious form of relaxation, in which the mind is alert while the body is relaxed. Active relaxation involved the awareness and intentional release of tension. For example, slowly contract the muscles of your right arm. Now let the arm flop. That is passive relaxation. Again slowly contract the muscles of your right arm. Now slowly, with contractions, relax the different parts of your right arm. Feel the biceps, lower arm, hand, and fingers gradually relax. That is active relaxation. As you prepare for lavor, you will learn to relax your body consciously. This process is technically called neuromuscular control (mind control of the muscles). You will learn a number of exercises designed to help you become skilled at relaxation.

Relaxation Basics

When preparing to practice any of the relaxation exercises described in this section, find or prepare a physical environment that is conductive to relaxation. Use a room that is comfortable and warm. Wear loose clothing and no shoes. Play soft music that is soothing and that you can take with you to the hospital or birth center.

Make sure that the supporting surface on which you lie is firm. If it sags, the support will be lost, and strain and muscle tension will result.

Assume a comfortable position, with all the parts of your body completely supported. Otherwise, the force of gravity will cause your unsupported body parts to do muscle work (contract). Several good positions in which to practice are:

Semireclining at a 45-degree angle

This position makes it easy for your partner to check for muscle tension. Because of this, it is the best position in which to begin relaxation practice. To assume the position, recline at a 45-degree angle with pillows under your head, back, knees, and arms. Or you can use a special chair for this purpose as seen in the image below.

Semireclining at a 45-degree angleSemireclining at a 45-degree angle
A Hint for the Mother-to-BeRelaxation will become automatic in labor if practiced frequently during pregnancy.

Side-lying

This position is the most comfortable for many women during labor while in bed. Lie on your side with pillows under your head, abdomen, and upper leg and foot.

side-lying positionSide-lying Position

The Sim’s position

This position is excellent for resting during pregnancy and for helping to alleviate back pain during labor. With the body positioned more forward than side-lying (three-quarters over), the weight of the uterus is taken off the back. Lie with your lower arm behind your back and pillows supporting your head, front shoulder and upper arm, from leg, and abdomen. (See the image below)

Sim's positionSim’s position

You can also obtain a pregnancy pillow if you want a more comfortable option.

As you develop skill in relaxation, you can also practice your techniques while sitting up or kneeling on your hands and knees. Finally, no matter which position you use, remember to keep all your joints bent. This helps to reduce muscle tension, which can use the energy your body needs for labor.

Labor Partner’s Role

A very important part of your role as a labor partner is to recognize tension in the woman. During labor, the woman may be so involved in what her body is doing that she becomes tense without even being aware of it. During practice, you should visually and physically check her for signs of tension. During labor, to avoid disturbing her, check her only visually for relaxation both during contractions and, as labor progresses, between contractions to ascertain that she is resting completely. If you observe tension, you will need to begin using one or more of the various techniques presented in this section to help her relax. Because each woman responds differently, it will be up to you to determine which techniques and comfort measures are the most effective for your partner. Additionally, certain measures may be more effective at different times in her labor.

To check your partner for relaxation, first check her visually. Is she frowning? Is her jaw clenched? Do her shoulders and neck look rigid? Are her toes flexed or curled? Are her fingers clenched?

Second, check her physically for relaxation by doing the following:

  • Check her neck by gently rotating her head from side to side.
  • Check her shoulders by placing your hands on them and gently moving them from side to side. Tense shoulders stay put, while relaxed ones move easily.
  • Gently pick up her arm, firmly supporting it under the elbow and wrist. The upper arm, lower arm, and wrist should each move separately and feel heavy in your hands. If the arm is rigid and stiff, or if your partner lifts it for you, the arm is tense. Gently lower the arm to the supporting surface, never drop it! If you move her arm too abruptly, your partner will not trust you and will tense, rather than relax, to your touch. Repeat with the other arm.
  • Check your partner’s hip by placing your hands on the outside of each hip and moving the pelvis from side to side. Relaxed hips move easily.
  • Lift one of her legs, supporting it under the knee and ankle, and check it the same way you checked the arm. A relaxed leg will be very heavy and its parts will move separately, the same as the arm. Gently lower the leg. The knee should flop to one side when the leg is set down on the pillow. Repeat with the other leg.

