Visualisation in labour

By Suzanne Swan

“To pay attention to the here and now, we need intention, not force”

The mind has a natural mechanism for supporting sustained, vigilant and engaged attention. This is the type of attention you need during labour to sustain complete trust in your body. With practice you will be able to choose to experience uterine contractions as feelings of pressure, or as muscles working efficiently or interesting sensations bringing your baby closer to you.

One way of tapping into this ability to create sustained and seemingly effortless attention is to intentionally focus and refocus your attention on a single object. There are many different objects of attention that you can practice to steady the mind. Some of these you have already learnt in the yogababy active birth yoga course.

1. Slow breathing – counting inhale 4 – exhale 6

2. Gazing at a gently flickering candle flame

3. Visualising a flower opening in slow motion

4. Sounds such as ‘om’ repeated silently or aloud

Research has revealed that intentionally focusing on just one object can steady the mind by activating the brain networks corresponding to the chosen focus of attention and, at the same time, inhibiting the brain networks corresponding to competing demands for attention, without need to force.

To take advantage of the minds ability to settle we do actually need to make an effort – but it is a certain kind of gentle effort. We direct our attention onto our chosen object and then refocus the spotlight on the object over and over again, whenever we notice it has drifted away. When we intentionally let go of our urge to force things to be a particular way, the mind naturally settles all by itself, leaving us both calmer and clearer. This is a wonderful inner resource to cultivate for use during labour.

Opening flower visualisation – have your partner read this to you as you relax

Imagine a flower… a flower special to you….one you love to admire…see the flower as a tightly closed bud…hold the image still…see the colour of the petals and how they are wrapped around each other...very gradually, like a slow-motion film, see the bud beginning to loosen, the petals are separating slightly…in a kind of time lapse sequence...visualise the flower starting to open…the petals curling back…the sun shining…and the warmth is in the air…the atmosphere is just right to encourage the flower to open and expose its centre to the sun’s rays….the petals are opening wide now, stretching back, revealing the centre to the energy of the sun’s rays….completely natural and effortless…just part of the natural rhythm and flow of nature…just like your body has that same wondrous ability to open and birth your baby.

Promoting Normal Birth in a Hospital Labour Room

Your birth space needs to be comfortable and safe and feel private.  There needs to be curtains pulled across the door so that if someone walks in the room there is still privacy.  There should be a sign on the door saying please knock and wait before entering and this must be respected.

You should be free to change the layout of the room around and to individualise it for yourself.

Moving the bed to the side of the room or to the side or against the wall and placing other equipment such as a mat and exercise ball/bean bag around the room gives you more options in the positions you choose to give birth in.

The mat, birth ball, bean bag, chairs or birth stool should be visible and available. A mat and ball should be placed in the center of the room instead of being hidden.

The bed can be moved from the central position, but most importantly it should not have sheets drawn back ‘inviting; the woman to get in. The bed could be raised or lowered and covered with cushions or pillows for use as a support for the woman or her partner/support person.  The white sheets on the bed could also be changed.  A coloured blanket could be placed on the bed.

Bringing some colour into the room as well as some natural light or lamps would also have a calming effect.  Music is used for pain management in different areas of health.  Music can be selected by the woman and/or her partner/support person.

Some items in the room could also be removed or hidden.  For example, medical equipment should be concealed in cupboards so that the woman and her family do not need to see them, but they will be easily accessible by midwives when needed, instead of having to run to the storeroom or leave the room in the case of an emergency.  Women should be able to walk into birthing room/suite and not be threatened by intimidation equipment of CTG machines, resuscitation and other intimidating equipment that may allude to possibilities or complications that may arise.

The clock could be covered so as not to disrupt the woman’s confidence or emphasis birthing to a time line. If the bath or shower is in a separate room, the bathroom door should be kept open so that the bath/shower is in sight.

You and your partner should be told that the room in the hospital is ‘your’ room and to make it as comfortable and homely as possible.  You should feel like you can use any space of the room you want to without being afraid that you will damage hospital technology or machines.  Examples of familiar items could include a soft night light, a colourful blanket and pillow, a picture to focus on, music, kneeling pads, yoga mat, bolster and birth ball (ask if the hospital has one).   (extract from Midwifery Today Vol 12 Autumn 2012, p41)