Let’s set the scene …
it is Friday night and you have planned some romantic time with your partner. Now, I appreciate that ‘romantic’ can mean many things to many people, but I am going to go with generic here. Let’s think cosy night for two with a nice atmosphere: maybe some music; candles; good conversation; warm humour and some lovemaking to round off the night.
You’ve had a perfect Friday night, an enjoyable time where you felt relaxed, safe, calm, unafraid and the sex was fantastic because you were in the moment allowing your body to do what it needed to, making you feel good.
How on earth is ‘gettin’ jiggy with it’ anything like labour I hear you ask. Well, the body tends to labour at its optimum if you think about labouring in an environment very similar to how you spent that romantic evening.
First of all you need the right partner. You want someone who isn’t going to make you feel self-conscious (if you make strange noises or suggest ‘out there’ positions) and with whom you feel safe and supported. Someone you can trust who you know will look after you.
You want to find a position that feels comfortable and is not painful or sore. This might take a couple of goes or comes instinctively. Your body can tell you when you are doing something that feels good.
Setting the scene for a bit of lovin’ is equally as important for labour. Would you want to have sex with strangers watching in a brightly lit room commenting on your performance (I know there are different predilections, I’ve read Fifty Shades) or would you prefer a little bit of privacy, dim lighting and to be with someone you feel comfortable with? You are wanting to set the mood, so why not make a play list and make your environment as comfortable as possible for you.
Then there are the hormones. One of the key labour hormones is oxytocin. During sex, it heightens that warm and fuzzy bonding feeling which increases desire. It also plays a part in orgasm. Basically, it is the hearts and flowers love hormone.
During labour, oxytocin is responsible for stimulating the muscles of the uterus to contract and boosts the production of prostaglandins, which also increase uterine contractions. Basically, you need oxytocin in your body for your labour to start and continue.
What you don’t want when you are having sex or labouring is adrenaline. This is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone, and you make it when you feel anxious or scared. It is the big-bad-wolf which chases the oxytocin away. Imagine how you would react if someone walked in on you having sex – I suspect the mood would be killed and the flow of oxytocin would stop. The same happens in labour. If you feel threatened or scared, the body stops the production of oxytocin because it feels now is not a safe time for you to be birthing your baby. This can lead to your labour slowing or stopping altogether.
Endorphins are also released during sex and labour. In sex they help with the ‘feel good’ sensation and make you feel relaxed and happy. During labour they have a calming and pain-relieving effect. Adrenaline can stomp all over endorphins too which can lead to a more stressful sexual encounter and for labour to appear more uncomfortable.
In short – think about planning your labour the way you would plan that Hollywood generic romantic evening. Think about your environment, being comfortable and who you would like around you. Think about quietening the brain (don’t be thinking about putting a wash on or mowing the lawn when you have sex and don’t’ over think labour) because your body works best doing a physical function like lovemaking or labour when you relax the mind and go with the flow.
If you find it hard to switch off the ‘tick tick tick’ part of your brain, that is where hypnobirthing can help. It teaches you tools so you can remain calm, focussed and in-tune with your body during your labour and birth.