If, in you are checking, you find body parts that are not completely relaxed, try on of the following techniques:

  • Quietly repeat, “Let your (body part) relax”.
  • Tell your partner to tense the body part as tightly as possible, then to slowly release it to the count of 10.
  • Firmly stroke the tense body part or lightly massage it using circular motions.

Use whichever technique, or combination of techniques, works best for your partner.

Relaxation Techniques

Several steps are involved in learning to achieve total relaxation. Once you have mastered the Body Awareness/Tension Recognition Guide, you can move on to the more advanced relaxation guides. Practice with your partner, and make an audiotape that you can use if your partner is unavailable.

Body Awareness/Tension Recognition

The first step in learning relaxation involves developing a sense of body awareness and learning to recognize muscle tension. The goal of this first exercise is to make you aware of what your different body parts feel like when they are tense and when they are relaxed. You should practice this exercise with your labor partner, who can give you the verbal cues.

The verbal cues for the Body Awareness/Tension Recognition exercise, as well as the woman’s actions and the labor partner’s reactions, are presented in Table 5.1 below. When your partner gives you a verbal cue, breathe in slowly through your nose while tensing the specified body part. Feel the tightening of the muscles used to perform the action. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth and relax the body part. Feel the release as you relax the muscles. Have your partner observe the physical appearance of the tensed muscles, then check the body part both visually and physically for the degree of relaxation. For ease of checking, practice this exercise in the semireclining position.

Go through the Body Awareness/Tension Recognition Guide in order. When you have finished tensing and relaxing the final body part, take a few moments to go back over your body. If there are areas that are still tense, repeat the tensing and releasing of that muscle group. Before getting up, take several deep breaths, then slowly rise to an upright position.

Table 5.1 Body Awareness/Tension Recognition Guide
Verbal Cue Woman’s action Partner’s Reaction
Pull up your toes. Inhale slowly through nose and tense toes. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax toes. Visually check tensed toes, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Turn out your ankles Inhale slowly through nose and tense ankles outward. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax ankles inward. Visually check tensed ankles, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Bend your knees Inhale slowly though nose and flex knees with feet on floor. Exhale slowly through mouth and straighten legs, letting knees flop outward. Visually check tensed knees, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Squeeze your thighs together Inhale slowly through nose and press thighs inward. Exhale slowly through mouth and let things relax outward. Visually check tensed thighs, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Press your thighs toward the floor Inhale slowly through nose and press thighs downward. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax thighs. Visually check tensed thighs, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Tighten your buttocks. Inhale slowly through nose and tense buttocks. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax buttocks. Visually check tensed buttocks, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Arch your back Inhale slowly through nose and tense upper and lower back. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax upper and lower back. Visually check tensed back, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Pull in your abdomen Inhale slowly through nose and tense abdomen. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax abdomen. Visually check tensed abdomen, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Expand your chest Inhale slowly through nose and and fill lungs with air, tensing chest. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax chest. Visually check tensed chest, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Press your shoulder blades back Inhale slowly through nose and tense shoulders. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax shoulders. Visually check tensed shoulders, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Shrug shoulders Inhale slowly through nose and shrug shoulders. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax shoulders. Visually check tensed shoulders, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Tense your hands by making fists. Inhale slowly through nose and make tight fists. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax hands. Visually check tensed hands, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Extend your head backwards. Inhale slowly through nose and tense neck muscles. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax neck muscles. Visually check tensed neck muscles, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Grimace. Inhale slowly through nose and tense lips. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax lips. Visually check tensed lips, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Frown. Inhale slowly through nose and tense mouth area. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax mouth area. Visually check tensed mouth area, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Clench your teeth. Inhale slowly through nose and tense jaw. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax jaw. Visually check tensed jaw, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Wrinkle your nose. Inhale slowly through nose and tense area above nose. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax area above nose. Visually check tensed nose area, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Close your eyes tightly Inhale slowly through nose and close eyes tightly. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax eyes. Visually check tensed eyes, then visually and physically check for relaxation.
Lift your eyebrows. Inhale slowly through nose and raise eyebrows as high as possible. Exhale slowly through mouth and relax eyebrows. Visually check tensed eyebrows, then visually and physically check for relaxation.

