Comfort Measures in Labor: Focal Points
Last week I discussed the importance of eye contact in labor. This week I am discussing the similar comfort measure of focal points.
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A focal point is just something you stare at. It can be something you rest your eyes on while your mind wanders like day dreaming or staring into space while trying to remember something. It can also be something you intentionally “bore” your eyes into to distract from pain or exhaustion.
A few years ago, I got really into working out. I would intensely workout for 3-4 at a time some days. You must understand that I have never been an athletic person…at all. However, at this time, I was determined to lose weight and get fit. I went from being a TV addicted couch potato to exercising an average of two hours a day. I eventually decided to prove to myself I could run a 5K.
There were many days that I didn’t feel like working out, I didn’t have the energy, I didn’t have the motivation, I was in pain, I was exhausted, I just wanted to lay down and watch Star Trek. One of the tricks I learned quickly was to use focal points to get me through a work out. I would find a spot on the wall in the gym and “run into that spot.” I would focus on that spot with such an intensity that other people in the gym probably thought my facial expressions were comical. The harder I focused, the more determined I would become. I was in control, not the pain, not the exhaustion.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27 says: “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” I understood that verse so much more after the experience of forcing my body to do what it did not want to do but what I wanted it to do. I didn’t “run aimlessly,” I had a goal, I had an aim and it kept me focused. It distracted me from what was not important and kept me fixated on “the finish line.”
How does a focal point help?
Gate Control Theory says that our brains can only take in so much information. When we flood our system with extra sensations/information, our nerves close the extra gates to only let through what it sees as most important. Pain is decreased in order to let through other information that may protect a person.
Closing your eyes blocks out information being sent to your brain. This allows your brain to focus on the other senses, including your sensitivity to pain. So keep your eyes open and focused on something.
How can a focal point be used in labor?
Anything can be used as a focal point. The only suggestion I would have is to NOT use a clock or the monitors measuring your contractions.
Ideas For Focal Points:
- a picture of a relaxing place
- a picture of you doing something that made you feel powerful or relaxed
- a picture of your family
- your husband’s eyes
- a stuffed animal
- an ultrasound picture of your baby
- your baby’s clothing
- a necklace worn by your doula
- an affirmation or Bible verse
- a spot on the wall
- a word or phrase like “open” or “let go” or “peace”
The options are endless and your focal point may change as labor progresses.
This article shared a great idea. This mom used a card that someone had made for her that said, “Go ahead and let go, Katy. He’s almost here.” The “o” in “go” had been drawn to show the size of 10 cm dilation. This card reminded her to relax all the way down to her cervix and let her body open to welcome her son. It also reminded her that she was close to the end. She would soon see her son face-to-face. When you know the end is near, it gives you that extra boost to keep going a little longer.
A focal point is an easy and effective way of distracting from pain and motivating a laboring mom when exhaustion starts to set in.
Did you use a focal point in your birth? Do you plan on using a focal point? What do you think you would like to use as a focal point?