Using Physical Support | 1 of 4 Ways to Encourage an Epidural Free Birth | by Doula + Birth Photographer Brittney Hogue
using physical support
counter pressure + hip squeezes
This is probably the best kept secret of childbirth right here. Now and then you hear someone who used counter pressure in birth, but most people you meet… will have no idea what you are talking about, let alone what it looks like! However uncommon in labor, these two small measures are not the only ways you can use physical support, but they are probably the easiest. Counter pressure and hip squeezes can do WONDERS and are heavily utilized by doulas and childbirth educators. The best part… It only takes the help of a partner. Your mom, your husband, your best friend. Anyone can do them.
Counter pressure is great for back labor. Many women with back labor are experiencing a baby laying in a posterior position. Sometimes, babies to do move into an anterior position until well into active labor. Applying counter pressure to those often more intense back labor pains can provide an amazing relief! To apply counter pressure, simply stand behind mama, use your fists and press firmly on either side of the spine in the lumbar region. Each mom is different and is built differently. It might take a try or two to find the sweet spot. It may surprise you how MUCH pressure brings her comfort. Try not to ask questions during a contraction. She’ll let you know how to improve during the break or give you direction during the contraction on her own.
Hip squeezes can be a bit more physically demanding on a support person. I usually start with trying to find a “meaty” part of the upper gluts and like dad is doing in the photo above… direct pressure inward. That doesn’t seem like a lot of instruction, right? Because it’s honestly that simple. Your support person may find a sweet spot here as well and mom can help guide with where feels best. Hip squeezes can also be given when mom is laboring in bed. This would be a “single” hip squeeze over a “double” hip squeeze. Apply gentle pressure to the hip area, adjusting your strength until mom gives you the thumbs up.
When you support the ilium of the hip, it can help widen the outlet of the pelvis… giving baby a little more room to come down and little less pressure on the pelvic outlet. Notice the ilium makes up a wide area of the pelvis… that really just show there’s many areas that could be a sweet spot. So try a few times before giving up. At some point, a hip squeeze may not feel like it’s helping. So take a break from them and revisit later!
You can practice these techniques in pre-labor or early labor when you notice contractions are sporadic. Doulas and other birth workers might use a Rebozo cloth to support hips in labor. The approach is just slightly different that using your partner’s hands, but it takes a lot less physical exertion to use a Rebozo.
So what’s next? You’ve got these new tools to help you with physical support through early labor and maybe into active labor? But where do you go from here when that 5-6 cm time is getting tough! Continuing reading into my next post!