Coping in Labor

Preparing for Labor


Mothers often wonder, “How can I to prepare for the birth of my baby? Labor is called just that because it requires a lot of work. By learning some simple strategies of focusing on movement, utilizing gravity, and relaxation can help a woman through each contraction. Here are our six favorite coping strategies for labor:

  • Movement: Movement and change positions can help ease contractions and encourage baby to navigate the pelvis. Your body will tell you if something doesn’t feel right and you need to change positions. We encourage women to walk, sway with a partner, lunge, squat, hands and knees, lay down on her side, and walking up and down the stairs are some great ways to move through labor.
  • Counter pressure: Labor contractions can present as pain in the lower back and sacrum. As the baby moves down in the pelvi s there is increased pressure on the mothers back from the baby’s head. Counter pressure can ease this pressure.
    • The palms of the hand or a tennis ball can be placed on the rise of the sacrum, and the support person presses into the spot. Partners can also place hands on either side of the curve of the hips and squeeze. This exercise is called a double hip squeeze, and is highly effective at easing back pain during surges.
    • Pressure can be adjusted according to what mom is feeling. She may ask you to move your hands higher or lower as the baby moves in the pelvis. You’ll be surprised at how much pressure a mom may want! We always recommend slow on and slow off. Listening to your partner’s breathing can help you know when a contraction is beginning and coming to an end and you can gently begin or release the counter pressure.
    • We have seen partners in a squatting position holding counter pressure for hours at a time. We recommend a doula or a  second support person to help the laboring because it can be exhausting for one person to do alone.
  • Rebozo: A rebozo is a large woven scarf, used as a shawl, birth tool, and baby sling. The most popular usage of a rebozo is for sifting.
    • Mom get on hands and knees on the floor or bed. Place the rebozo under her bosom to the bottom of the belly then support person stands behind her and gently pulls all of the material equally tight to hug the entirety of the belly. The woman is instructed to rest her abdomen into the rebozo with the partner supporting her weight by holding each side of the rebozo. The partner gently rocks or sifts the belly alternating arms in an up and downward motion. This Helps relieve back pain and supports the round ligaments of her belly. This can help mom relax through or between surges and may be used by your midwife to encourage optimal fetal positioning.
    • A rebozo can be tied around mom’s hips and tightened by a partner, or turned tourniquet style by the mom herself for hip squeezes.
    • Sometimes moms tighten their hips and buttocks during contractions which is counter productive to opening and relaxing those muscles to encourage baby to come down and out. Using the rebozo have mom get on her hands and knees and wrap the rebozo around her buttocks and tighten the fabric like a candy wrapper at her hips. The partner holds the two ends of the fabric tightly on each of her hips and sifts or moves the fabric in the motion of bicycle pedals. A mom can not tighten her buttocks and hip while this motion is happening because it relaxes those muscles.

You don’t have a rebozo? No problem! Grab a flat bed sheet (a twin will do), large towel, long table cloth or a sarong!

Here are additional ideas on how to use a rebozo:


Frederick Birth Center has rebozo’s on hand if you forget to bring yours.

  • Birth balls and stools:
    • The same large rubber balls you’ve seen at the gym for core exercise can be used during your labor. Birth balls can help keep the pelvis open, utilize gravity, while giving mom a chance to rest and get off her feet. Sitting on a ball allows mom to have gentle movement, while receiving massage and counter pressure.
    • Balls are an inexpensive tool to add to your birth kit. Double check that the size of your ball is recommended for your height. We prefer the position of your knees to be no more than 90 degrees. If the ball is a bit smaller it will allow you to be in semi squat which is a good position during labor.
    • While sitting on the ball the mom rocks her hips forwards and back or gently sided to side.
    • There are many types of birthing stools you can use during labor. If you don’t have one you can sit backwards or forwards on a toilet through a few contractions while resting your head on a pillow or towel that is set on the back of the toilet. No this doesn’t seem like the best place to sit during labor but it is a fantastic tool to use! Otherwise ask your provider if they have a birth stool you can use.

Frederick Birth Center provides birth balls, peanut balls and two styles of birthing stools to help with labor positioning along with suggestions on how to use them.

  • Water: Bathtubs are places of relaxation and the mental association during labor is the same. The warmth of the water helps to ease the pain felt from contractions, helps to relax the muscles of the pelvic floor and back, and creates a sense of privacy. Bringing in a partner or support person also creates a sense of intimacy. A laboring woman can move quickly in water between and during contractions with ease due to the buoyancy of the water. For example, she can rest while reclining into her partners arms between contractions then quickly move into a forward leaning position when a contraction begins. This allows for ease movement, enhanced comfort, and she can rest in between contractions.
  • Using a shower can also be an effective tool and is an option for laboring at home, birth center, or hospital settings. Birth balls can be used in showers as well as some models of birth stools.

At Frederick Birth Center we have two styles of birth tubs and walk in showers with built in shower seats. We encourage our moms to use what ever sound best to them during labor.

  • Doulas: We cannot speak highly enough on the impact that doula’s have on labors. Read the full article about doula here:
    • 39% decrease in the risk of Cesarean
    • 15% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth
    • 10% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief
    • Shorter labors by 41 minutes on average
    • 38% decrease in the baby’s risk of a low five-minute Apgar score
    • 31% decrease in the risk of being dissatisfied with the birth experience

Contact Frederick Birth Center for more information.

Mychal Pilia