meditation

Comfort Measures for Labor – 8 Tips for a More Comfortable Birth

No matter how you choose to birth, it is important to think about how you can reduce discomfort and fear during labor. There are many ways to prepare for birth, including taking a childbirth education class.

Here are some of my top tips as both an Certified Elite Labor Doula and a childbirth instructor:

1) Rest

Rest and relax in the early stages of labor. Birth can sometimes be a marathon and you want to relax and conserve energy in early labor. Make sure you nourish yourself, so you have energy for the pushing stage. Focus on breathing through each contraction and relaxing areas in your body that are tensed up. Your partner or support person can remind you to release tension in areas that are tight.

2) Environment

Your environment can affect your mood. Consider dim lighting and bringing items from home that are comforting. I am a fan of lining tubs and window sills with LED candles. Some of my clients bring their own pillows or sentimental items from home. You could consider wearing your own clothing rather than a hospital gown. There are also cute labor gowns that you can purchase online. Music and guided meditations can be wonderful tools to utilize in labor. They can help keep you relaxed and calm.

3) Movement

Walking and changing positions are great ways to keep labor progressing. It is sometimes called “labor Olympics” by birth workers. Some positions to consider are swaying your hips in figure 8’s on the birthing ball, getting on your hands and knees and leaning into a birthing ball, and slow dancing. We talk about these positions and more in our Comfort Measures for Labor class, which is part of our Saturday Series of classes.

4) Hydration

Hydration is key. Drink water between contractions. I am also a fan of electrolyte drinks to give you a bit more energy. My favorite option is coconut water if you like the taste. Hydration helps prevent exhaustion and reduces the need for IV fluids. You will also want to empty your bladder every hour.

5) Touch

Physical touch can be wonderful during labor. Birth doulas and partners can apply hip squeezes, counter pressure and labor massage to reduce discomfort. Some birthing persons prefer light touch massage. Touch can be very soothing and grounding to many laboring individuals. It can also be used with position changes.

6) Baths and Showers

Water is calming and can reduce the sensation of pain. Showers and baths before the pushing stage are a wonderful way to provide relief in a hospital setting. Some home birthing clients choose to deliver in water.

7) Hire a doula

Your doula can make sure you are comfortable and supported. The doula can also show your partner some of these hands-on support tools. Doulas can be a wonderful addition to your birthing team. They provide coaching, physical support and informational support.

8) Communication

Communicate your needs to your partner and support team. Listen to your body and know that comfort measures may feel good one minute and be uncomfortable the next. That is normal. Talk to your partner and doula if you have one about how you would like to be supported during labor and birth.

***

Now that you have reviewed these tips, what comfort measures would you like to apply to your birth? Are there any suggestions that are not appealing to you?

For more information about The Gold Coast Doulas Comfort Measures for Labor class, see our full schedule here: https://www.goldcoastdoulas.com/events/.

Written by Kristin Revere, Co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas.

 

Technology and mindfulness

Technology and Mindfulness for New Parents

Technology is an amazing tool that we use daily for our work and personal lives, but it can also be the thing that drags us down. We need it, we love it, but we hate it.

It’s time we take a good look at our data usage and figure out what’s draining us. Why not find some parts of technology that are being used for good instead? They do exist. I’m going to give you several options for positive ways to use technology that can actually help you improve your mental health, whether you’re pregnant or not.

Mind the Bump

This is a free app that helps individuals and couples support their mental and emotional wellbeing while preparing for having a baby or becoming a new parent. It teaches brain education (the importance of mindfulness and meditation), the difference between mindfulness and mindlessness, and gives an overview of a child’s brain development.

Expectful

This is a guided meditation app for your fertility, pregnancy, and motherhood journey. Their team of licensed hypnotherapists, meditation experts, a psychologist, and a sound engineer have created 10-20 minute meditations customized just for you. This app offers a free trial then requires a paid monthly subscription.

Insight Timer

This free app claims to have the largest library of guided meditations in the world. Although it’s not specifically made for pregnancy, it seems to be a great app for meditations and sleep, and it is offered in 30 different languages.

Babies Help Mommies

This free app was created by a cardiologist. After having three children she couldn’t find an app for new moms that focused on health and wellness. This app is meant to improve overall health by focusing on fitness, activities that decrease heart disease, ways to be active with your baby and how to create new memories. It provides motivational feedback and highlights positive choices you can make throughout the day.

Enjo – Wellness for Parents

This app was created to offer new parents a positive way to interact with technology. The goal is to take a few minutes out of your day to reflect on something positive or that you are grateful for. The app leads parents through a positive and affirming conversation, but it will also notice when they are down and offer some reflections to support during struggles. Comments are not monitored by an actual person, so if someone is struggling with severe depression or anxiety this app is not meant to be a replacement for therapy or treatment for mental illness. It’s unclear if this app is free or paid.

Shine

This is a free self-care app that they call “a daily pep talk in your pocket”. You will set a self-care goal and get personalized audio challenges and self-improvement audio tracks to help you grow. You will receive texts with researched- backed affirmations to feel more confident.

Head Space

This app has hundreds of themed meditations on everything from stress and sleep to focus and anxiety. They are “bite-sized” to easily fit into your busy schedule. They also offer what they call “SOS Exercises” for sudden meltdowns. This app offers a free trial and then requires a paid subscription.

Using apps like these can be a great start to boosting your mood, lowering anxiety, or helping you sleep. Please do not substitute professional support for a phone app. If you are struggling with a mental health disorder, please seek the help of a professional therapist. We are able to give some trusted recommendations if needed. If you are struggling as a new parent and need in-home support, contact us about postpartum doula support. If you aren’t sleeping, contact us about our sleep consultations. We offer a discounted rate for postpartum support to anyone seeking treatment for a perinatal mood disorder.

