birth prep

Rhythmic Movement for Birth Pain Control

Birth is a life changing event that many women have a desire-fear relationship with.

The idea of knowingly putting yourself through pain can be daunting. Even with modern pain medication, which you may want to avoid.

So your pregnant and want to try for a natural birth or at least wait as long as possible before getting pain medication (if at all).

What are some strategies to cope with the pain of birth?

The first pains that are felt during birth are the result of uterine contractions. These contractions pull the cervical muscle up and out of the way to allow baby to descend. The widening of the cervix  pulls on the surrounding muscles and ligaments. These pelvic floor tissues are packed with nerves wit pressure and pain receptors and are the source of the strong sensations during contractions. The tighter or tense these tissues the more intense the pain response.

In early labor contractions and sensations are less intense and infrequent.

As labor progresses, the sensations intensify, lengthen and become more frequent. This is how you know your body is priming for full delivery. However it also becomes more challenging to cope.

The second set of pains is the stretch of the pelvic floor tissue as baby’s head is delivered.

Some call this the “ring of fire” because it feels like a burning sensation as the tissue stretches. Again, being more intense if the pelvic floor muscles are tense or tight.

Other pains that may be felt are back pain, especially if baby is posterior occiput breech, meaning face up. Others may experience vaginal or rectal pain in the form of pressure.

Most pain during labor and delivery is absolutely normal and healthy. But there are ways to influence and cope with the pain naturally.

Many people think of breathing strategies to cope with pain. I can't agree more. But there are other strategies that help your body work through the aches and pains during labor.

One strategy is to MOVE!

There are many ways to move during labor ... walking, sitting on the birth ball, yoga poses ...but one of the most influential movement is rhythmic.

Rhythmic movement targets the autonomic nervous system, which controls how you FEEL pain.

When you are in labor your body triggers your sympathetic nervous system due to the stress your body is under, which controls your fight, flight or freeze mechanism, which sharpens your senses, including pain.

Even though your autonomic nervous system is not under our direct conscious control you can influence it by targeting your parasympathetic nervous system, which suppresses the sensation of pain.

Rhythmic movement relaxes your muscles and taps into this system. Helping you take the edge off of labor pains.

During my second birth, I found my body automatically moving in a rhythmic way when the contractions became more intense.

What are rhythmic movements?

A movement that recurs repetitively to a certain pattern.

This could be rocking, shaking, bouncing, swaying.

In early labor I used my birth ball by rocking my pelvis, bouncing, and swaying my hips with wide legs.

When labor progressed and I was "resting" on my side in bed, every time there was a contraction my body (but mostly my pelvis) would rock back and forth. This movement was soothing and allowed me to stay calm and work with the pain rather than stiffen against it.

There is no one correct way to move. You can practice throughout your pregnancy to create muscle memory and a mind-body connection that your body can call upon when you are in labor. Then you're body will move in it's own unique way.

Rhythmic movement allows you to take charge of your labor and work with the pain.

FEEL how your body wants to move and let your body move freely...creating your birth dance!


What I'm Doing to Prepare for Birth

At 39 weeks pregnant with my second the realization that my birth is fast approaching comes in waves.

I am still in awe to the fact that I'm pregnant and will be doing this birth thing again.

I reflect on my birth experience with my daughter. How it was text book until the midwives needed to cut the umbilical cord before her body was born. Then she needed to be resuscitated and brought to the hospital to make sure she was okay.

My plans for delayed cord clamping and peaceful bonding experience were dashed.

I didn't have the same daily or exercise routine this time around. During my first pregnancy I worked 40 hours a week in an outpatient hospital setting as the women's health physical therapist. I had a solid exercise routine running several times a week,  and doing my yoga and Pilates to keep connected to my core, maintain my balance and flexibility.

This time around I am running around with a 3 year old, building a local business while creating an online presence with my signature program to reach moms beyond the Seacoast and helping with a house renovation to be ready for new baby.

So what am I doing now to prepare for my second birth?


Practicing my squats

Squats are a great way to open up the pelvis and work on hip flexibility.

In a squat position the sitz bones, those bone structures we sit widen, opening up the lower ring of the pelvis and relaxing the pelvic floor.

By adding flexion (forward bend) or extension (back bend) of the spine it will open or close the upper and lower rings of the pelvis. This works the tissues connected to the pelvis and sacrum getting them ready to move and expand during birth.

You can do a squat with or without support.

An unsupported squat works more on the endurance of the leg muscles and your stamina.

