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3 Relaxation Mistakes New Parents Quickly Make in Labor | Mother Rising

Did you know that there are three go-to spots to relax on the body that doulas and other birth professionals target for pain relief during childbirth? Why is relaxation during birth important? Does it really matter that much? And why is there a gif at the bottom of this page of Oprah?

All these mysteries, and much more, will be revealed in due time. Let’s dig in.

THE {Fear —> Tension —> Pain} CYCLE

There are many things parents can do to reduce pain and suffering during childbirth. One of them is to understand the fear, tension, pain cycle. Let me explain.

Tension in the body makes people experience more pain. Try it out for yourself:

  • The next time you’re in any sort of pain, tighten your shoulders, clench your jaw, and make your hands into fists. Your main focus will be how much pain you’re experiencing and how much it hurts.
  • Another time, do the opposite – drop your shoulders, open your mouth, and loosen your hands. No, your pain won’t go away, but I’m sure the experience will be more calm, and better managed. Your perception of pain will decrease.

What causes parents to experience tension in the body? Often times it’s fear. Other times, it’s just our natural response to recoil – pain is typically a warning sign that something isn’t right! When we touch a hot stove, it’s a GOOD thing to feel pain so that we stop injuring our hand with high heat. OUCH!

Benefits of Labor Pain

1. Heads UP!

However, labor pain is just different. This time nothing is wrong, labor pain is just signaling that it’s time to get to safe place to give birth. (I’m glad we get some heads up, aren’t you? Imagine if babies just slid on out with no warning? LOL!)

2. Movement = Labor Progress

Another benefit of the pain of labor is that it encourages moms to move their bodies and pelvis to find a more comfortable laboring position.

  1. Movement helps baby to get into a good position, which encourages labor to progress.
  2. Also, when a woman is moving her body instinctually throughout labor, she is reaps the benefits of gravity, further aiding labor progress.

3. Birth Hormones

Believe it or not, there are even more benefits of labor pain. When our body experiences pain, endorphins are released to help decrease our sensation of pain. It’s like a natural opiate!

Also, endorphins shift our brain waves to what I like to call “labor land” which is a meditative, trance-like state. This less alert state of being is helpful for focusing on the task at hand, and blocking everything else out. Endorphins help us to adapt!

3 Relaxation Mistakes New Parents Quickly Make in Labor

Now that we’ve discussed how addressing fear and tension can decrease pain, let’s get to the main point. The following are 3 go-to spots to relax on the body that will decrease labor pain. Woohoo!

Did you know that there are three go-to spots to relax on the body that doulas and other birth professionals target for pain relief during childbirth? Don't make the mistake and forget to relax these spots!

Shoulders (S)

The first part of the body to relax during contractions are the shoulders. The next time you feel pain or tension, notice with the shoulders are doing. More often than not, they’re raised and everything is tense.

To relax the shoulders, simply lower them down. A helpful phrase for birth partners to say is, “drop your shoulders”. Or, if words are not needed, just place the hands on her shoulders. Sometimes, slow, gentle downward strokes on the shoulders are helpful too.

Mouth (M)

The next part of the body to relax during labor contractions is the mouth. Have you ever found yourself clenching your jaw or pursing your lips in response to stress? Or have you ever been told that you grind your teeth at night? Yep, a lot of people hold tension in their mouth and jaw.

An easy way to release tension in the mouth is to open it so that it’s impossible to bite down. If the lips are tight, try making a horse sound aka “horse lips”. That’ll loosen things up real fast!

“Remember, a relaxed jaw means an open vagina.” – Home Fries

Hands (H)

Finally, the third go-to spot on the body to relax during labor are the hands.  Have you ever noticed yourself clenching your fists during a stressful moment or while in pain? Yep, our hands, just like our jaws and shoulders tend to hold a lot of our stress and tension.

In labor if you feel your hands tightening into fists, simply open them up. A wonderful way to relax the hands is to receive a hand massage. Just sayin’. 😉


Sometimes in labor it’s difficult to remember the things you learned in a childbirth class, online, or in a book. Birth is an intense experience, and the endorphins don’t make it easy to think clearly either. To help you remember the three go-to spots to relax on the body during labor, I present them to you, my friends, in the form of the acronym SMH.

S – shoulders
M – mouth
H – head

For those that don’t know about SMH, it’s something used online and in texts that means “shake my head”.  And now you know.

So the next time you’re at a birth and you’re wondering what to do to help cope with the pain, just remember Oprah shaking her head. Oprah says, “the three spots to relax on the body for a better birth are the shoulders, mouth, and hands.”

Or maybe the next time you text someone SMH remember the three spots to relax on the body – shoulders, mouth, hands.

You’re welcome. LOL!

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