When preparing to practice any of the relaxation exercises described in this section, find or prepare a physical environment that is conductive to relaxation. Use a room that is comfortable and warm. Wear loose clothing and no shoes. Play soft music that is soothing and that you can take with you to the hospital or birth center.
Make sure that the supporting surface on which you lie is firm. If it sags, the support will be lost, and strain and muscle tension will result.
Assume a comfortable position, with all the parts of your body completely supported. Otherwise, the force of gravity will cause your unsupported body parts to do muscle work (contract). Several good positions in which to practice are:
• Semireclining at a 45-degree angle. This position makes it easy for your partner to check for muscle tension. Because of this, it is the best position in which to begin relaxation practice. To assume the position, recline at a 45-degree angle with pillows under your head, back, knees, and arms.
- Relaxation will become automatic in labor if practiced frequently during pregnancy.
• Side-lying. This position is the most comfortable for many women during labor while in bed. Lie on your side with pillows under your head, abdomen, and upper leg and foot.
• The Sim’s position. This position is excellent for resting during pregnancy and for helping to alleviate back pain during labor. With the body positioned more forward than side-lying (three-quarters over), the weight of the uterus is taken off the back. Lie with your lower arm behind your back and pillows supporting your head, front shoulder and upper arm, from leg, and abdomen. (See the image below)
You can also obtain a pregnancy pillow if you want a more comfortable option.
As you develop skill in relaxation, you can also practice your techniques while sitting up or kneeling on your hands and knees. Finally, no matter which position you use, remember to keep all your joints bent. This helps to reduce muscle tension, which can use the energy your body needs for labor.