Total Body Relaxation

The next step in refining your relaxation skills is to relax your entire body. The Total Body Relaxation exercise will help you to do this using verbal cues and mental images. As with the Body Awareness/Tension Recognition exercise, have your partner give you the cues and then observe you for relaxation. Table 5.2 presents the verbal cues, what you should do, and what your labor partner should observe. When you have completed the entire sequence, your partner can physically check your body for relaxation. Then take a moment to come back to the present, take 2 deep breaths, open your eyes, and slowly get up with your partner’s assistance. After performing this exercise several times, you may be able to mentally take yourself through the routine, without the verbal cues from your partner.

Table 5.2 Total Body Relaxation Guide
Verbal Cue Woman’s action Partner’s Reaction
Close your eyes, take several deep breaths, and begin to let the tension flow from your body. (Pause). Start at the top of your head and release any tightness in your scalp, moving it down the sides and back of your head. Relax scalp area. Observe relaxation of face.
Lower your eyebrows. Let eyebrows drop. Observe relaxation of eyebrows.
Close your eyes, Feel your eyelids becoming heavy, your eyes sinking back into your head. Relax eyes, lids, temples, forehead, and surrounding area. Observe relaxation of eye area.
Let your jaw drop. Your lips should become slightly parted. Relax jaw and slightly open mouth. Observe relaxation of jaw.
Allow your head to rest against the pillow. (if her head is not supported, say: Slightly lower your chin). Relax head against support (or lower chin). Observe relaxation of head.
Feel your shoulder blades open outward, like a dress falling off a hanger. Relax neck, shoulders, and upper arms. Observe relaxation of upper body.
Starting at your right shoulder, move any tightness down your upper arm, past your elbow, down your lower arm, past your wrist, through your hand, and out your fingers. (read very slowly). Relax tight arms from shoulder down to fingers. Observe relaxation of right arm.
Repeating this on your left side, start at your left shoulder and move any tightness down your upper arm, past your elbow, down your lower arm, past your wrist, through your hand, and out your fingers. (read very slowly). Relax left arm from shoulder down to fingers. Observe relaxation of left arm.
Concentrate on your breathing. Slowly breathe in oxygen to your baby and slowly exhale carbon dioxide and tension. With each out-breath, sight out a little more tension. Exhale and relax body further. Be aware of tension release. Observe relaxation of body.
Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, making each breath a little longer, until you feel very relaxed. Try to feel as if you are breathing right down your back, starting at the base of your neck and slowly moving down your upper back, past your ribs, down into your waist, and into your hips. (Read very slowly). Focus on breathing and relax back muscles. Observe relaxation of back.
Starting at your right hip, move any tightness down your thigh, past your knee, down your calf, past your ankle, through your foot, and out your toes. (Read very slowly.) Relax right leg from hip down to toes. Observe relaxation of right leg.
Repeating this on your left side, start your left hip and move any tightness down your thigh, past your knee, down your calf, past your ankle, through your foot, and out your toes. (Read very slowly). Relax left leg from hip down to toes. Observe relaxation of left leg.
Feel every limb become heavy—Your feet, lower legs, thighs, hips, hands, arms, shoulders. Experience feeling of heaviness. Observe relaxation of arms and legs.
The force of gravity is pulling you down into the Earth. Experience feeling of sinking. Observe relaxation of body.
Your knees are so heavy that they need to flop apart to the sides. Feel legs become limp and open to sides. Observe relaxation of legs.
Your whole body is melting and spreading across the floor. Feel sensation of tension flowing outward. Observe relaxation of body.
Now take a minute to go over your body. If you feel there is any area that is still holding tension, think about bringing some heat to the area, and release the area to the warmth. Feel warmth of sun on tense area. Observe relaxation of body, then physically check for total relaxation.

