Woman practicing relaxation before labor in hammock

Practicing Relaxation Before Labor

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When planning your natural birth, have you considered practicing relaxation before labor? This type of practicing beforehand can be so helpful when you’re right in the midst of giving birth. Here’s how practicing relaxation ahead of time helped me, and how you can benefit from this easy-to-implement practice as well. 

Woman practicing relaxation before labor in hammock

Learning About A Daily Relaxation Practice During Childbirth Classes

When I was pregnant with my first baby, I took a birthing class from a Bradley instructor in training. We were planning a move before the end of the pregnancy and didn’t have the time to go through all 12 weeks of the program, so she was kind enough to do an individualized, compressed version of the class with us.

I don’t know if you know much about Bradley classes, but they are very thorough. The fact that it is a 12 week class is your first clue!

One of the main things that they teach is to start practicing relaxation at home from the time of the first class.

“Oh, cool. Good idea,” you’re probably thinking.

And you’re right. But here’s the thing.

It takes a lot of determination to actually practice relaxing. I mean, you don’t really feel like you’re doing anything.

If you’ve ever tried to meditate, you know what I’m talking about.

Even though sitting and doing nothing sounds easy, it’s pretty hard.

Ditto for laying down and actively working to relax.

It’s a lot easier said than done.

Add to that, I’m not exactly the commit and be consistent type. My personality tends to go gung-ho into something. For a while. Then I just sort of peter out.

Or I’ll think something is a good idea, wholeheartedly commit, and then forget about it the next day.

Yeah, not the most reliable person. And I don’t even remember now if I practiced every single day, but I did practice a lot of days.

I went through the different exercises they assigned pretty dutifully. I tensed and relaxed from my feet up to my head. I imagined colors. I pictured myself next to a waterfall or in a field of flowers.

It all sounds a little cheesy, eh?

But when I finally went into labor, all that practice had led up to me actually being able to relax on command.

And that was what I needed.

How Practicing Relaxation Before Labor Really Helped

I started labor on a Friday evening. It was hard. And then it stopped. And then it started again. By Saturday afternoon, my entire birth team of my midwife, doula, and husband had been up all night and baby was nowhere in sight.

They all needed to rest, so everyone laid down to nap. And I tried to as well, but my body had a little bit of a different idea. I was able to fall asleep, but in 3 or 4 or 5 minutes I’d get that familiar twinge in my front and know that a big contraction was coming. And there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Up until this point, I had been laboring very actively with my birth team and able to move around and vocalize a lot. That was how I was getting through every contraction.

But now everyone was asleep. And I wanted them to sleep. They needed the sleep.

I knew I had to nap AND labor in such a way that everyone else in the house was able to get the rest they deserved.

So I reached into my metaphorical Bradley birth bag and pulled out my Bradley relaxation techniques that I’d developed into on-command skills.


I was in complete awe. I couldn’t believe it.

I would sleep, then feel that familiar twinge coming.

I’d start to imagine I was next to that waterfall, cool mist on my face. Slowly, I’d rock my belly back and forth. Sometimes I groaned a little bit.

And then that contraction was gone.

I had mastered that physical sensation and literally turned it from pain to just an interesting feeling with my mind.

Pretty badass, huh?!

And this is not a specialty skill that only a select few yoda mind masters can do. Anyone can do it.

It just takes practice.

And it goes a looooooong way toward having a birth that you can handle.

You may also like How to Have Your Best Birth OR How to Give Birth Naturally

How To Start Your Own Relaxation Practice During Pregnancy

Hopefully now you’re wanting to start your own practice of daily relaxation techniques.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Make a practice of finding a little space in your day where you lay down in the most comfortable position possible (preferably on your left side with a pillow underneath your belly supporting your abdomen and a pillow between your knees)
  • Start with just 5 minutes of relaxation practice a day. Just practice measured breathing- 4  counts of deep breath in followed by 6 counts of lightly exhaling by blowing through pursed lips
  • After this has become second nature, follow this up with 3-5 minutes of picturing yourself in the most peaceful place you can imagine. It can be a real place or an imaginary paradise. Start focusing on the sounds you hear there, and the feelings on your skin, and what you see as you look around (with your eyes shut!).
  • Every day, practice your measured breathing followed by your “happy place”.
  • Next, you can do some basic progressive relaxation. This is where you start at your toes and tense them for a few seconds, followed by a few seconds of purposeful complete relaxation of your toes. Then move up your legs. Isolate each muscle group with a tensing followed by a complete letting go. Continue up to your abs, shoulders, arms, neck, and even face. By the time you are done, you should have focused on completely relaxing each muscle in your body. Now just lay in complete rest for a few minutes, noticing your breath.
  • If you continue to do these types of exercises on a daily (or almost daily) basis, you will soon be an expert on relaxation, able to undergo many a stressful situation with ease and grace. You will start to breathe deeply, and feel yourself begin to slip into a calm and relaxed state. What a great skill for humans, and especially parents!

Benefits of Practicing Relaxation Before Labor

When you practice relaxation before labor, you are more ready to:

  1. Face whatever happens during your baby’s birth with an amazing sense of calm and ease
  2. Lower your blood pressure on command (especially at your visits if you have white coat syndrome)
  3. Allow the power of birth to bring your baby earthside without fighting the process
  4. Enjoy birth more by removing some of the stress and tenseness you might otherwise feel
  5. Drift off more easily to Laborland, that magical place where unmedicated mommies go before they meet their babies

Looking for a more complete guide to connect to your body, your baby, your partner, so you can go into your birth feeling nurtured, powerful and in control?

Would you love a TRANSFORMATIVE birth class that honors birth as the amazing, passionate, and powerful experience that it can be?

Taught by one of the top experts in birth education with a mission to “positively prepare for birth with pleasure,” you will come away from this class informed, inspired, and empowered to have the best and healthiest birth ever!

Now, Please Go Practice Your Relaxation Throughout Your Pregnancy!

As a mama to 5 who has had many different types of births from fast to slow and everything in between, I truly think this is one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for the unknowns of labor.

Practice makes perfect, mama.

The ability to relax on a whim will serve you well in many different situations that you haven’t even faced yet.

Get started today with a breath in, blowing a breath out.

Deeply in for a count of 4.

Now blow out through soft lips to a count of 6 or 8.

There, now don’t you feel better?

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