An untrained mother would find it very hard, if not impossible, to suddenly relax during labour. Well-meaning midwives often say, “try and relax”. The mother bravely “tries” by making her body appear still and quiet, but that is very different from genuinely letting go of all the tension in her body.
Relaxation sounds easy, but in fact, it is something that needs practice in order to achieve the kind of deep relaxation needed for birth. Relaxation is your foundation. Everything else depends on it. And everything builds on it. If you are tense during a contraction, the uterus has to work twice as hard to do the same amount of work, as the other muscles are straining against the uterus, making it more painful.
Learning how to relax at will is a skill.
The purpose is to ensure that your body stays totally limp, allowing your birthing muscles to work unimpeded by other bodily tensions. This may sound easy, but, though it is simple, it is not easy, and initially, it may take all your concentration to keep your whole body limp and free of tension. Your ability to relax during contractions will directly correlate to your degree of comfort.
To become skillful at relaxing, you have to become skillful at noticing tension and then releasing it. Once you recognise it, you can release it. It is not like going to sleep, where you just wait for your body to relax – this is something that you do with intention.
Tips for your daily routine
In your daily routine, regularly check to see if there is any tension in your body – drop your shoulders, relax your hands, relax your back. You will be amazed at how often we hold tension in our bodies. If you feel any tension rising in your body, take a deep breath, a long exhale, and actively relax that part of your body. By doing this several times a day, you will soon recognise when your body feels tense and when it is relaxed.