Hugging and Humming During Labor
When it comes to labor one of the most important yet confusing parts of how to let your baby out is the expulsion phase. Most people think of having to “push” their baby out. Yet there are a ton of different ideas on how to do it. Let me share a few concepts of what is naturally happening and how you can best assist this process.
What you need to understand is your uterus can push your baby out whether you are conscious or not. If you were unconscious it knows how to do it on its own. When the uterus contracts it starts at the top and contracts in a downward motion to help increase pressure on the cervix. When the baby’s head is in an optimal position putting pressure on the cervix, it thins and widens with each contraction.
So if the uterus can do the job of pushing your baby out, I’d like to share ways that you can help support the uterus in doing its job. Let’s talk about the idea of pushing. What if you didn’t have to push at all during labor?
From my experience with my labors, it’s almost impossible not to push. Yet pushing can be a bit confusing for some people. I’ve heard from several clients they were told they didn’t know how to push effectively. Some may think you need to push down from the top of your belly to push your baby on out. The uterus is already doing this downward motion. Doing so just puts pressure on the top of your uterus and may cause your belly to push out away from the spine which doesn’t help the uterus out at all.
I invite you to try a different approach. Instead of pushing your baby out, I would like you to think about breathing your baby out. Try doing a very prolonged exhale and see what happens to your belly. With a correct exhale you should notice your lower belly contracting back up and in. This is because your transverse abdominus (TA) muscle contracts on an exhale. The TA attaches on either side of your spine and wraps around to the front of your belly. When it contracts is actually hugs your baby and uterus. This compression gives your uterus more support in doing its job of pushing your baby down and out.
So instead of bearing down from the top, think about hugging your baby back toward your spine and giving your uterus more support in doing what it knows how to do. By breathing out and exhaling you should be contracting your lower belly backward and supporting your uterus more in helping to get your baby on out.
In some birth situations, the labor support people may instruct you to hold your breath and push as hard as you can. Some call this purple pushing as when you hold your breath your face turns red and then purple if you hold it long enough. While this might be necessary for an extreme emergency situation, it should not be the standard pushing procedure. Breath-holding and pushing are big factors in the potential of developing prolapse of your pelvic organs. This is why changing your thinking from “pushing” your baby out to breathing your baby out is a much more supportive idea to your pelvic organs.
One more thing we need to be aware of during this phase of labor is your pelvic floor muscles. You need these muscles to relax and lengthen during this part of labor. Our typical wiring is when the TA contracts so does the pelvic floor muscles. Try doing a kegel and see what happens to your lower belly. You should find it contracting back. You can also contract your lower belly backward and see what happens to your pelvic floor muscles. They should contract up as well.
However, in labor, we need these two muscles to do the opposite. What needs to happen in labor is what should happen when you have a bowel movement. Next time you go to the bathroom, see what you do to encourage your stools to come out. Ideally, you can contract your lower belly and relax your pelvic floor muscles. This helps your bowels to empty. Unfortunately, not a lot of people do this correctly.
There is a way to help get your pelvic floor muscles to relax, and that is to vocalize in a really low tone. The pelvic floor muscles and our voice are connected. When you do a high pitch sound your pelvic floor muscles contract whereas a lower-pitched tone can cause them to relax.
Lower sounds are more helpful and productive during labor.
Instead of thinking about pushing your baby out, I invite you to think about Hugging and Humming your baby on out.
On an exhale try and find the lowest tone you can make and hug your baby to your spine.
The exhale will contract your TA muscle which will help support your uterus in pushing your baby down and out. This is the hugging part. The humming is the lowest tone vocalization you can do which will help relax your pelvic floor muscles. Both of these will support your uterus in moving your baby through and out of your body.
Give it a try in labor and let me know how it works for you.