Yes, that’s right! Colorful and bright balloons are everyday sight in mother/ baby units, and will often welcome the mother and her newborn when they arrive home. However, no one talks about the value of balloons during childbirth.
As we all know, one of the biggest challenges in childbirth is to allow the opening of our body, specifically the cervix, in light of the constant, clenching contractions of the uterus. It seems that mothers tend to follow the lead of their uterus and contract their whole body for various reasons: fear, tension, and the habit of tensing up when in pain. If you observe the mom’s body during her contractions, you may notice her tight fists, her raised shoulders, curled toes, or locked jaw. What you can’t see, but I can guarantee you is also intensely tightened, is her pelvic floor muscle. As long as the body clenches, the mother can’t let go of her pelvic floor muscle, and this might prevent her from opening up and dilating. After all, childbirth is all about opening up and letting go of your baby, allowing it to come to the world.
When coaching the mom to loosen up her body during labor, when trying to shift her focus from the pain to the progress of her dilation, and when finally coaching her through pushing, balloons become valuable during childbirth as labor support tools. The balloon’s round shape, its disposition to grow and expand, and the muscles that are engaged in the task of inflating it are all great qualities that declare balloon-utilization a labor support tool.
During labor, when coaching your client through a contraction, you may want to ask her to visualize herself inflating a balloon. This may serve her as a coping technique and/or as a coaching tool to achieve deep long belly breathing. Here is how it works – In between contractions, ask her to choose a balloon in her favorite color, then, with the onset of contraction, guide her to “ take a deep breath and with exhalation inflate the balloon (to the count of 6) to the size of a pear. Now, take another deep breath and keep inflating the balloon to the size of a grapefruit, keep going, one more breath and it’s now the size of a melon. One more breath and it is now the size of your head, one last breath…and release and let it fly away.” This visualization technique helps the mom to engage the mind and focus on the balloon rather than the pain. In this respect, it serves as a coping technique. As mentioned before, it can also serve to achieve another goal: coaching the mom to regulate her breathing with deep, long inhalation; she is invited to “expand the belly like a big balloon,“ which counters her natural tendency to clench rather than relax her muscles and accept the contractions. In addition, the mother focuses on a growing round shape, which can symbolize the growing dilation.
Last two tips on this visualization technique:
- The more tangible your instructions are (hence the pear, grapefruit, melon metaphors), the more her mind can visualize the growing balloon.
- Some of your clients are afraid of popping balloons. In my 16 years of practice, I have had more than a handful of them. Check ahead of time, and you can switch the balloons with bubbles, asking the mom to blow beautiful colorful bubbles, visualizing them getting bigger and larger in size…
Now let’s talk about the mother inflating a real balloon during pushing: one of the challenges of pushing is to push the baby down towards the ring of fire, overcoming the fear and the pain. Another challenge we face is with moms who took epidural since, with the numbness, comes the risk of not being able to tone the muscles and push down. For these reasons I suggest to have a balloon pack in your doula bag – or if you are and OBGYN or a midwife, in your shirt pocket. Hand the mother a new balloon and just ask her to inflate it. Again, this will help her to focus on something other than the scary thought “there is a head coming out of my vagina.” In this respect, it serves as a coping technique. However, think about the muscles that engaged when inflating a balloon: abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor muscle work together and push down through the exhale with enough power to overcome the objection of the balloon (objection not there when visualizing). Blowing a balloon is a great detour from the fear and epidural numbness, which also brings great results and progress as the mom pushes her baby.
Like my coaching tips?
-You can acquire many coaching tools like this in my coming product “The Complete Coaching Tools Kit for Doulas” (visit my homepage to sign up for the promotional deal). In addition, this coming November, I will be leading my first webinar: Coaching Your Birth Client around the Dilemma of Epidural – Before, during and after Childbirth.” Join my mailing list here to get an invitation.
To Healthy and Active Births on Earth!
Neri Life-Choma, Birth Coach Method founder