Mastering relaxation

It's a fact: If you're frightened and anxious during labor, you'll have a harder time. Stress sets in motion a whole range of reactions in your body that can ultimately interfere with labor. Childbirth educators call it the fear-tension-pain cycle.

Relaxation is the release of tension from your mind and body through conscious effort. It's a learned skill and one you have to practice regularly in order for it to be effective.

Several different relaxation techniques are helpful during labor. Progressive muscle relaxation, touch relaxation, massage and guided imagery are just some of the options. You've probably learned about these techniques in your childbirth course, but here's a quick refresher:

• Progressive muscle relaxation. Beginning with your head or feet, relax one muscle group at a time, moving toward the other end of your body.

• Touch relaxation. Starting at your temples, your partner applies firm but gentle pressure for several seconds, then moves to the base of your skull, shoulders, back, arms, hands, legs and feet. As your partner touches each part of your body, relax the muscle group in that area.

• Massage. Your partner massages your back and shoulders, making sweeping motions down your arms and legs and small circular motions on your brow and temples. These movements will help relax your muscles and cause your brain to release endorphins, which will enhance your sense of well-being. Experiment with different techniques until you find what feels best to you.

• Guided imagery. Imagine yourself in an environment that gives you a feeling of relaxation and well-being — that special, peaceful place you go to in your imagination. Concentrate on the details, such as the smells, colors or sensations on your skin. To enhance the imagery, play a nature tape or soft music.

Meditation. Focus on a single point — an object in the room, a mental image or a word you repeat to yourself. When you feel yourself getting distracted, concentrate again on your focal point.

Breathing techniques. Inhale through your nose, imagining cool, pure air rushing into your lungs. Exhale slowly through your mouth, imagining yourself blowing all your tension away. Practice breathing both more slowly and more quickly than normal. You can use both techniques, and others, during labor.

Practice these techniques often this month. The more you practice them ahead of time, the better they'll work when you really need them. When you practice, make sure the environment is peaceful and that you're comfortable. Use pillows if you want, or turn on some soft music.

Relaxation Audio Sounds Babbling Brook

Relaxation Audio Sounds Babbling Brook

This is an audio all about guiding you to relaxation. This is a Relaxation Audio Sounds with sounds from the Babbling Brooks.

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