They call it labor because it’s work! Whether you are having a normal birth or planning on using medicine for pain management like an epidural, you will benefit from having prepared relaxation techniques to carry you through the long process of labor. This is a doula's specialty. Your doula will meet with you ahead of time to help you articulate your birth preferences. Then, during labor, she’ll guide you to use the relaxation techniques you wanted to try. Check out these labor relaxation tips ahead of time; there may be some that make your list.
Most people find that slow breathing techniques, like yoga breaths, are most useful during the earlier part of labor. Then, during late labor (just before they start pushing), many mamas switch to more rhythmic breathing. Take a childbirth class, read a birth book, or look up YouTube tutorials to practice controlled, calm breathing techniques for birth. The more you practice them during pregnancy, the more useful they’ll be during labor.
Switch Up Positions - Move Around
If you’re uncomfortable in your position, switch it up. There are dozens of positions that help with the decent of the baby, the comfort of the birther, even with speeding up labor. You might want to sit, squat, get on your hands and knees, or simply walk around. Your doula can demonstrate them to you or feel free to look them up on line. If you practice different positions ahead of time with your partner or doula you'll be more likely to naturally go into them the day-of.
Visualizations or Meditation
Your mind is less likely to run amok (like getting scared) if it has something else to hold onto. Visualization can be that something else and can be super helpful during labor. Many birthers compare the sensation of contractions to cresting and receding waves. Perhaps in labor a spontaneous image of the ocean will come to you - that's visualization. If you need help coming up with one you can prepare a recording of guided visualization to mentally bring yourself into a soothing mind-state, or have your partner or doula narrate for you. This is another technique that can be more effective if you've visited it before labor.
It's All About Atmosphere
What atmosphere do you want to be in when you labor? Calm voices? Silence? Music? Praying? Laughter? You can do a lot to create that atmosphere. If you're in a hospital the first thing you can do is to turn off the lights in your room. If you're at home perhaps light a candle. There are a lot of creative ways that simple things like this can have a powerful affect on your hormonal cascade that's necessary for labor to progress.
A good massage can ease contraction pain, calm nerves, and flood your body with oxytocin (a hormone that progresses labor). Treat yo' self to a professional or have your partner or doula massage your shoulders, back (especially your lower back), feet and hands. If you're alone it can be a big self-love move to rub your jaw or the back of your neck.
Try a warm bath or shower. Or get your hands on some hot or cold compresses. A cool towel or ice chips on your forehead can be a lifesaver. So can a heating pad on the small of your back. This one is easy to prepare for and hugely rewarding.