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Simple, Effective, and Powerful for Labor By Cathy Daub, PT, CCE(BWI) CD(BWI) All parts of the human body are connected by fascia. Our skeleton gives us support but it is the fascia that is like the guidelines holding up a tent, that holds everything in place. Because everything is so connected what happens in one part of the body affects the entire body. The responses are faster than you can even blink your eyes. In BirthWorks, our motto is to “First Do No Harm.” Many childbirth classes try to teach relaxation through various methods. These include having the partner pinch the mother’s skin till it hurts and having her breathe through it, or using the burning of ice held in the hand to breathe through. Both of these inflict harm on the mother and are useless in that the mother’s hormone productions are very different in a childbirth class than when in labor. Using a hot or cold pack in labor over the low back can be useful in labor but not in class. Birth is an event of love as shown by the increasing  oxytocin  (Hormone of Love)  production in the mother and baby from the time of conception so that at the time of birth the peak levels of oxytocin in the mother and baby are very high. Knowing and understanding how oxytocin works in the body is fundamental for birthing parents and health professionals.  Oxytocin is the hormone of love but it is also the hormone of calm and connection. Therefore, to keep oxytocin levels high in labor, it makes sense that a woman keep her body relaxed.  This not only allows for more efficient contractions, but also keeps her oxytocin levels high which stimulate the uterus to contract and decreases fears. Here is the BirthWorks Open Hands relaxation exercise that is simple, very effective, and powerful.
  • First make a fist with both hands and squeeze tightly.
  • Ask, where do you feel the tension going in your body? (Because the body is so connected on the inside they will say arms, shoulders, neck, back, abdomen, pelvis)
  • Next instruct them to open their hands with fingers slightly apart.
  • Now ask them to try to tighten any other part of their body and sustain the tightness without any tightness in their hands. (They will find this impossible to do – especially sustaining it.)
  • Ask, “What have you learned?” The learning point is that the more relaxed the hands, the more relaxed is the entire body.  In this way the woman in labor is not fighting her contractions, but rather opening to them saying “Yes!” This helps labor to progress and makes contractions more effective.
  • This is the best exercise for her partner to do with her because all he has to do is hold her hands in his own as a contraction comes and is building and building, getting tighter and tighter and her hands stay open and relaxed all the way to the end of the contraction as he sends love to her through his eyes.
  • Try this BirthWorks Open Hands Relaxation exercise and you will find out how well it works. The best part about it is that it is done with love and that is what birth is all about.