A supported squat works more on the flexibility of your hips and pelvis. As you get closer to your due date, this is the way to go.

Being supported by sitting on a variety of seats can help you gradually increase flexibility and comfort.

The height of the seat and the amount of hip flexion (bend) will depend on your comfort. Sitting on a chair or ball and working to a lower seat like an ottoman or mediation pillow will bring your hips into more flexion and a deeper squat.

Then leaning forward or back onto a cushioned chair or ball will change the sensation of relaxation in your pelvic floor. Experimenting now is a great way to prep your body.

This is what I do when I play with my daughter on the floor or fold laundry or just sit to practice my breathing.

Getting on my birth ball

I love sitting on my birth ball to rock, roll and shake my pelvis. My body create a muscle memory for controlling the movement of the ball while I loosen tight muscles, ease muscle aches, bring awareness to my core and help babe get into a good birth position.

Simply sitting on the ball and rocking your pelvis back and forth, side to side and in a circle. Paying attention to the sensations in the pelvis, hips and spine for ease of movement so you can then use this as a guide for where you need to do more stretches.


 This includes two forms of massage.

Going and getting a whole body massage.

And perineum massage.

A whole body massage is a great way to reduce muscle tension, stimulate stress relieving hormones, and reduce swelling.

Perineum massage is a great way to connect with your pelvic floor.  You're physically touching the area that babe will be birthed. Then doing the massage, which is more of a stretch gets you to start to feel the "burn" that happens during birth.

The goal of perineum massage is to work on your tolerance of the 'burn' not necessarily to stretch out your muscles. When you can work through this sensation without fear and with a deeper relaxation you improve your chances of being able to do so during birth.

The benefits of perineum massage is reducing risk of tearing and other medical intervention that may result in urinary incontinence and vaginal pain.

Getting down on the floor

Getting down on the floor to stretch on hands and knees is a go to position for me. This was the position my body chose for my first birth and it provides a lot of relief for back discomfort and feeling of abdominal fullness. 

When on hands and knees I do cat/cow stretch, I shift my weight from side to side and front to back, I roll my hips in circles and figure eights.

You can work through your hips, your pelvis, your spine all the way up to your head when on hands and knees. It is such a versatile position to move your body in through out pregnancy but especially as you near birth.


Practicing my mind-body connection through breath

Breathing is a very powerful tool to use for birth.

It can help with pain relief, progression, relaxation, and so much more.

Practicing a variety of breathing methods prior to birth (I'm talking many months before) allows your body to create a muscle memory which can be used when you are in the middle of labor and delivery when your mental capacity to make decisions (which is on purpose) is diminished.

I'm practicing my connection with pelvic floor relaxation on inhale through exhale, prolonging my breathe cycle to see how long I can breath, short breathes and a variety of nose/mouth breathing.

Imagery of the birth

Imagining how your birth will go can help you mentally prepare for birth.

Picturing baby descending throw the birth canal. Your pelvis widening, your pelvic floor relaxing and opening. Baby's head emerging followed by his body.

By using this imagery again you are creating a conscious connection to process of birth that you're body can unconsciously call upon during labor and delivery.

I practice this when I'm doing my breathing or just before bed.

Organizing my birth space

Since I'm planning a home birth, mentally preparing for birth also means making sure the space I'm birthing in is ready.

I don't want to caught laboring and feeling uncomfortable or annoyed that something is not in place or ready.

Making sure our lovely new soaking tub is cleaned, the speaker for our music is in the bathroom, the essential oils and diffuser or spray bottle is easily accessible.

Having my birth kit handy and all the extras like towels and baby's blanket.

This is my version of getting my hospital bag ready.


Positive affirmations

Being in a positive mindset reduces fear and stress hormones that may impact labor and delivery.

So saying positive affirmations is a great way to get into this mindset.

This could be as simple as:

"My body is made to birth a baby"
"My pelvis is just the right size for baby"

Really believing what you are saying and repeating is frequently is very important.

Pretending to be an animal with my daughter

Since we are planning on having a home birth, my daughter will be in the house when I'm laboring and when her little brother or sister is born.

So to get her prepared for the noises I may make, we are making noises for fun.

Growling, moaning, roaring, puffing, grunting.

Even though each birth is unique and your body is different from mine, your birth prep will look differently from mine, but may include some of what I practice.

You have to chose what is right for you!

If you want to learn more on how to prepare your pelvis for birth check out my Prepare Your Pelvis for Birth Package!

Happy birthing!