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"When it comes to labor and delivery, relaxation is not a passive activity," says Ellen Taylor, R.N., a childbirth educator and doula in Philadelphia. She recommends practicing the following techniques several times a day during the four to six weeks leading up to your due date. "That way, you'll have trained yourself to relax on demand," she explains.
1. Slow chest breathing
This helps you focus and
distracts you from the pain
of contractions. Take a deep, cleansing breath, inhaling through your nose and
exhaling through your
mouth. Now breathe in for
4 counts; pause, then exhale for 4 counts. Repeat for the
duration of the contraction.
Repeating positive statements to yourself, either out loud or in your mind, helps promote relaxation and a sense of tranquility. Statements such as "I'm doing a great job"; "My body was made to deliver this baby"; or "I feel the love of people around me" will help you stay focused and calm.
This is another pain-distraction device. Think of a place that makes you feel calm and safe: the beach, a riverbank or a rocking chair in your baby's nursery. Whatever you choose, breathe deeply and feel the scene. Fill in the details: What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear?
4. Controlled relaxation
Squeeze your eyes tightly shut, then release and notice the difference in your eye muscles. Clench your jaw, release and notice the difference. Continue the process, moving down your body to your toes. "If you can be a limp noodle during labor, you can get through it without drugs," Taylor maintains.