The final technique is visualization. Also known as imagery, visualization is the technique of picturing an image in your mind. It can be used as a preparation for labor and birth. You may have heard about this technique in reference to athletes preparing for competition. Prior to competing in an event, a gymnast will visualize her routine, a downhill skier will visualize the gates on the run, and an ice skater will mentally run through his upcoming performance. Prenatally, visualization can be practiced to aid relaxation and to mentally help you develop a positive attitude toward birth. During labor, it can keep you relaxed and help you focus on your body. For example, while in labor, picture your baby’s head coming through your cervix, with your cervix resembling a turtleneck sweater. Other example can be found in the following sample visualizations. Practice both visualizations in preparation for labor. During labor and delivery, choose the phrases and images that work best for you.
To practice, sit or lie in a comfortable, supported position. Play soft, soothing music in the background. (Use this same music during labor). Your practice sessions will be most effective if you partner uses a soft, soothing tone of voice. He should speak slowly and pause frequently to allow the images to develop. In addition, he should pause for a count of 1 whenever he sees a dot; for example, “…” should prompt a pause of 1-2-3. The pause should be slightly longer at the end of a paragraph.
A special Place. A special Place is a visualization that can aid relaxation and that can be used during labor. For many women, entering the labor unit can be unsettling experience. This is because the environment is unfamiliar. When you are in labor, use this visualization during your contractions to mentally take yourself away from the labor unit and to a familiar or secure place.
Have your labor partner recite the following to you:
Close your eyes …. take in a deep breath …. exhale …. and relax your body …. starting at your head …. and moving down to your toes … take in another deep breath … exhale slowly … and once more, slowly breathing in …. and out …. As you relax, picture in your mind a place that makes you feel very comfortable …. A place where you feel safe and secure …. A place where you are so protected that nothing can harm you or interfere with your thoughts …. A place where you can leave all your worries and surrender yourself to being at peace.
This special place may be in a room in your home …. in the home where you spent your childhood …. a favorite vacation or honeymoon spot …. or a place you have dreamed about visiting …. It may be a scene from a book … a movie … or even a fantasy, a place that doesn’t exist …. But, enter this place and look around …. Are you standing, sitting, or lying down? …. Is the temperature warm or cool? …. Is there a breeze blowing? … What are you wearing? …. Are there any familiar fragrances? … Are you alone? …. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with your special place.
As you gaze at your surroundings, focus on an object …. Stare at this object and allow it to become your focal point …. As you continue to stare at the object … concentrate … breathe slowly … and allow yourself to enter a level of deeper relaxation. (Take a longer pause before continuing).
Now, take several deep breaths …. mentally travel back to your present environment …. and slowly open your eyes …. Think about the serenity and peace you just experienced … and know that you can go back to this place whenever you choose.
Practice this visualization during pregnancy. When you are in labor, you can either close your eyes and return to your special place during every contraction, or, if you keep your eyes open, you can stare at the focal point that you brought with you. For your focal point, use a picture of the object from your visualizations or, if possible, use the object itself. If you visited a place with water during your visualizations, you may find that laboring in a tub or shower enhances your relaxation.
- Play soothing music while you recite a visualization.
- Speak slowly and pause frequently while reciting a visualization to allow the images to develop in your partner's mind.
Birth Visualization. The Birth Visualization will help you to prepare emotionally for birth as a normal, healthy event. You use your imagination to picture the process of labor and delivery. Do this visualization following a relaxation practice, such as the Special Place visualization, when you are calm and receptive to suggestion. Have your partner use a soothing tone of voice, increasing in volume and speed as the contractions accelerate and becoming softer and slower as the contractions recede.
Your partner should recite the following:
Concentrate on your breathing …. breathing deeply and peacefully … With each breath, allow yourself to let go more and more …. As you relax, picture in your mind an special place where you would like to have your baby ….. Take yourself there and become comfortable ….. Notice the surroundings …. What do you see? …. Are there any fragrances? ….. What textures do you feel? ….. Do you hear any sounds?
