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About 70% of women in the United States will choose an epidural for their labor pain relief. Many of them will be completely satisfied, while there are also a portion of women who receive no benefits of the epidural. Whether you plan on using one in labor or not…


  • Learn about epidurals. Knowing what happens when you get an epidural will make you less fearful of the process. Or may truly firm up your belief that you want to allow your body to labor as nature intended.

Join us: 

 tuesday August 17th

5:30 at Partners

to learn about managing and navigating your  labor


Focal point during labor…



Using a Focal Point during Labor

A great coping technique for labor is a focal point.  And one of the wonderful things about focal points is you don’t have to practice using it or give your support person any additional training.  When contractions get intense, you just use it! Think about it….

What is a Focal Point?

A focal point is just something you stare at during contractions. Sound weird, doesn’t it?  But it’s like staring at a person during a work presentation, at a spot on the ceiling when working out or at your computer background when you’re thinking. 

The Gate Control Theory

Focal points help us concentrate on a thought or getting through something painful.  The reason focal points work to deal with pain is because of the Gate Control Theory.  Basically, the brain processes the information you’re seeing leaving less brain activity to process the pain.  Since your brain’s not processing the pain, you’ll feel less of it. It’s like closing a gate on the pain.

Why Can’t I Close my Eyes?

Sometimes closing our eyes when we’re in pain actually forces us to concentrate on the pain rather than taking our attention away from it.  If you really think closing your eyes will help you in labor, try visualizing a favorite place like the ocean, the forest, a flower or even a color. Some mom’s like to visualize the baby during a contraction…with it’s head pressing down on the cervix. This will also help keep your brain busy processing the thought rather than the pain.

Do I have to Bring a Focal Point?

Not unless you want to.  Many women will use a picture on the wall, a blank television screen, a stain on the floor or even a piece of garbage.  But if you want to bring a focal point from home like a favorite photo, stuffed animal, baby shoe , go for it!

Get Imaginative!

Some people will set up laptops at home or in birthing facility rooms that scroll through pictures of your favorite places.  You could also buy a DVD or a video that contains relaxing scenes to play either at home or at your birthing facility. 

Are There any Bad Focal Points?

Yes!  For most mom’s staring at the clock during contractions doesn’t help.  It’s like staring at the readout on an electronic treadmill or exercise bike.  Staring at the reading doesn’t make exercising any easier and staring at a clock during contractions only makes them feel longer.  I also recommend avoiding staring the fetal monitor that’s tracking your contractions and the baby’s heartbeat, though some personalities do find it helpful


Give it a try!

Ten ways to help her during labor….

Let’s face it…during labor many of us feel helpless when it comes to comforting a laboring woman. Knowing a couple of right things to do and say is always helpful. Here are some ideas, feel free to expand them for your own use in labor and do what works for you! 

~And come Join us on:


 TUESDAY March 3rd at 5:30 at Partners

…Licensed Massage Therapist Martha Johnson will be there to show you the benefits of massage…and teach partners how to use massage for relaxation during pregnancy and labor. Healthy snacks will be provided.

  1. Massage her face to help release stress and relax her.
  2. Remind her to go to the bathroom every hour. A full bladder imas4s not only uncomfortable but can stall labor.
  3. Try cool compresses on her neck and face. Even lightly washing her face can feel good when she’s working so hard. 
  4. Encourage her to drink fluids and eat to comfort if her care providers will allow it. Eating and drinking will help restore used energy for the marathon of labor.
  5. Help her change positions to encourage the progress of labor. Some positions will provide pain relief, others may feel more painful. Do what works for her.
  6. If her back is hurting do counter pressure with your hands on the small of her back (or wherever she says to do it) as hard as she likes. Doing this in the hands and knees position will also help with the pain.
  7. Be there for her. Even when she may say that she doesn’t wish to be toucmas1hed, being there for her is very important. Just stand near her so that she can feel your presence and verbally encourage her.
  8. Try the shower or tub. Water in labor is very good for pain relief of all sorts.
  9. Use a heat pad, rice sock or warm blanket to her lower back, limbs or perineum (at the end) to help her.
  10. Remind her of why she’s doing this: The baby! 


Feeding the athlete…

Labor is probably not the time you will be requesting a huge steak dinner, but it is a good idea to continue to nourish your body before you head in to the hospital.

 Not eating during labor may reduce your energy, increase your fatigue and decrease your ability to deal with stress during labor.

Also…just as important…is drinking water (or water mixed with juice) and remembering to pee every hour or so.

A while back, I was reading Midwifery Today and found a short article about “The Midwife’s Pitocin”.

 This particular midwife recommends that her clients make a bowl of oatmeal, honey and nuts during labor and graze on it when they desire. If you break down the ingredients, you will find the perfect balance of complex carbohydrates, protein and natural sugar. Imagine that you are about to run a marathon – you would surely fuel your body with healthy supportive food! I have been recommending this concoction to my doula clients. It seems to have given them some lasting stamina.

The oatmeal will probably not be welcome at the hospital, but you can try to get some in your body before you head in. If you are birthing at a birthing center or at home, you can continue to eat when you like.