Touch Relaxation

Another technique that can aid dramatically in developing your skill at relaxation is touch relaxation. In touch relaxation, you respond to your partner’s touch by relaxing tense muscles toward his hand. Practicing this nonverbal form of communication helps you learn to respond during labor to your partner’s touching, stroking, and massaging with complete relaxation.

Touch relaxationTouch relaxation is an effective method for learning how to relax the body.

To practice touch relaxation, contract a set of muscles upon your partner’s verbal cue, then have your partner rest his hand on the contracted muscles. As soon as you feel your partner’s touch, you should begin to release the contracted muscles toward his hand. See Table 5.3 for the recommended verbal cues, actions, and labor partner’s reactions.

Note to the labor partner: Be sure to touch the contracted muscles with a relaxed but firm hand. Slowly mold your hand to the shape of the body part. If touching the body part does not bring about complete relaxation, stroke or massage the body part until it does relax.

Touch relaxation is one of the best techniques to use during labor.

Table 5.3 Touch Relaxation Guide
Verbal Cue Woman’s action Partner’s Reaction
Contract your forehead. Frown and wrinkle forehead.
Relax forehead.
Rest hand on forehead.
Feel forehead relax.
Tense your face. Grit teeth and clench jaw.
Relax jaw.
Place hands on sides of jaw.
Feel jaw drop.
Tense your scalp. Raise eyebrows.
Lower eyebrows.
Place hands on sides of scalp.
Feel eyebrows lower.
Tense your right arm. Clench right fist and stiffen entire right arm.

 

Relax right arm.
Rest hands on fist, stroke palm with thumbs, then slowly move hands up sides of arm to shoulder and press shoulder firmly.

Feel muscles gradually relax from hand up to shoulder.
Tense your left arm. Clench left fist and stiffen entire left arm.

 

Relax left arm.
Rest hands on fist, stroke palm with thumbs, then slowly move hands up sides of arm to shoulder and press shoulder firmly.

Feel muscles gradually relax from hand up to shoulder.
Tense your abdomen. Pull in abdomen.

Relax abdomen.
Rest hand on curve of upper abdomen.

Feel abdomen expand outward.
Tense your shoulders. Press shoulder blades back against supporting surface.
Relax shoulders.
Rest hands on fronts of shoulders.

Feel shoulders move forward.
Tense your thighs together. Press upper thighs together.
Relax thighs.
Touch outsides of thighs.
Feel legs fall outward.
Tense your thighs downward. Press legs and knees against floor.
Relax thighs.
Rest hands on tops of thighs.
Feel legs rise and fall outward.
Tense your right leg. Straighten and stiffen right leg, pointing toes upward.

Relax right leg.
Firmly touch instep of foot, stroke instep with fingers, then slowly move hands up to knee and then up to top of leg.
Feel muscles gradually relax from foot to top of leg, with thing falling outward.
Tense your left leg. Straighten and stiffen left leg, pointing toes upward.

Relax left leg.
Firmly touch instep of foot, stroke instep with fingers, then slowly move hands up to knee and then up to top of leg.
Feel muscles gradually relax from foot to top of leg, with thing falling outward.
Tense your neck. Raise chin in air and contract back of neck.
Relax neck.
Rest hand on nape of neck.
Feel chin fall forward and muscles relax.
Tense your back. Arch small of back.
Relax back.
Rest hands on sides of sacrum.
Feel back drop toward floor.
Tense any other body part that you would like to. Tense desired muscle group.
Relax that muscle group.
Touch tensed body part.
Feel it relax.

