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Ready class? RELAX!!! . Objectives. Discuss the evolution of relaxation as a labor coping skill. Describe the physiologic response to stress in labor and the impact of eliciting the relaxation response on labor coping abilities.

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Ready class? RELAX!!!

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Ready class?RELAX!!!


  • Discuss the evolution of relaxation as a labor coping skill.

  • Describe the physiologic response to stress in labor and the impact of eliciting the relaxation response on labor coping abilities.

  • Experience a variety of relaxation exercises designed for use in a childbirth class.

  • Choose and use at least two ways to teach expectant parents about the use of relaxation in labor and birth.

Relaxation Break #1


Any perceived threat, which results in the release of…



Typical Human Stress Response

 heart rate & blood pressure

Pupils dilate

Digestion slows

Glucose released from liver

Blood shunted to skeletal muscles and vital organs

Air passages widen,  oxygen uptake



Is labor stressful?


Relaxation Break # 2

Stressors in labor

  • Imposed restrictions

  • Strange environment

  • Perceived threat (interventions, staff)

  • Cold

  • Pain

  • Hunger

Labor induction or augmentation


Internal EFM

Vaginal exams


Administration of analgesia

Administration of anesthesia

Restriction to bed

Restriction of drink

Unfamiliar doctor

Episiotomy & repair



Limited time with baby after birth


Simkin Study (1986) –16 events described as VERY stressful

Two ways to be relaxed in labor…

1. AVOID or REDUCE the existing stressors

2. Use relaxation and other techniques to deal with remaining stress.

AVOID or REDUCE Stressors

  • Alter environment (lighting, sounds, privacy, people, temperature)

  • Enhance physical comfort (positioning, pillows, temperature, touch, massage)

  • Calm the psyche (visitors, music, soft voice, white noise)

  • Distraction (talking, breathing patterns, focal point)

  • Practice decision-making skills





Relaxation Break # 3

Stress response in labor…

  • Part of the fetal ejection reflex

  •  newborn alertness & readiness for the outside world

     maternal ferocity and aggressiveness

     the release of vasopressin, which interferes with oxytocin

     Cold and shaky feeling

  • Forgetfulness

Female Stress Response

  • Catecholamines are released…

  • Because we have estrogen and access to oxytocin …women tend to react differently seeking to…

  • Tend & befriend (calm & connection)

The release of oxytocin causes…

 blood pressure

 stress hormones; causing the tend and befriend effect

Facilitates reproduction (facilitates mating by making certain men more attractive to us, sperm ejection reflex, fetal ejection reflex & milk ejection reflex, bonding)

 pain threshold

 sleepiness, feeling of laziness

 muscle tension, relaxing (less circulation to muscles)

 calming, less upset about life’s big problems, peaceful

 curiosity and a sense of closeness to the people nearby,

 trust, daring (more courage = less fear)

 desire to please people

 Openness to touch

Increases digestion and fat absorption and storage

Releases stored nutrients to make milk

 appetite

 skin and mucous membrane circulation

 Fosters love of infant, creates emotional bond

 Sensitive to other’s feelings, recognize non-verbals

Causes blood vessels on the front dilate (rosy cheeks & warm chests)

 Facilitates learning

 wound healing (twice as fast)

Induces social memory and calmness in infant

Buffers Prolactin’s response to stress




Sexual stimulation

Descent of the fetus

Good food

Companionship (doulas)

Quiet & low light

Meditation & visualization

Positive thoughts & memories



Pleasant smells & sounds


Oxytocin is stimulated by...

Relaxation Break # 4

Relaxation break # 5

Teaching Relaxation

Sample Spiral…

  • What is relaxation? (previous knowledge)

  • Relaxation breath (new simple skill)

  • Relax with breath (add new skill)

  • Breathing awareness (add touch)

  • Roving body check (reinforce touch)


  • Moving into relaxation (new skill)

  • Relaxation, rhythm and ritual (putting it all together)

  • Releasing to birth

  • Birth visualization

  • Parenting/breastfeeding visualization

Relaxationbreak # 6

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