 Some women are concerned that eating during labor will cause them to vomit. But according to the same study referenced earlier, “Vomiting was not more common among women allowed to eat light foods, 18% of whom vomited once and 17% of whom vomited more than once, compared with 17% and 17% of women in the water-only cohort.” In fact, vomiting is a sign of transition and can actually help push the baby deeper down into the birth canal.

Here is a list of “light eating” that may be appealing to the laboring mom.

** Please note you are more likely to have a desire for food in early labor. Don’t force yourself to eat anything you don’t want to.


Whole wheat toast







Mashed potatoes


How do I know if I am really in Labor?


One of the most asked questions of first time mom’s…Or In my case, of my second baby because my first was induced…and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to tell what “real” labor was…

So, in honor of my former self… I offer a list of some ways to to gauge whether you are experiencing true labor:

  • Your contractions fall into a regular pattern. And, that pattern involves contractions that are lasting longer, feeling stronger, and occurring closer together.
  • If when you walk around or otherwise increase your activity, the contractions also increase.
  • And if changing positions and drinking plenty of fluids also do not cause the contractions to ease…
  • The sensation begins in your lower back and spreads like a band around your belly causing a peak of tightness and discomfort in the front and then fades away again.
  • You have been feeling some gastrointestinal upset and may be experiencing diarrhea also.
  • You have pinkish or blood streaked, mucousy discharge.
  • Your membranes have ruptured (keep in mind that labor only begins in this way for roughly 10% of women. So, if your waters have not released, do not be discouraged thinking that you must not be in “real labor.” Many women do not experience their waters breaking until they are pushing or are starting to feel like pushing).
  • Truly, I think that the best sign that you are in labor is if you really feel like you are in labor. This is one of those things that doesn’t feel that helpful to a first-time mom—”yes, but how will I know?! What if I’m in labor and don’t know it until the baby is coming out?!” I promise that for the wide majority of you, at a certain point, you will just know that you are in labor and there will be no more questions about whether this is “really it”—that is the best sign, when you stop wondering “is this really it?” My observation is that this point comes along when you enter active labor and enter your “birth brain” instead of your analytical, logical brain.
  • If you are still wondering, “is this really it?” my best piece of advice is to ignore it! Pretend like nothing is happening. Go about your normal day and your normal routine. If you would normally be sleeping, sleep. If you would normally be eating, eat. Go for a walk, water the plants, feed the dog, bake something, go to the store, etc. When your contractions need your full attention, they will ask for it

Some “symptoms” that what you are experiencing is instead practice labor, pre-labor, or “false labor” (I do not usually use the phrase “false labor” because I think it is dismissive of women’s experiences. All contractions are doing something and so I refer to them as “practice” rather than “false.” Another good phrase to use is “pre-labor” contractions):

  • The contractions are irregular (no pattern) and are not increasing in frequency or intensity.
  • If you change positions or drink two large glasses of juice, water, or tea, the contractions subside.
  • The contractions center in your lower abdomen and do not involve your back.
  • The contractions go away if you take a walk, take a shower, or lie down.

This is also a popular question in birth classes. Because labor is a new event for you, it can be hard to know what to expect until it actually happens!

From the mouth of Dad’s

well…some dad’s…

On the ball!



I know what you’re thinking: Where does a large plastic ball fit into the labor and delivery scene? Actually, the birthing ball (which was first used in Germany) is a very comfortable way to go through labor. The ball is ribbed so that it won’t slip while you are sitting on it, and it will hold up to 350 pounds. Many women who deliver without the assistance of medications say they never could have made it without the birthing ball

. Although resting on a bed or in a rocking chair may ease your discomfort while you are in labor, it’s helpful to have many different position options available–and the birthing ball is simply another alternative.
What can the birthing ball do for me?
The birthing ball offers several benefits to mothers-to-be. Among them:

  • Many women find that swaying their hips back and forth or lightly bouncing on the ball can help relieve the discomfort of contractions.
  • You can place the ball close to your bed and lean over the mattress. This allows for pelvic mobility and gives you a chance to rest between contractions.
  • The ball works especially well if you are experiencing back labor.
  • If your baby is positioned so that he is facing up toward your pubic bone (also known as occiput posterior position), the birthing ball may help the baby to rotate before delivery. When a baby is in this position, it’s beneficial for the mother to position herself on her hands and knees and rock her hips back and forth to try to rotate the baby into the best position for delivery. Unfortunately, pregnant women can’t maintain this position for long because of discomfort in their wrists and hands. However, by leaning over the birthing ball, the mother-to-be can stay in this position and do this motion for an extended period of time because her weight is totally supported by the ball.
  • By sitting up straight on the ball, you can use gravity to help the fetus descend into your pelvis, which can speed up labor.
  • Sitting on a birthing ball allows your support person to rub your back or give counter pressure more easily.
  • Sitting on the ball also gives extra support to your pelvic muscles. In addition, you can place warm compresses between the ball and your bottom to facilitate the relaxation of your perineum, which may help diminish the pain of the baby’s descent.
  • When pushing in the squatting position to widen the pelvic outlet, you can place the ball against the wall and lean into it with the upper part of your back, instead of leaning on your support person. This frees him up to help you in other ways.

Still not convinced the birthing ball’s worth using? Try sitting on one in our classes or at the store. If you were skeptical before, you’ll be a believer after you sample one!

Try it….you’ll like it!  Baby will too!