As you continue to breathe slowly and deeply, picture the uterus in your mind … large and pear shaped .. round and full at the top … tapered and narrow at the bottom .. a strong, muscular organ, capable of much hard work.
See the round, healthy, red placenta on the back of the uterine wall … See the pulsating umbilical cord sending oxygen and food to your baby …. Watch your baby floating freely and peacefully in the warm, clear amniotic fluid …. His head is down in the pelvic cradle, just waiting for the day he will be born … Hear your baby’s heartbeat, strong and sure …. See the downy lanugo hair …. Look at the vernix covering his body like a protective coat …. Count his fingers and toes … Look at how long his nails have grown … It may be a boy … it may be a girl … but it is your baby continuing to grow and waiting to be born.
From your baby’s point of view, look down at the cervix … See it puffy and soft, with the mucous plug sealing its opening … much like a cork in the neck of a bottle … protecting your baby from infection until it is time to be born.
Now take yourself forward in time to the day labor begins ….. See the cervix …. The mucous plug is gone, and the cervix is getting shorter and shorter as your uterus begins to contract …. Feel your baby’s head pressing firmly against the cervix … helping it to stretch, and become thinner and thinner, and slowly open up.
You feel a contraction starting, much like a train approaching on a distant track .. getting closer and closer, and the contraction is getting stronger and stronger. Your baby’s head is pressing harder and harder on the cervix. The cervix is stretching more and more, and the baby’s head is coming down and down, and you open and open more, and the contraction begins to fade and fade, just as the train moves off into the distance …. Feel your body relax … Le all the tension go … Gather strength from within for the next contraction … Rest, and your baby also rests. (Repeat this paragraph two more times).
As the next contraction comes, feel it growing in intensity, much like a large wave, rising higher and higher. Feel the cervix stretching and stretching as you feel the baby’s head moving down, down, down into the cervix. Now feel the contraction subsiding … just as the wave comes to shore, as you know it always will … And you rest, and your baby rests. (Repeat this paragraph one more time).
Quickly another contraction begins to build, getting stronger and stronger, and stretching the cervix further and further as the uterine muscles pull it up and back, over the baby’s head. Feel your baby straining to get through as the amniotic sac bulges into your vagina, and feel relief and warmth as the water gushes out onto the bed and the contraction subsides as the baby slips back.
Now you feel another contraction. It is very hard and builds rapidly. See your vagina unfold to receive the rapidly advancing head, just as the petals on a flower open up. Feel the baby’s head moving through the pelvis and under the pubic bone. Then the contraction begins to fade … and you rest, and your baby rests.
And still another contraction comes, massaging your baby’s skin, preparing him to breathe on his own very soon, very soon. Feel the pressure of your baby’s head on your perineum …. As your perineum stretches more and more, you feel burning and stinging, and you are panting, panting, relaxing your bottom so that your baby can ease his shoulder .. then the bottom shoulder … Hear your baby breathe …. his warm wetness against your skin …. Watch his chest rise and fall as he begins to breathe and his color turns from blue to pink …. He looks intently at your face .. then begins rooting for your breast till he finds it and begins nursing …. Such peace and joy .. Your baby has been born!
And now, as you are enjoying the sensations of touching, seeing, hearing, and smelling your new baby, you are aware of another contraction, a milder contraction as your placenta is delivered … Your uterus continues to contract very firmly to prevent bleeding, just as it should.
Now bring yourself back to the present and know that your baby is growing and getting ready for that day when he will be born … It is still a few weeks off, but getting closer with each passing day.
Continue to breathe deeply and relax, and in a moment, you can open your eyes, feeling renewed and refreshed, knowing that your body will perform just as it should when the baby’s birthday arrives.
Continue to sit or lie quietly for as long as you wish. When you are ready, get up slowly. The positive feelings that you are experiencing can remain with you throughout the day.