By Yvette Julian-Arndt
We know that a big part of the birth partner’s role involves massage. Given that labour can be long, using massage tools can help save their hands and give you a variety of sensations to manage different types of pain. There is a range of wooden rollers on the market, but a great hack is to cut about 30cm from a pool noodle.
Using the senses in labour is great for distraction, calming and to relieve pain. Essential oils can be used in an electric burner or diffuser, on a tissue for inhalation, in the bath or mixed with a carrier oil for massage. Lemon is a great energiser; lavender promotes relaxation and Clary Sage can encourage contractions. Essentials oils are also a great way to personalise the birthing space or hospital room when used in a spray bottle. Be sure to use quality oils from a supplier you trust.
Heat is a simple and effective pain relief option and works on our sensory receptors to reduce the perception of pain. Options include wheat bags, rice socks, gel packs or hot water bottles. Be sure to check with your hospital to see what kind they allow or provide.
Affirmations are a great tool to reduce fear and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. We have been programmed by society to think childbirth is something to be feared. We can change this belief and re-condition the mind to know that birth is a safe, positive experience and have you saying, “I CAN DO THIS”. You can place cards around the birth space and read the words for inspiration and distraction during the tough parts of labour. Audio tracks are also available so you can listen to affirmations to help you feel uplifted and empowered. Birth partners can also get ideas from the statements to encourage and support you.
Battery Operated Candles:
The environment we labour in can have a big impact on how labour progresses. Bright lights trigger the neocortex which can inhibit the release of oxytocin, the most crucial hormone for a smooth and effective labour. Oxytocin also synergises with melatonin a hormone that regulates our sleep cycle. So, creating a dimly lit room can help make contractions stronger and more effective. Due to fire risk real candles are not allowed in hospitals so by using battery operated candles you can create the same warm, calm and private birth space.
Some women experience nausea and vomiting in labour especially during the most intense part called transition. Though this is often a good sign that birth is close, relieving the symptoms can help you push through. Anti-nausea bands which are often used for motion sickness and work on an acupressure point on the wrist, can be found in most chemists.
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and is a drug free form of pain relief. A labour TENS machine consists of a battery-powered unit connected by leads to four pads that stick to your back. The electrical pulses interfere with pain signals reaching your brain and stimulate your body to release your own natural pain-relieving hormones called endorphins. It can also help you to feel in control of your labour and offers a distraction from your contractions. TENS machines can be purchased or hired.
Just like a marathon, birth can be like an endurance event. Think of a marathon runner who needs to take in gels, sugars and protein to feed the muscles. As the uterus is a muscular organ it also needs fuel for optimum function. Made up of a combination of protein, good carbs, healthy fats and high fibre they are designed to boost energy. They are perfect when you don’t feel like eating as you can take small bites over a period of time. You can find them in most supermarkets or health stores.
It is important to stay hydrated during labour so get yourself a good water bottle with an inbuilt straw. This way your partner can hold it up to your mouth to take small sips regularly in whatever position you are labouring in.
Flower essences work through the human energy fields, which in turn influence mental, emotional and physical well-being. The Australian Bush Flowers Emergency Essence helps with panic, distress and fear and can have a calming effect on a labouring woman. It can be found in participating chemists and most health stores.
During contractions have a scan image of your baby in a frame propped up near you to focus on, reminding you what all the hard work is for and that you will meet your little miracle soon! You can also use one of your baby’s soft toys or first outfits.
Music is a great tool to divert the mind from discomfort and fatigue. Certain songs can invoke good memories and promote positive feelings. Picking the right music can allow you to find your optimal mindset and inspire you to keep going. When making up a playlist you will need to include a variety of relaxation, energising, motivational and sensual or love songs to keep the oxytocin flowing! Listen through headphones when you feel the need for privacy or internal focus and play out loud when you and your birth partner are working together, so they feel the positive effects too.
Yvette Julian-Arndt is a mum to two gorgeous boys and with her husband loves living on the Mornington Peninsula. As the owner of Project Birth, she is passionate about educating and inspiring couples for this life changing event and runs The Positive Birth Course in Frankston.