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Birth and its stages

“Labour is similar to a dance; you just need to find the right step and rhythm, and then you are on your way.”     

Suzanne Yates

Each mother experiences labour in a different way. And although the labour is thought of as having three stages, they might flow into each other without being clearly defined by the mother. Breathing, visualisation, massage and right positions will help her to relax and keep focused. Fear and anxiety, exhaustion, lack of food or lying on the back will slow down or even block the progress resulting in more pain.  Click here for detailed information about stages of birth.


Coming into the open unknown world is a new experience for the baby. And especially after the labour process it will be seeking some reassurance from the mother. Placing the baby on mother’s chest after the birth provides that reassurance as it can listen to mother’s heartbeat that it was used to before the birth.



Practice different positions and try linking them together before the labour, as you don’t know which one you will prefer during childbirth. Involvement of your partner is always helpful. Try to avoid lying on your back, which is usually uncomfortable as the baby is compressed against the mother’s back. But also slows things down. Use side-lying position if the positions listed below don’t seem to be comfortable for you.

  • The most active positions

    standing, standing squat, all fours (no head on the floor), squatting, and sitting on a birthing ball or the wrong way round on a chair.

  • Resting positions

    leaning over the ball or chair, side lying position. Click here to see pictures.

  • Birthing pool positions

    squatting, lying on the back. Leaning back and floating slows the labour down.



It’s important to maintain energy intake especially during long childbirth. Fresh fruit (bananas are good source of energy), fresh vegetables or oatcakes and rice cakes are good as light snacks and easy to digest. Also dried fruit contains a lot of energy. Tea and coffee can be too stimulating. Fruit juice or smoothies are energetic and good for thirst. Avoid fizzy drinks that are too bloating. And of course plain water is refreshing.


Touch can help to relieve labour pain. Rubbing or massaging abdomen, legs, arms, back or neck and shoulders can be soothing and relieve discomfort.

  • Back

    Hand –over-hand stroking from shoulders over the spine, buttocks and onto the tops of thighs. It can be done as firmly or quickly as the mother wants.

  • Sacrum

    Opening: Hands are placed on each buttock (over sacrum) with fingers pointing out and the pressure applied can release the tension and ease discomfort in back or buttocks.Gathering: The fingers are pointing to the centre and the hands are squeezed together when mother breathes out. Not good for Symphysis pubis disorder! Or just apply pressure on the sacrum if that is what the mother needs. Back massage is good when the mother is leaning over a ball or a chair.

  • Abdomen

    The mother can be lying on her side, sitting, leaning over a ball or in the all-four position. Start with sweeping clockwise strokes. Then put both hands on lower back and, as the mother breathes out, draw the two hands together towards the midline of the abdomen. Move your hands back to the lumbar with very light stroke as she breathes in.

  • Legs

    Mother is standing. Place one hand at the top of a leg and the other at the bottom. Vigorously stroke the top one down the outside of the leg and at the same time move the other hand up the inside of the leg. Move the hands back to starting position with light strokes. When mother is in the all- four position or leaning over a ball, stroke down her legs and finish by holding or gently massaging her feet.

  • Arms and hands

    Simply glide the palms of your hands up and down the mother’s arms. The mother should open and close her hands to relax them.

  • Head, neck and Shoulders

    Start with light hand-over-hand strokes over the head, neck, down the mother’s shoulders. Place forearms over the tops of the shoulders and lean in the direction of her spine and down towards her feet.


Be guided by mother’s feelings when choosing the right points for her. Use them if they feel powerful. But, if they feel strange, don’t. During the labour some mothers feel they want the points to be held for a few minutes, other mothers even for hours. Sometimes rubbing the middle of the mother’s palm is enough as that’s a solar plexus reflex and has a very soothing effect on the emotions.

  • SP6 – Breeched baby, Uterus

    It helps to change baby’s position. It also has a strong toning position and stimulating effect on the uterus. It can help when the uterus is tired or for labour initiation. Place the tip of your little finger on top of inner anklebone. The point is three finger-widths above the bone.

  • BL67 - Breeched baby

    Another point promoting downward movement of the head of the foetus. This point is on the lateral side of the base of the little toenail.

  • GB21 – Relaxing tension, placenta delivery

    This point helps to relax the tension in the shoulders, neck, jaw and opening the perineum during labour. Also helps with the delivery of the placenta. Postnatally it can be used with poor lactation. The point is in the hollow on the top of the shoulder, in the highest point of the shoulder muscle.

  • LI4 – Sickness, diarrhoea, pain

    It can be used when mother is feeling sick, has diarrhoea or headaches. The point is on the back of the hand between the thumb and index finger, above the web.

  • BL31-4 – Pain relief

    These points are useful during first stage contractions for pain relief and also may help the contractions to be more effective. They are used even to strengthen the lower back, knees and for difficult urination. Some mothers like them during whole labour. They might be difficult to find. Find the hip bones and follow the curves down until the top pair of points is reached, just about thumb-width out from the midline. Start gently circling with your thumbs around the dips until the thumbs settle in the centre of the points. Apply static pressure.


If the mother is relaxed, the childbirth is actually less likely to be painful and the baby is less likely to become distressed.

  • Breathing combined with visualization is the best way of getting in the relaxed mood.

  • Melodic Music (not hard rock, sudden, loud and un-rhythmical) played during the last few weeks of pregnancy can be relaxing for mother and also for a baby during the labour.

  • Perhaps add some candles to the room with less sharp light.

  • Massaging the middle of the palm is relaxing


Remember there are a number of factors that can slow or block the progress of the labour. Anxiety, exhaustion, lack of food, giving up, or uncomfortable positions are some of them. Also lying on your back, which compresses your sacrum and makes the labour more painful.


The baby is aware of touch since week 8, sound since week 22 and light since week 30. It’s nice during pregnancy to explain to baby the process of the labour. The baby might also be more relaxed if the music, which used to be played during pregnancy, is played, as it’s something the baby knows. For this reason fathers bonding with a baby is important to. The baby lets the father handle him without crying, wanting to go back to his mother, if he was used to his voice and touch during pregnancy. One of my clients realised how important it is as now her son is only “mummy’s boy”. Another client lets her young daughter rub her belly, believing that the siblings are already creating a good relationship. Funnily enough, the baby moves around if it hears its sister’s cry.


Safe doses of essential oils for the massage in pregnancy and the labour are 0,5-1% concentrations, diluted in fixed oil, cream, etc.

  • Jasmine can produce a very strong smell. Jasmine is analgesic and good for contractions, shortens labour, expels afterbirth quickly.

  • Lavender is also analgesic and refreshing when a few drops are used in cool water to sponge mother’s body when hot. Also good in oil burner or air spray.

In all cases check with the mother if she likes the smell and be prepared to remove the oil from the room when it starts to be unbearable for her. It’s advisable to bring diluted oils to avoid possible spillage in the room where mother will spend some time during the labour. It is difficult to get rid of a strong smell from any spillage.

Both essential oils can be used up to one week before the labour. Diluted oils can be rubbed into the tummy or lower back or 6 drops put into the bath.

Recommended reading: Beautiful Birth by Suzanne Yates

Safe doses of essential oils for the massage in pregnancy and the labour are 0,5-1% concentrations, diluted in fixed oil, cream, etc.It is advisable to make an appointment for those who aren’t my clients yet and discuss information mentioned above with me. Some techniques need to be practised before the birth (shiatsu points only from 37 week of pregnancy) to guarantee its effectiveness during the labour.

bonding with baby

Ready to find out more?

I wish you good health and will be looking forward to welcoming you personally at my practice. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

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