Visualization

VisualizationThe final technique is visualization. Also known as imagery, visualization is the technique of picturing an image in your mind. It can be used as a preparation for labor and birth. You may have heard about this technique in reference to athletes preparing for competition. Prior to competing in an event, a gymnast will visualize her routine, a downhill skier will visualize the gates on the run, and an ice skater will mentally run through his upcoming performance. Prenatally, visualization can be practiced to aid relaxation and to mentally help you develop a positive attitude toward birth. During labor, it can keep you relaxed and help you focus on your body. For example, while in labor, picture your baby’s head coming through your cervix, with your cervix resembling a turtleneck sweater. Other example can be found in the following sample visualizations. Practice both visualizations in preparation for labor. During labor and delivery, choose the phrases and images that work best for you.

To practice, sit or lie in a comfortable, supported position. Play soft, soothing music in the background. (Use this same music during labor). Your practice sessions will be most effective if you partner uses a soft, soothing tone of voice. He should speak slowly and pause frequently to allow the images to develop. In addition, he should pause for a count of 1 whenever he sees a dot; for example, “…” should prompt a pause of 1-2-3. The pause should be slightly longer at the end of a paragraph.

A special Place

A special Place is a visualization that can aid relaxation and that can be used during labor. For many women, entering the labor unit can be unsettling experience. This is because the environment is unfamiliar. When you are in labor, use this visualization during your contractions to mentally take yourself away from the labor unit and to a familiar or secure place.

Have your labor partner recite the following to you:

Close your eyes …. take in a deep breath …. exhale …. and relax your body …. starting at your head …. and moving down to your toes … take in another deep breath … exhale slowly … and once more, slowly breathing in …. and out …. As you relax, picture in your mind a place that makes you feel very comfortable …. A place where you feel safe and secure …. A place where you are so protected that nothing can harm you or interfere with your thoughts …. A place where you can leave all your worries and surrender yourself to being at peace.

This special place may be in a room in your home …. in the home where you spent your childhood …. a favorite vacation or honeymoon spot …. or a place you have dreamed about visiting …. It may be a scene from a book … a movie … or even a fantasy, a place that doesn’t exist …. But, enter this place and look around …. Are you standing, sitting, or lying down? …. Is the temperature warm or cool? …. Is there a breeze blowing? … What are you wearing? …. Are there any familiar fragrances? … Are you alone? …. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with your special place.

As you gaze at your surroundings, focus on an object …. Stare at this object and allow it to become your focal point …. As you continue to stare at the object … concentrate … breathe slowly … and allow yourself to enter a level of deeper relaxation. (Take a longer pause before continuing).

Now, take several deep breaths …. mentally travel back to your present environment …. and slowly open your eyes …. Think about the serenity and peace you just experienced … and know that you can go back to this place whenever you choose.

Practice this visualization during pregnancy. When you are in labor, you can either close your eyes and return to your special place during every contraction, or, if you keep your eyes open, you can stare at the focal point that you brought with you. For your focal point, use a picture of the object from your visualizations or, if possible, use the object itself. If you visited a place with water during your visualizations, you may find that laboring in a tub or shower enhances your relaxation.

Hints for the Labor Partner

  • Play soothing music while you recite a visualization.
  • Speak slowly and pause frequently while reciting a visualization to allow the images to develop in your partner’s mind.

Birth Visualization

The Birth Visualization will help you to prepare emotionally for birth as a normal, healthy event. You use your imagination to picture the process of labor and delivery. Do this visualization following a relaxation practice, such as the Special Place visualization, when you are calm and receptive to suggestion. Have your partner use a soothing tone of voice, increasing in volume and speed as the contractions accelerate and becoming softer and slower as the contractions recede.

Your partner should recite the following:

Concentrate on your breathing …. breathing deeply and peacefully … With each breath, allow yourself to let go more and more …. As you relax, picture in your mind an special place where you would like to have your baby ….. Take yourself there and become comfortable ….. Notice the surroundings …. What do you see? …. Are there any fragrances? ….. What textures do you feel? ….. Do you hear any sounds?

