Bath and Showers
Laboring women often find a warm bath to be very relaxing. The buoyancy of the water helps relieve some of the pain of the contractions, and the warmth relieves tension. The relaxation and warmth may also help labor to progress. In the shower, you can sit in a chair and use a handheld showerhead to direct the water onto your abdomen or back. The showerhead stimulates the skin, resulting in less awareness of pain. Encourage your birth partner to bring a bathing suit and join you in the shower.
The goal of relaxation is to learn to detect tension and then be able to release it, which reduces the sensation of pain. Your Lamaze instructor will probably teach several types of relaxation. Some styles will appeal to you more than others. Be aware of your preferences, but try to keep an open mind ‑- sometimes the techniques that work best in labor are not the ones you might expect. Learning relaxation techniques, such as progressive relaxation and neuromuscular dissociation, before you go into labor will give you more resources to call on.
Progressive relaxation simply means focusing on specific muscle groups or areas of your body one at a time in order to learn to differentiate between relaxation and tension. Begin by getting into a well-supported position and then tensing each large muscle group in your body, noticing how it feels when it's tense. Now release that tension as you breathe out, noticing how the muscle group feels when it's relaxed. By the time you have completed the sequence you'll find that your whole body is relaxed.
When you have become adept at progressive relaxation you can work on a neuromuscular dissociation exercise. The goal is to tense one part of the body while maintaining relaxation everywhere else. Start with one limb and then add one whole side or opposite sides as you become proficient. This is a "transfer skill" ‑- you won't be doing this exercise in labor, but instead will be using information that you have learned about yourself and your body and applying it in the labor situation. In labor, the tensed part is the uterus. Remaining relaxed in labor when the uterus is contracting becomes more difficult as the contractions increase in strength, but by working on this skill you may be able to remain fairly relaxed during the contraction and then be able to totally relax once it's over.