Three Rs

Guide for Viewing Relaxation, Rhythm, Ritual:  The 3 Rs of Childbirth

  My hope is that this video will help you know what to expect; accustom you to the normal and powerful sounds and behavior of laboring women; recognize the importance of the 3 Rs; and become inspired and confident as you embark on your child’s birth journey.

Please read before viewing Relaxation, Rhythm, Ritual:  The 3 Rs of Childbirth

“Relaxation, Rhythm and Ritual:  The 3Rs of Childbirth” will, with few words and many rich visual and auditory images, show the variety of ways that laboring women cope with their contractions.  Of the 23 scenes, the first 4 show women in early labor (before 4 cm dilation); the next 13 show women in active labor; and the last 6 show women pushing and giving birth.  Each scene consists of one contraction and shows the women in early and active labor responding with a variety of relaxing or rhythmic movements and breathing or vocal patterns.  The women repeated the same response for many contractions, which was their ritual.

Most women in childbirth classes are taught specific rituals to use during labor.  These are “prescribed rituals.”  They usually include relaxation, a breathing technique, and attention-focusing or distraction techniques.  You will see women using a prescribed ritual in the early part of the video.  These rituals are usually helpful during early labor, but less helpful as labor advances and the contractions become more intense.  Women no longer remain “in control.”  Instead, they stop trying to follow the prescribed ritual, and their bodily sensations and instincts now guide their responses.  They no longer plan or think about what they are doing.  Instead, they find themselves responding automatically, with “spontaneous rituals.”  In doing so, they discover their own best way to cope, which is highly individual, but always includes rhythm in some form.  Some lose their rhythm at times and need help from their partner or doula to maintain it, as you will also see in the video.

Once a woman is in the state of consciousness in which she is responding to her contractions with these spontaneous rhythmic rituals, her partner, doula, and those who are caring for her should support the ritual by the following, which you will see in the video:

  • Not disturbing, changing, or interrupting her ritual with questions, directions, loud noises, turning up the lights, etc.
  • Being a part of the ritual (if she indicates she wants it, by holding or stroking her, swaying with her, matching her rhythm with head nodding, hand movements, stroking her or murmuring soothing reassuring words).
  • It is not unusual for a woman to feel overwhelmed by the contractions at times and to struggle to keep her rhythm.  If so, her partner or doulas can help her regain and maintain her rhythm by getting her attention with voice or eye contact, and asking her to follow his or her rhythmic signals.  This is the Take Charge Routine, when someone she trusts takes an active role if she falters and helps her get back into a rhythmic coping ritual.

When women reach the second (birthing) stage, rhythm is no longer their coping response, because they now begin felling an urge to push – a powerful reflex from the uterus that guides them to bear down and strain to push the baby out, so at this time, the women shift to following the urges of their bodies.

As you view this video, remember that all the women are coping well.  For viewers who are unaccustomed to seeing women laboring “as nature intended,” that is, without pain medications or obstetric equipment, it may be disturbing at first.  If you become uncomfortable, try to calm yourself by relaxing your shoulders and other tense areas and breathing slowly and fully.

I usually recommend that people try to watch this video more than once, because with each viewing it becomes easier to watch and less disturbing.  As the first viewing, the sounds that the women make, and their instinctual behavior are mistaken for signs of distress.  In fact, many women have realized that they had been afraid of labor, but viewing the video helped them to reframe their definition of normal healthy behavior during labor, and their expectations for themselves.  As they became less bothered by the sounds, they became more able to see the strength in the women.  They gained confidence in themselves.  Women who desire an unmedicated birth are better prepared to do so, after learning what coping well really means, and the importance of rhythm.  Others may choose to use an epidural after viewing this video.  Both will be better informed about their choice.

In conclusion, the lesson from this video is that as long as a woman has rhythm (in some form) during the first stage, and can follow her spontaneous urges to push during the second stage, she is doing very well, even if her sounds and behavior are out of the ordinary for her.  We need to accustom ourselves to the powerful sounds and movements of laboring women, so that we do not misinterpret them as distress and undermine her coping efforts with pity.  It is not distress unless she loses her rhythm and expresses despair or panic.  Our job is to appreciate and encourage her coping efforts and to help her to a satisfying birth as she defines it.

With best wishes for a Happy Birth Day,

Penny Simkin