The ABCs of Labor Support

I’ve been running a series over on Instagram of 26 things to do in labor, one for each letter of the alphabet. Since I’m halfway through, I thought I’d recap and expand on the ones we’ve done so far.

A is for Affirmations

Affirmations are positive reinforcement. They can boost confidence, help you focus on what your body is doing with the sensations of labor, and sometimes even help with rhythm and ritual. You may want to print them and hang them up in your birth space. (Hint: If you sign up for my free pregnancy class, or take my complete childbirth class, you’ll get some printable affirmations coloring cards!)

B is for Breathing

There’s no one magical way to breathe that takes all the sensations of labor away. But breath can be helpful in many ways, too! Breath can work as relaxation, rhythm or distraction. Most breathing techniques for labor fall into two categories: paced breathing, where you keep your breathing even, and patterned, where you breathe with a regular rhythm and consistent pattern.

C is for Change of Scenery

Labor can be long. Sometimes it’s refreshing to get out of the room or building where you’ve been for a long time. Taking a walk down the hall in the labor ward or going outside for a stroll can do a lot for your mental well being during labor.

D is for Double Hip Squeeze

The double hip squeeze is a favorite with the birthing people I’ve worked with. Putting firm pressure on either side of the pelvis, pushing towards the middle, can feel really good and relieve some of the intensity of the labor sensations.

E if for Effleurage

Effleurage is *very* light touch massage. In my experience, people either LOOOOVE it or can’t stand it. There’s not much in between. Many pregnant people do it instinctively on their own bellies, and like that, but may or may not like it when others do it for them. You can do effleurage on the belly, face, or anywhere else on the body.

F is for Focal Point

A focal point is something to focus on. Most of the time people think of it as something to look at, and that is a common way to use it. Many people bring an ultrasound photo of their baby, some vacation photos, or other favorite things to look at. But a focal point can also be something to touch or hold, like a favorite pillow or a comfort object like a teddy bear or childhood blanket. Even sound, smells or tastes can be focal points!

G is for Groaning

Groaning is one way to use sound (and I needed something for G!) but it’s common for laboring people to use groans, moans, humming or singing noises to work through labor. It can be hard for support people to understand, and they can assume that sound = distress, but often the opposite is true. I know in my third birth, I *loved* standing in the shower, moaning so that the vibrations could be felt in my chest and reverberated throughout the shower. One of the most helpful things someone did for me then was moan with me!

H is for Heat

Muscle tension increases pain sensation, and heat – or even just warmth – is a great way to loosen up tight muscles. At home you can use a heating pad or microwaved rice pack. In the hospital those are probably not available options, but I’ve found that if you bring freezer zipper bags, you can soak hospital towels in hot water (the shower or tub might be hotter than the sink!) and double bag them for a decent warm pack.

I is for Ice

Just like heat, sometimes cold can help relieve trouble spots. I love those freezer zipper bags, and will often fill them with ice, double bagging them, and wrapping the ice pack in a towel. Alternately, I fill a large cylindrical water bottle with ice and water, and roll it over trouble spots. Some people do best when you alternate between warm and cold!

J is for Juice

Because appetites can decrease during labor (and sometimes hospitals withhold food from laboring people) it can be hard to keep blood sugars and energy high during labor. Juice can be a good way to do this, as the calories are easily available and can boost energy quickly. Unless you’re super high risk, most hospitals are fine with clear fluids and some will even provide juices for laboring people.

K is for Knee Press

Pushing on the knees, underneath the kneecaps, along the thigh bone toward the pelvis can relieve some of the intense labor sensation and feel really good. The effect can be stronger when there’s also counter pressure on the low back pushing back towards the knees.

L is for Lunges

Leaning to the side putting more weight on one leg, or putting a leg up on a stool or step can feel really good in labor, and create room on one side of the pelvis for a baby that is rotating or descending towards birth.

M is for Massage

While actual bodywork is often too much sensation on top of the sensations of labor, many people love touch in labor. Touch can be gentle or firm, and using rhythm to sync with breath or music can create a nice synergy with those techniques as well.

Want to get in on the second half of the alphabet? Follow Pampered Birth on Instagram! And if you would like to learn about all these topics in more depth, check out my Online Blended Childbirth Classes