Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators: Comfort at Any Stage

labor comfort.jpgStacie Bingham, LCCE, CD(DONA) is the creator of this month’s Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators.  When creating this fantastic activity, Stacie was hoping to help the families she works with to feel prepared for what to expect during the different phases and stages of labor, including that potentially exhausting pre-labor/early labor phase, as well as feel confident that they had the tools to respond to the changing needs of a laboring person.  You can find all the Brilliant Activities for Birth Educator posts here, where you can browse engaging and interactive ideas for your own childbirth classes.  - Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Science & Sensibility.

Introduction

The inspiration for this Lamaze class activity started when I realized that I had a few ideas I wanted to share with my classes, and I considered how they might best go together in one activity.  My goals were to:

  1. Update the stages of labor to reflect an additional pre-labor phase at the onset of the first stage.
  2. Scaffold the stages/phases of labor by choosing and practicing support techniques that were meant to intertwine with the key emotional and physical events occurring in each phase.
  3. Provide a handout to families which not only would help them to visualize the opening of first stage, but also would serve as a cheat sheet to labor happenings in every phase and stage, the timing of each and different ways to cope during the different parts of labor.

Materials needed

  • Items that offer comfort in labor (lollipops, garden pad, massage tools, pool noodles cut into ⅓, one for each family, essential oils, tennis balls, massage oil, scalp massagers, visualization images, etc)
  • An information sheet for each family with diagrams or pictures of your favorite labor positions that families can try
  • A collection of items that encourage art (tape, scissors, construction paper, markers, colored pencils, crayons, pastels, emoticon stickers, glue and more)
  • Non-negotiable for this activity are a set of 4 circles from cardstock for each family (or ovals since the cervix opens more in that shape) measuring 3cm, 6cm, 8cm, and 10cm, tacked together with a metal fastener/brad at the bottom.

When I conduct this activity

You could do this activity when you normally cover stages/phases of labor or you could use it during a comfort measures section of class, when it also provides a great review of what is happening physically and emotionally during each section of labor.  It is helpful to have families sitting around some tables, or at least in small groups where they can share the art supplies.

comfort stage 2.jpgHow I conduct this activity

I place three laminated sheets of paper up, labeled with each stage of labor (and what is happens during that stage) as well as another one that reminds them that the first stage is broken up into three phases. I start sharing about each stage and phase as I put them up. I laminate them so I can write notes in dry erase markers using the info the class feeds me and then wipe clean to reuse next time.

On the front of the dilation circles, I have the class members  write things like average length of that phase, approximate cervical dilation achieved, contraction action, and more (note: I don't show all of that in the picture). The pinnacle of this is affixing the face sticker to the appropriate phase​, as a handy visual reminder of what a laboring person might be feeling in that moment.

comfort stage 3.pngcomfort stage 4.pngWhile we are moving through the phases with markers and stickers, we are also brainstorming what comfort measures might be beneficial at what time, and these labor activities are added to the back of the appropriate circle. We stop to practice these comfort measures as we go so everyone gets a chance to try them out. We use some of the tools in the baskets. If we want people to feel comfortable with the different physical ways to counter the strong sensations of labor, we can't expect them to fully understand from a picture or verbal description alone! We need to actually show families what these positions and movements look like, how they feel, when they help and offer opportunity to practice these often in class.  We work our way through each stage/phase with famiies making customized cheat sheets for themselves on the back of the dilation circles.​

What are families saying about this activity?

The families really enjoy getting creative, brainstorming ideas and practicing labor positions. They have shared with me that they found this a fun learning activity that starts the conversation about what the reality of labor might be like and how the emotional and physical sensations might change through the process. They also appreciate having the hands on guide to take with them along with tools to use.

Conclusion

At the close of this activity, each family walks away with their own concentric circles of useful information for each stage and phase, some items to place in their birth bag that might come in handy during labor (the lotion, scents, lollipops, tennis ball, a piece of pool noodle,) and an information sheet which shows about 20 different physical positions of a laboring person and partner working together.)  Note, I provide the pool noodle sections so that families can use them for rolling pressure on the back, self massage with the wall, self massage for the feet, and to bring up one leg/hip higher when laboring person is sitting in bed or a chair, or even standing.

I think this is a great way to merge my three goals! A handy takeaway that can be utilized easily during birth. I like accomplishing my learning objectives in a fun, effective and interactive way!  I am confident that my families are now ready for “Comfort at Any Stage.”

Do you think that you might try something like this in your childbirth classes?  How might you modify this to meet your particular class needs?  Let us know in the comments section. - SM

About Stacie Bingham

© Stacie Bingham
© Stacie Bingham

Stacie Bingham, LCCE, CD(DONA), embraces the lighter side of the often weighty subject of birth. Her style feels more like a comedy-show experience than a traditional class. She has been a La Leche League Leader for 13 year, attended 150 births as a doula, and logged 1000 hours as a childbirth educator. An experienced writer and editor, she was a columnist for the Journal of Perinatal Education’s media reviews, has been published in LLLI’s New Beginnings and DONA International’s International Doula, and keeps up with her blog (where she frequently shares her teaching ideas).

She is the current Chair for Visalia Birth Network, and a founding member of Chico Doula Circle, and Advocates for Tongue Tie Education. Stacie has presented at conferences on the topic of tongue tie, as her 4th baby came with strings attached. Stacie and her four sons, husband, and two dogs reside in California’s Central Valley. For more information or teaching tips, visit her at staciebingham.com.

To leave a comment, click on the Comment icon on the left side of the screen.  You must login to submit a comment.  

Recent Stories
Meet Natalie Burke - LamazeLIVE Presenter Speaking on Equity in Maternal Health

Three Reasons Why You Shouldn't Resist Joining The Lamaze Presenting Partner Program

Series: Welcoming All Families - Supporting Visually Impaired and Blind Families