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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Uses for a warm compress during birth

Warm compresses are something that many midwives use, and I feel like they have have a place in the care of women in labor and birth.  From my own experience having used warm compresses during the second stage of labor, it definately helps to decrease the pain felt while pushing.  Below, I've included some other ways to use this cheap and easy way of working through labor pains.

Heat is a good way to help with general aches and pains during pregnancy, labor and birth.  Many times, joints and muscles get tired and sore.  A heat pack is a good way to help relieve this pain.  You can place them on the back for back labor, as well as the abdomen and groin area.  This could help relieve some of the tension felt in these areas during labor, helping to relax and reduce pain.

There is some anecdotal evidence that heat packs may help speed up early labor.  It at least may help make it more comfortable.

Placing a heating pad or a warm blanket with the mom could also help relieve chills.  This would be useful after a c-section when the temperature of a mom is significantly decreased.  A warm blanket may also be useful for general relaxing purposes when the mom is tired or needing more rest.

Because heat also helps to increase connective tissue extensibility, this may be useful to help the baby move down the birth canal and through the pelvis.

Another great way to use warm compresses may is during the second stage of labor to help reduce the pain during crowning and in the following days.  It also may help to prevent anal tearing and urinary incontinence.

Heat packs also help with pain for the incision after a c-section.  This will also help promote healing to the area.  If you are using a heat pack for this reason, use ice for the first 24 hours, then switch over to heat.

In order to keep a heat pack in place, it can be placed in stretchy underwear or held in place by another person.  Just take care that it is not too hot so that it won't burn or get too uncomfortable.  Also make sure that there is a few layers of cloth between the heat pack and the mom's skin.
It may also be useful to use for the afterpains felt after birth.

Reasons that Heat May Help

It provides a competing sensation that helps to reduce the amount of pain felt.  This is described as the gateway theory of pain.

It provides a source of distraction so that the mom has something else to focus one besides the labor pains.

It helps relax and loosen tight muscles that helps reduce pain due to tight muscles or not allowing the uterus to relax and do it's job.  Check out my post on the fear-tension cycle for more info on this.

It promotes healing of any tissue that has been damaged and may reduce the amount of time it takes to heal.

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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.