Coping with Labor Using Relaxation

Relaxation is one of the best tools for coping with labor
~ Focusing on staying relaxed can make you more comfortable during labor.
~ You feel more in control because you are not fighting the contractions.
~ You can reduce pain and save energy by not tightening your muscles.
~ You can use relaxation to help you be more aware of your body and the progress of labor.
~ Most importantly, staying relaxed prevents the stress response. This “fight or flight” response slows the progress of labor. It can also make the contractions more painful. To prevent the stress response, it is important to get and stay relaxed between contractions. Even though you may not be able to stay completely relaxed during contractions, your ability to rest between contractions will help your body work efficiently.


It is very important to get into a comfortable position. Explore various positions during pregnancy and change positions as often as necessary when you are in labor. With a good relaxation position:
~ Your body has gentle curves and is supported by pillows, furniture or your labor partner.
~ No part of your body lies right on another.
~ You are not lying flat on your back. (When you lie flat, your uterus gets less blood, and your baby gets less oxygen).

Positions to Try

Side-lying ~ Lie on your left side with one pillow between your knees and another under your head. You can put other billows
under your stomach and between your arms.

3/4 Side-lying ~ From a side-lying position roll toward your stomach and rest your lower arm along your side. Put pillows under
your stomach, chest and head.

Lounge chair ~ Sit in a semi-reclining position with knees bent, and arms and knees supported by pillows. Recline in a warm bath.

Tailor sitting ~ Sit with your knees bent and feet close to each other. Lean back against a support, or lean forward with your back rounded and your elbows resting on your knees.

Standing ~ Stand with your knees slightly bent. Let your partner or furniture support your weight.

Ways to Relax

Try focusing on your muscle tension and consciously release that tension. The release of muscular tension leads to a sense of peacefulness.

Contract/Release ~ This is a good way to learn when your muscles are relaxed. Think about how each muscle feels when you tighten it and
then when you release it. Start with your toes and move up to your head. Tighten muscle groups like your feet, lower legs, knees when you breathe in. Release the muscle tension when you breathe out.

Progressive ~ After you are able to tell whether or not muscles are relaxed, try to relax your muscles without tensing them first. Start with your head and focus on small groups of muscles. Release these muscles as you breathe out. Move down your body until you are completely relaxed.

Touch ~ Your partner can use the warmth and gentle pressure of his or her hand to help your muscles relax. Your partner needs to keep the touch firm but gentle and keep at least one hand on your body. Your partner’s hands should stroke outward from the center of your body. It may also help to think of your partner’s touch as a sponge that can wash away your tension. Because relaxation is more than released muscle tension, you can also get relaxed by focusing on your inner state. When you calm your mind, your muscles also relax. You can use any method that works for you.


Imagine a comfortable, relaxed time, like lying on warm sand or floating in water. Enjoy the feelings that come from remembering how your body felt. You can also imagine a favorite place. Enjoy the shapes, colors, sounds and smells of this special place.

Yoga and Meditation

Focus on your breathing or meditate on a word or sound to become and stay relaxed.

The Relaxing Breath

Finally, if you run or do another rigorous activity, you can use your knowledge of breathing and body awareness to keep yourself relaxed during contractions. Use a slow, deep breath as a signal to relax. Take in a comfortable breath – then, let it out, while relaxing your whole body. Taken at the beginning of a contraction, this breath may help you relax into the contraction rather than fight it. At the end of a contraction, this breath signals that you can rest until the next contraction starts. You can take a relaxing breath any time you feel your body getting tense.

Newborn getting check up at birth