The 3 R’s in Labor: Relaxation, Rhythm and Ritual


Three R’s: Relaxation, Rhythm and Ritual is a great tool that is easy to remember for couples as well as easy to remember.  These three elements are in common with women that cope with labor well. 

Relaxation can be used in different ways in labor.  Relaxation can be used during or after contractions.  In early labor, relaxation during contractions can be very beneficial and a realistic goal.  Saving energy in between contractions can help a mother conserve energy later on in labor when contractions get longer and stronger.  A woman may prefer to move about in between contractions if she may need to and relax during contractions.  Later in labor, women may be able to cope better if they remain active through contractions.  They may feel better if they move or vocalize during contractions or even tense parts of their body.  Other methods may include swaying, rocking or rubbing their pregnant stomachs.   During this time, it is vital to become relaxed in between contractions.  Some women are able to maintain a relaxed zone during and after contractions, while staying quiet and focused.    

Rhythm is also an element used in labor with women that can cope very well.  Repetition can be helpful to aid in distraction through contractions.  Using breath, moaning or chanting may be helpful during contractions as well as rhythmically repeating words or singing.  She may rock, sway or dance.  A partner or doula can enhance this rhythm by following the same rhythm and help the mother reconnect to it if she may lose it in labor.  If the mother may find that she is not coping well, a partner or doula can establish a rhythm so the mother can refocus again.  

Ritual is the repetition of meaningful rhythmic activities during contractions.  These include relaxation, breathing and attention focusing.  A partner or doula can help in this process by maintaining eye contact, holding or touching, swaying, repeating the same words or phrases or counting breaths in between contractions.  If the mother is inward focusing, the partner or doula may just remain close and protect her from interruption.  Once a woman finds a ritual, she will begin to depend on it through many contractions.  Changing the ritual or disturbing it can throw her concentration off.  It is important to protect her space if she finds something that helps her cope.  Most women can change their ritual throughout labor to what may feel good to them, or when a change of pace is necessary.  A laboring woman must not be afraid to find her ritual to help her cope, even if it may be odd.  If she may not be able to find a ritual and rhythm, it may be helpful for her support team to find one for her by suggesting and encouraging.  

Some examples or using the Three R’s in labor may include:

During contractions, having someone in your support team brush your hair.

Rocking in a rocking chair in rhythm of your own pattern of breathing.  

Someone in your support team rubbing your legs slightly up and down during breathing.

Someone counting breaths for you out loud and pointing out when your are halfway through each contraction.  

Leaning on the edge of the sink while having your back rubbed with pressure, swaying rhymically.  

Visualizing rowing a boat through contractions while counting each breath.

Having a focal spot while breathing through contractions.    

Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn by Simkin, Whalley, Keppler, Durham and Bolding

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