by Suzanne Swan
Women who come to my active birthing classes are often most keen to learn about breathing techniques for labour. Whilst learning breathing skills is important, there is another birth skill I believe to be equally as valuable for the labouring woman. And that is vocalization or vocal toning.
Midwives know that when a labouring woman feels safe, private and unobserved she will move unrestrictedly, make sounds uninhibitedly and will more closely follow her instincts. Making sounds during labour helps you to shift your consciousness into a deeper, calmer state of mind thus optimising your birthing hormones helping you labour more efficiently. There is also a physiological connection between the vocal cords and cervix.
What is vocal toning in labour?
Vocalising in labour is the practice of making low, vibratory sound as breath is slowly released. Finding the ‘notes’ that resonate most profoundly with your body is referred to as ‘toning’.
In labour, you can do the vocal toning yourself, or others, such as your partner or support person do the vocalising with you. As one of our past students said, “I managed to get through with no pain relief or intervention. During the pushing phase I mooed like a cow and it felt fantastic. My partner Sam (who came to classes with me) was great. He gave me heaps of sacral massage and mooed along with me.”
In traditional cultures, experienced mothers sung to the woman during labour, surrounding her with sound to help shift her consciousness. This sound bath allowed the labouring woman’s body to work towards giving birth, and her consciousness to be with her baby.
How you can use vocal toning during labour?
As you move through abour, you will find yourself instinctively using different tones as you transition through the stages. The strong sensations in labour can be decreased and the whole body nourished through the hours of giving birth.
Vocal toning helps you to:
- relax and open the muscle fibers in the pelvic bowl, allowing the pelvic floor to open with more ease and help you birth your baby more quickly.
- create the optimum level of hormones and chemical action in the body for birthing your baby
Two of the most effective sounds you can use during labour and birth
1. The ‘hummming’ sound
- make a low humming sound with your lips closed but jaw relaxed
- the vibration of the lips increases the release of endorphins and other relaxation hormones
2. The ‘arhhh’ sound
- make a long ‘arhhh’ sound. The sound opens the throat and with you visualizing the pelvic bowl opening you become wider and wider as more air is released. Experiencing the correlation between your relaxed throat and your relaxed bottom
- remember to drop your chin to allow the sound to travel down and out
- you may find that during labour, the low tones will create more opening than the higher tones. A low deep ‘arhh’ is going to be more effective than a high ‘arhh’
PRO TIP: Babies love the sound of humming. Close your ears and listen to the sound of what your baby hears in the womb.
PRO TIP: Practice the ‘arhhh’ sound on the toilet. Just letting go of number 2 without pushing.
This will help you feel more relaxed and uninhibited when making the low earthy sounds in front of others. In time you will feel comfortable allowing yourself to make noise on the toilet – it will open up the way for your baby in labour and make your journey a lot more comfortable too.
Have fun experimenting and getting to know your own voice?
- Take a deep breath, pick any note and sing it.
- When you run out of breath, take another deep breath and keep going. Intend the sound to the place you want to open and relax. The essence of sound is to resonate and heal the parts of our body that need balance.
- ‘Your’ note is the note that most resounds in your body.
- Another note will come when your body’s need for that sound has been fulfilled.
- Tone for five minutes.
Stop and be silent. It is said by the Hindu Vedas that “all sound is aiming towards silence”.
Written by Suzanne Swan, 2017, founder of yogababy, Senior Yoga teacher and Childbirth Educator. www.yogababy.com.au. Suzanne can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org