I will set a scene for you…. A walk across the countryside holding hands admiring the wonderful views, followed by your favourite curry, maybe some candle light, your favourite songs playing in the background. You may then watch a funny film followed by a massage with some essential oils and then an ‘early night’ hem hem. Lots of you may see the scene as a relaxing and chilled date night, where as mothers approaching their due dates will be sure to recognise these umm.. activities as ways to induce birth. All fun ways to try when you are term to encourage those first contractions. But have you ever considered using some of these date night activities for coping strategies in labour too? Now I am certainly not recommending a spicy curry as a way to deal with tightenings, as that will surely not end well. But how about using this Valentines Day evening as a mock up for what you’ll use for coping strategies for early labour? If there is any a time where we deserve that date night it would be in early labour…
Let me break it down so this strategy makes total sense…
The hormone oxytocin is produced from anything that makes us feel loved, happy and relaxed. Which would be everything included in a date night at home. Just as a reminder, oxytocin is the hormone that will encourage our uterus to tighten in labour. It also encourages our bodies to release endorphins, which is our own naturual morphine. So anything that means we will have more oxytocin in our body is a good thing, right? A Valentines Day night in with the other half is the perfect way to do this.
I’m not the biggest fan of Valentines Day. However, I do think it gives us a reminder to take some time together as a couple. In our busy lives we forget how to do this. We forget how to relax with each other, yet when we start labour we want our minds to relax to allow our bodies to get on with what it knows.
So let’s look at what you have planned for Valentines Day tonight and how you can also use the same for your coping strategies for labour.
When you plan your date night appeal to all of your sense:
Smell – Smelly candles are often a must when creating a date night. In labour you can light a nice pregnancy candle, or use a pillow spray or your favourite (pregnancy safe) essential oils. You won’t be able to take a candle (other than LED ones) into hospital but a pregnancy candle will be a great help to your birth environment at home. In hospital there are essential oils for your use.
Sight- Look at your environment. Turn the lights to dim. Dim lighting always makes us feel more romantic, whilst in labour dim lights encourage melatonin which again acts up on our uterine muscles to cause tightenings. When you go into your hospital setting take some home, familiar comforts with you. Your own pillow or a nice photo/picture, a scan photo or a birth vision board.
Feel- Massage and touch are great ways that directly encourage oxytocin. I am sure you will agree that this is ESSENTIAL to practice this with your partner in pregnancy.. maybe once a week, actually twice a week…. Every day…?
Sound- ‘If music be the sound of love, play on’ Music is incredibly powerful for our emotions. Who else plays Beyonce loud in their headphones when you want to feel like a strong, powerful woman… guilty! Likewise who puts on Ray LaMontague when you’re feeling romantic. Yes my music choices may not be on point but you get the idea. It’s amazing how many people discover their birth soundtrack months after birth and are left in floods of emotional, happy tears whilst sitting on the kitchen floor. Build yourself a soundtrack, there are docking stations at the hospital or if in doubt get your own mini stereo or some headphones ready to go when the time comes.
Lastly taste… Food again can hold us so emotionally. I bet all of you who are planning something romantic for Valentines have involved food. A romantic meal, a special brownie, a glass of bubbles. Who reaches for the biggest bar of Galaxy when needing a little pick me up? I’m not saying during childbirth you will be able to scoff your favourite takeaway and the largest bar of chocolate but having some of your favourite snacks with you will help keep your energy levels up. Your uterus is a muscle and needs energy to contract. Most importantly keep hydrated.
All these scene setters I have listed you’ve probably done without much thought. We seem to know how to make a room look romantic for a date. We know that this will make us feel more in love and more relaxed. Yet this simple thing is often over looked in labour. Your body already associates all these Valentines (or date night) smells, sights, tastes and sounds with those feelings of calm and relaxed. Therefore just playing that soundtrack or smelling that smell in labour will be enough for your body to start to release the oxytocin and give you effective tightenings and lots of endorphins. Use this to your advantage!
And if you want to really nail down that relaxation, then book in some more date nights with your partner during pregnancy. Practice is the key to perfecting this strategy for coping with early labour. Yes that’s right? Tell your partner that weekly date nights have been prescribed to you… Midwifes orders. The more you put into this the more you get out so try and get in as much as possible.
So for all those who are partial to a ‘to-do’ list here is a short one I have put together for you…
- Get together with your partner and schedule in some regular night-in date nights.
- Find your favourite smell/ essential oil/ pregnancy candle.
- Find a good picture/photo. Holiday picture, happy place, family, scan photo, birth mood board.
- Create a soundtrack.
- Get some massage oil (again a nice smelling one.)
- Compile a list of your favourite snacks for the hospital bag
- Keep the format the same and appeal to all (or as many) of your senses.
- Schedule in some more regular relaxing time on your own. Using a similar routine (ie. Bath, dim lighting, smell, music, hypnobirthing cd)
- Most importantly… Enjoy it!
Want to know what you can do to stack the odds in your favour for the birth that you want? Access videos, checklists, audios & a support group all created by a midwife to get you feeling excited, prepared and confident for birth. Click the link for more information about The Bump to Baby Chapter’s Hypnobirthing and Antenatal Online Course.