As you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, picture the uterus in your mind … large and pear shaped .. round and full at the top … tapered and narrow at the bottom .. a strong, muscular organ, capable of much hard work.

See the round, healthy, red placenta on the back of the uterine wall … See the pulsating umbilical cord sending oxygen and food to your baby …. Watch your baby floating freely and peacefully in the warm, clear amniotic fluid …. His head is down in the pelvic cradle, just waiting for the day he will be born … Hear your baby’s heartbeat, strong and sure …. See the downy lanugo hair …. Look at the vernix covering his body like a protective coat …. Count his fingers and toes … Look at how long his nails have grown … It may be a boy … it may be a girl … but it is your baby continuing to grow and waiting to be born.

From your baby’s point of view, look down at the cervix … See it puffy and soft, with the mucous plug sealing its opening … much like a cork in the neck of a bottle … protecting your baby from infection until it is time to be born.

Now take yourself forward in time to the day labor begins ….. See the cervix …. The mucous plug is gone, and the cervix is getting shorter and shorter as your uterus begins to contract …. Feel your baby’s head pressing firmly against the cervix … helping it to stretch, and become thinner and thinner, and slowly open up.

You feel a contraction starting, much like a train approaching on a distant track .. getting closer and closer, and the contraction is getting stronger and stronger. Your baby’s head is pressing harder and harder on the cervix. The cervix is stretching more and more, and the baby’s head is coming down and down, and you open and open more, and the contraction begins to fade and fade, just as the train moves off into the distance …. Feel your body relax … Le all the tension go … Gather strength from within for the next contraction … Rest, and your baby also rests. (Repeat this paragraph two more times).

As the next contraction comes, feel it growing in intensity, much like a large wave, rising higher and higher. Feel the cervix stretching and stretching as you feel the baby’s head moving down, down, down into the cervix. Now feel the contraction subsiding … just as the wave comes to shore, as you know it always will … And you rest, and your baby rests. (Repeat this paragraph one more time).

Quickly another contraction begins to build, getting stronger and stronger, and stretching the cervix further and further as the uterine muscles pull it up and back, over the baby’s head. Feel your baby straining to get through as the amniotic sac bulges into your vagina, and feel relief and warmth as the water gushes out onto the bed and the contraction subsides as the baby slips back.

Now you feel another contraction. It is very hard and builds rapidly. See your vagina unfold to receive the rapidly advancing head, just as the petals on a flower open up. Feel the baby’s head moving through the pelvis and under the pubic bone. Then the contraction begins to fade … and you rest, and your baby rests.

And still another contraction comes, massaging your baby’s skin, preparing him to breathe on his own very soon, very soon. Feel the pressure of your baby’s head on your perineum …. As your perineum stretches more and more, you feel burning and stinging, and you are panting, panting, relaxing your bottom so that your baby can ease his shoulder .. then the bottom shoulder … Hear your baby breathe …. his warm wetness against your skin …. Watch his chest rise and fall as he begins to breathe and his color turns from blue to pink …. He looks intently at your face .. then begins rooting for your breast till he finds it and begins nursing …. Such peace and joy .. Your baby has been born!

And now, as you are enjoying the sensations of touching, seeing, hearing, and smelling your new baby, you are aware of another contraction, a milder contraction as your placenta is delivered … Your uterus continues to contract very firmly to prevent bleeding, just as it should.

Now bring yourself back to the present and know that your baby is growing and getting ready for that day when he will be born … It is still a few weeks off, but getting closer with each passing day.

Continue to breathe deeply and relax, and in a moment, you can open your eyes, feeling renewed and refreshed, knowing that your body will perform just as it should when the baby’s birthday arrives.

Continue to sit or lie quietly for as long as you wish. When you are ready, get up slowly. The positive feelings that you are experiencing can remain with you throughout the day.