Need advice...How do you not tense up?

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-2005
Need advice...How do you not tense up?
Mon, 05-14-2007 - 10:33am

I just found this board and thought it would be a good place to ask for some adivce.
I'm 36 weeks pregnant due June 12, and I'm really hoping for a totally unmedicated birth this time around.
With my first, I was in labor about 6 hours, pushed about ten minutes, but the pain was so intense that I ended up hyperventilating through every contraction and they gave me 2-3 shots of some sort of IV drug. It didn't help with the pain at all, it just made me pass out and feel loopy.
With my second, I was in labor for about three hours before I just went for the epidural. It worked perfectly, but I wish I wouldn't have gotten it because it'll be so much harder this time knowing that's out there.

My problem is that there is only about 1-2 hour worth of "managable" contractions. After that they come fast and furious for five hours with only a few minutes in between for that whole time.

And while I know it's the worst possible thing to do-I tense up my whole body--every single muscle during the pain. I even noticed myself doing it when I have to have blood drawn or an internal. I just tense up. I'm not sure how to not do it, especially during a contraction. What's worse, is the tensing up usually leads to me hyperventilating or going numb.

Dh and I went through the hospital birthing class, and I've read countless books about how to help manage the pain of labor, but nothing seems to help or stick when the labor actually starts. It just hurts too much!

Does anyone have any advice or stories for how they managed the pain that could help me?

(sorry if this is a redundant question that is asked a lot here)


Lilypie Baby Ticker


iVillage Member
Registered: 07-21-1998
Mon, 05-14-2007 - 4:15pm

MIL's unpatented 30-second childbirth course, aka "the old Indian trick, really learned from an old Indian woman" To avoid tensing up, wiggle your toes, look at the palms of your hands & whistle.

Now if you've got more than 30 seconds, you can learn better stuff, but even that is enough to make a difference.

Cthulu Crochet

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-23-2004
Mon, 05-14-2007 - 5:33pm
That works! I used that advice with Calum - when I was in transition and a contraction would start, I'd forget everything and tense up...but then I would remember that bit of advice and start looking at my palms...they became like a focal point. Once I started doing this, the pain considerably decreased and the next thing I knew the contraction was over. I didn't wiggle my toes b/c I was standing, but staring at my palms and whistling (which was actually just very enthusiastic exhaling or blowing raspberries, LOL) definitely did the trick.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-02-2003
Mon, 05-14-2007 - 6:50pm
I haven't heard that one but it is very cute!

May2008siggy.jpg picture by chelbird


iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-2005
Tue, 05-15-2007 - 8:05am

Thanks everyone!

I'll have to try staring at my palms, whistling, and wiggling my toes. Or at least staring at my palms. I'm sure in the past I've clenched my fists along with everything else.

Hopefully it helps!

Thanks again.

Lilypie Baby Ticker
iVillage Member
Registered: 01-24-2007
Tue, 05-15-2007 - 4:37pm
With my first, a very nice nurse told me to relax my muscles and to push my butt into the mattress everytime I had a contraction instead of tensing up against it. It helped move things along, too. I didn't have any drugs. I did the relaxation breathing and that did help too. Good luck!
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-02-2006
Tue, 05-15-2007 - 4:44pm

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, I think, is the source for this. Keep your jaw slack and moo or make another deep, low noise. I plan to try it.




iVillage Member
Registered: 10-17-2004
Tue, 05-15-2007 - 5:13pm

This is where hypnosis really helps... it helps you get into a really relaxed state.

Sheridan, Mom to Devon 9, born at 34 weeks by emergency c-section after 9 weeks of bedrest, Carson 6, VBAC at 42 weeks using HypnoBirthing and Bryson

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-05-2007
Tue, 05-15-2007 - 5:24pm


I haven't done it yet (given birth, that is) but my due date is on 6/4 so I am close like you! :)

I was going to recommend self-hypnosis, but Sheridan beat me to it! I was quite a high anxiety child... who knows why, but I was afraid of EVERYTHING and my poor little body always hurt because I carried all this fear and anxiety around in my body by constantly tensing my muscles.

My parents exposed me to a lot of different relaxation techniques, but one that I find particularly helpful is guided relaxation tapes/cds. An example would be a tape that instructs you to visualize a warm, glowing light traveling through your body prompting relaxation wherever it goes. If you give yourself over to the visualization and the tape it can be really effective. I am not necessarily suggesting this as a tool to use in labor, but I do think that practice (practice, practice, practice) can be one of your greatest allies!

Hypnobabies does have tapes that you do listen to while in labor (I think) so... I would seriously look into that if I were you.

Also, like someone else mentioned, from Ina May's Guide... I found the visualizations (women imagining their contractions like waves of the ocean) to be particularly appealing and will try that. Also flapping your lips... the mouth and jaw is supposed to be directly connected to the rest of your body, so if you keep that loose and open, everything else will be too. and finally... if you have a willing partner, I also read about having someone grab your thighs and vigorously shake them... that would be really hard to tense up through and feels really good!

Take care!
Angus is due 6/4/07!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Wed, 05-16-2007 - 6:03am

"Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, I think, is the source for this. Keep your jaw slack and moo or make another deep, low noise. I plan to try it."

Interesting. With my second birth I found the pain was a lot less when I made a really loud, deep roaring noise. It was a very primal, very strong sound and the louder I was the less it hurt.


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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-2005
Wed, 05-16-2007 - 9:34am

I'm not sure I would have enough time to do hypnobabies or self-hypnosis type things. I've never really been good at that type of thing anyway, but I don't think I could pull it off in 2-4 weeks. The only thing close I could think of is that showers really relax me, so maybe if I tried to sit in the shower this time it would help. I tried the jacuzzi tub last time (more like a big bath tub) and I HATED it. Mostly I think because I normally hate taking baths, and it was just like sitting in a tepid bath.

SO with the mooing, is that through every contraction? Or just transistion? I know everyone kept telling me to breathe through the contractions so I wouldn't hold my breath, but then I ended up hyperventilating.

I know with my first I screamed a lot during transition and pushing. I was the only woman in L&D who didn't get an epidural (and it was a busy night too) and I probably scared all the other women and nurses. I apologized later for screaming so much. I'm not sure it was very helpful screaming though.

Well, I've got a few ideas: wiggle toes, stare at palms, whistle, moo, hypnotize self. Lol.

I really hope I make it! While the epidural with my second made everything so easy and carefree (no problems whatsoever), on the flip side birth sure didn't feel like much of an accomplishment when I was done.

Edited 5/16/2007 9:36 am ET by rubia.rose
Lilypie Baby Ticker