Alyssa is Co-Owner of Gold Coast Doulas. As a Certified Postpartum Doula, Newborn Care Specialist, and Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant, she is passionate about the mental health of families during the fragile postpartum period. She is a member of the Healthy Kent Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders Coalition and was recently honored as Health Care Professional of the year by MomsBloom.

 

stress

Dealing with Stress

Today’s blog comes from one of our previous postpartum doulas, Alex. Her nurturing soul shines in this post, giving us her favorite tips for stress management and self-care. Take the time today, and every day, to nurture yourself.

It’s no secret that stress is, inevitably, a part of life, and to some degree is healthy for the human body. But too much stress and/or on-going stress can have negative effects on your long-term health. Most people deal with it in some capacity throughout their lives, and becoming a parent can most definitely add more stress to your life. Stress can, but does not always, affect your immune system, sleeping and eating habits, digestion, mental well-being, and among other things it ages you, fast!

Sometimes stress is unavoidable. We live in a fast-paced society and there’s a lot of pressure for most people, especially parents. Luckily there are some proven things to help our bodies and minds against the negative effects of ongoing or heavy stress in life.

Meditation has been practiced for a long time around the world, and we now know that meditation has been shown to help alleviate some of the physical and mental effects of stress. It’s about clearing your mind and focusing on your breathing for an extended period of time, but even a short session of meditation has its benefits. It can help to give you a sense of calm and peace amidst the chaos. It helps you connect your mind and body by focusing on your breathing. If you can find the time, take even just five minutes to find a quiet place, close your eyes and breath in and out deeply, consciously relaxing all parts of your body during this. Many people tend to hold tension in parts of their body (tight shoulders, clenched jaw, etc) so this helps to let go. If your mind is racing, pick one thing and focus on it. I usually imagine a beautiful flower, flowing water, or roots coming from my feet going deep into the earth to help ground me. Even just focusing on the in and out of your breathing can clear your mind. Your circumstances may still be stressful, but you are likely to feel calmer, more grounded, and peaceful at the end of your meditation.

If you need some help, there are many guided meditations you can find on CD, YouTube, and there are even apps for your phone. Another practice that goes hand in hand with meditation is mindfulness. As parents, it’s a great skill to have and model to our children. What is mindfulness? Well, it’s just that. It’s actually stopping to be mindful of our surroundings and situations that arise instead of just reacting. Reaction if often out of emotion and when we are stressed it can be a negative reaction. When we train ourselves to stop and choose mindfulness in stressful situations it often times gives a different perspective.

Exercise is something that helps a lot with stress as well, if you are able. Exercise is great because it gives you a serotonin boost. If you are crunched for time, even a quick 10 minute jog outside can help alleviate stress. Riding your bike is wonderful too, and you get to be outdoors in good weather, which is also shown to help with stress. Gentler exercise like stretching, yoga, and pilates can relieve the body of tension and physical stress. A passive form of exercise I personally love for stress is massage! It’s great for the body and mind. If it’s too pricey for you, have a friend or your partner give you a 20 minute neck and shoulder rub at the end of the day. Foot rubs with some nice smelling oil are my favorite; I especially love lavender and it’s safe for pregnant and nursing mothers.

Nature has gifted us with several herbal allies to help our body and mind deal with stress. Teas are amazing. One of my favorite blends is chamomile, catnip, lemon balm, and lavender tea. Loose leaf herbs are available in many stores and online. I make a mixture of equal parts the first three and less lavender and add ¼ cup to a quart sized jar and steep it for an hour or so to make an infusion. It’s a nice, calming blend that the whole family can enjoy safely, especially for teething. I sweeten with honey for the kiddos (but no babies under 1 year!). Tinctures are plants steeped in alcohol or vegetable glycerin that get all the goodness out of a particular plant or a blend of plants. Passionflower is one I used during the end of my third pregnancy to help with irritability and anxiety. I got a lot of relief from this. There are also adaptogenic herbs, which help with your adrenal health, in turn helping many systems of the body adapt to stress. However, not all are safe during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, so use caution and always consult your care provider. One I use safely during nursing, but not pregnancy, is Rhodiola. It has been used for many years in Russian and Asia and is gaining popularity in the US. It gives steady energy, mental clarity, stamina, and enhances your mood on top of helping your body physically deal with stress in many ways. Essential oils are hugely popular but you need to use the utmost safety and caution when using them (I would say never ingest essential oils, and do not use on kids under two). Lavender is one of my favorites along with Ylang Ylang. Both smell lovely and are so relaxing. I put them in a diffuser or put a few drops in a relaxing bath with some bath salts for a nice soak.

Sleep is so important. Sleep deprivation only adds stress in your life, causing your body to become stressed more quickly. Being a parent can make sleep difficult. Between waking babies and older kids, most parents find sleep hard to come by. Having a solid bedtime routine is important; it creates a good rhythm with kids. And parents, if you can nap at all during the day, do it. I know it’s a stretch, especially with a job outside of the home, but even a 10-20 minute power nap is proven to do wonders for your stress and energy levels.

All of these methods of self-care can help you during stressful times. I realize stress can be unavoidable, but self-care is important and using some of the tips I’ve given (or all of them) can help you to take care of yourself so you can better care for your family. I hope this helps you find some peace.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and this is not medical advice. If you are suffering from stress or finding it hard to function, you may need to talk to your primary care provider. This is a blog post from my own extensive research and experience throughout several years of handling stress in a healthy way.