Are you a touchy feely person? Or the opposite? Does hugging, stroking and snuggling relax you or create anxiety? How do you feel about the idea of touch in labour?
Touch can be an incredible tool during your labour and birth BUT…there are lots of different ways to touch, where to touch and when that can affect whether this is well received or not.
When it comes to considering touch for labour, it is important to consider what touch is doing and how it can be helping as there are so many different ways this amazing tool can be used.
- Reduce pain
- Increase comfort
- Encourage labour progression
Light touch can be performed on the lower back and up to the top of the back. This overstimulates nerves thereby reducing the number of nerves carrying painful stimuli back to the brain. This can be amazing when it comes to a posterior labour or simply to take away the height of contractions. Light touch is also responsible for creating endorphins in the body. Endorphins are our bodies own relaxation chemical, it is our own pain relieving chemical and we know that it is much stronger than a dose of morphine when it is used in our body. This light touch can be performed by anyone, you partner, your mum, your friend and your midwife. Light Touch does not have to be limited to your back, but rather any accessible part of your body, arms, legs, down your neck and across your shoulders, whether in the bath, the shower or resting on a birth ball this can be used to create relaxation and increase your bodies own ability to relive the pain of labour. The easiest way to provide light touch is to use the back of the fingers and simply stroke towards your on fingers.
Firmer touch can be applied in many different ways, providing counter pressure, reducing pain or even with the purpose of increasing and encouraging labour or reducing anxiety. There are a number of techniuqes that are useful to be aware of going into your labour, massaging back and shoulders, though is unlikely to be popular as labour progresses. As labour moves forward baby is moving down and through the pelvis in this way expanding and stretching the pelvic ligaments and structures. FOr this reason many women LOVE a good hip squeeze to relieve the internal pressure of babies movement. This is provided by popped one hand on either hip and squeezing together as hard as the woman is comfortable with. It is important to understand that this technique is ONLY for pain relief and does not change the proportion of the pelvis. If you are worried that your baby is needing a little more space to move through the pelvic outlet, a Pelvic Squeeze can be used applying the same technique except higher on the woman pulling the ischial spines (the top of the pelvis on either side) together. Both of these techniques can be applied with the assistance of a rebozo, shawl or sheet to reduce tiredness in supporters.
Acupressure is another fantastic firm pressure technique that can have so many varied uses in labour including but not limited to bringing baby down, increasing surges (contractions), regulating surges, positioning a baby better, reducing anxiety and stress, reducing anxiety and decreasing pain. THere are a number of points that can also assist in encouraging the body to begin its labour, however, that is another blog post. These points can be discussed with your care provider or better yet with a trained acupuncturist who can assist you to find these points and recommend useful points for you depending on the stage you are at and how your body is moving. Acupressure is NOT massage, so when it is applied it wil feel painful, like a bruise or even like an electric shock, constant pressure should be applied to create the desired affect rather than pulsing. Different points will feel different, lighter or stronger and may have an instant, delayed or no response.
Props can also be used to create these touch sensations, a hair brush makes a great light touch massage, a comb dug into the inner hand can hit a number of pain and anxiety relieving acupressure points and a sheet from the birth suite room can make an amazing rebozo.
At different stages touch is going to feel amazing and assist to stay in your zone and progress through your own individual journey. At other times touch is going to feel claustrophobic and overwhelming. Both is fine. You may find the only touch you wish for is a hand to hold or a chest to lean into. If you wish to use touch it is useful to practice this touch and this technique in the lead up your birth to ensure it is familiar, it is safe and is encouraging your bodies hormones and actions rather than distracting it.
Photo credit to Little Love Lane Photography.