When you stub your toe or prick your finger, what do you do?
You immediately tense up. Often, you hold on to the painful place and remain tense until the pain subsides!
Why would anyone assume that women will instinctively do something other than that during childbirth? Yet somehow, that is the simplistic message given to women in the present approach to childbirth: "Just don't be afraid of the pain"…and then what? Does "fear" of pain cause more pain? Actually, no. But tensing up can cause more pain, and it's just plain intuitive for humans to tense up when they experience pain.
Even though tensing up is counter-productive during labor, that's what many women do. They tense up with the pain of contractions and barely relax in between, often holding on to the tension and steeling themselves for the next contraction.
Why is this so common? Because birthing women haven't been taught the appropriate skills to manage the pain and learn how to instruct their body to soften even during the pain of contractions.
YOU NEED SKILLS SO YOU CAN COPE with the pain as contractions become longer, more intense, and closer together. Tensing up only hinders your baby's efforts to open your body so he/she can come down, through, and out. And sometimes, this internal tension prolongs either or both the dilation of 1st Stage and pushing of 2nd Stage!
One of your first truly committed actions of being a parent is to learn to let go of tension during painful contractions. That difficult, yet uncomplicated, act shifts the birth from something that happens to you to something you do with and for your child.
With your newfound understanding of labor and birth pain, you now have less reason to panic and more reason to pick up your skills and use them. You may still experience pain, and not necessarily enjoy the labor, but you can approach each step of the labor with more confidence and an acceptance of the job at hand.
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