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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to help with anxiety/stress/agitation before, during, and after labor

I've talked a lot about helping with anxiety or stress with essential oils, but I thought I should mention other ways to help with this.

One reason I have become so interested in this, is because I had a client one time that started having an anxiety attack during her labor.  I wasn't quite sure how to help with this at the time.  As I thought about it afterwards  , I realized that anxiety is a huge part of what women have to work through during labor and birth.  I then started looking for other ways to help women deal with this.

When someone is feeling anxious ,their sympathetic branch of their autonomic nervous system is stimulated.  This releases hormones that cause the typical signs of anxiety.  One of the best ways to help with this is deep breathing.  I've posted this quote before , but I'm going to post it again because I think it does such a great job of describing how deep breathing is beneficial in helping with anxiety.

“Some benefits of abdominal breathing include
  1. Increased oxygen supply to the brain and musculature.
  2. Stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This branch of your autonomic nervous system promotes a state of calmness and quiescence. It works in a fashion exactly opposit to the sympathetic branch of your nervous system which stimulates a state of emotional arousal and the very physiological reactions underlying a panic attack.
  3. Greater feelings of connectedness between mind and body. Anxiety and worry tend to keep you “up in your head”. A few minutes of deep abdominal breathing will help bring you down into your whole body.
  4. More efficient excretion of bodily toxins. Many toxic substances in the body are excreted thorugh the lungs.
  5. Improved concentration. If your mind is racing it's difficult to focus your attention. Abdominal breathing will help to quiet your mind.
  6. Abdominal breathing by itself can trigger a relaxation response.

Bourne Edmund J. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook Fourth Edition

Another thing that can be very helpful for stress/anxiety is a massage.  If someone does not feel comfortable with a back massage or is not in a good position for a back massage, a foot massage can be just a useful.  In fact , there have been some studies that have shown an even greater decrease in anxiety when someone is receiving a reflexology treatment vs a regular massage.  In my own practice ,most women love the reflexology treatments I give.  This is also something that can be taught to woman so they can practice this on themselves.
A great chart for reflexology can be found here.  For anxiety , you can work the solar plexis area and the spine.  (Just on a side note , some people claim that reflexology also helps speed up labor).

Places where massage can be particularly helpful:  on the ride to the hospital , anytime there is a change in scenery , while getting an epidural , before making a big decision involving your care , to help relieve pre and post natal stress.  

Some studies have also shown the benefit of soaking in hot water on relieving anxiety and stress.

"The parasympathetic branch of our body's nervous system increases hormones that cause the body to relax after stress has passed.

Warm water immersion seems to reduce the hormones associated with stress, at the same time separating you from your sources of stress which can further decrease your anxiety. Many people report an energizing effect from aquatic therapythat can last about four hours.

Another research found that, with 25 minutes of soaking in hot water (38ÂșC/102F) the autonomic nervous system alters, producing changes that are parallel to those seen during relaxation and accompanying a reduction in anxiety.

The study also suggests that along with the relaxation, warm water immersion may well have a positive effect on working memory and performance of cognitive tasks, including problem solving."

Visualization and medication can also be helpful.  There are lots of different ideas out there about how and what to visualize.  I recommend just thinking of something that makes you peaceful.  I like to think of a loving woman watching me and giving me encouragement.  This is also something that is best if done long term ,so if your interested in it , start early.

The last thing I will recommend is just movement.  There are a few things that happen when you move.  One , you increase your endorphins which help us feel better , and two , it decreases the adrenaline in your system(this is what gets you all geared up and anxious in the first place). 

I want to also address the place that food plays in anxiety , so stay tuned.

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Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?

  • One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
  • One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
  • One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.