Comfort Measures in Labor: Laughter
You’ve probably heard “laughter is the best medicine” and it seems that it may be true. I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t know the effect laughter can have on their emotional state. How many times have you had a stressful day and come home desiring nothing more than to watch some silly sitcom so you can just laugh away the day’s burden?
My mother has told me a story of when she was younger and mowing the lawn. She hit a rock that shot out of the mower sending it straight into her leg. She still has a scar. The moment this occurred she started laughing and couldn’t stop. Her mom even chastised her a bit for laughing rather than crying. Hahaha. Laughter while in pain is not logical but there is something about it that seems to change our perception of the pain whether it be physical or psychological.
How does laughing help in labor?
Laughing has been found to have amazing benefits physically, emotionally, and socially.
Laughter lowers stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This is very important in labor, especially early labor. Stress hormones can actually slow or stop labor. Laughing also boosts endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killers. Endorphins also help to boost oxytocin which is the hormone that drives contractions.
Laughter also increases oxygenation, blood flow, and relaxes your muscles. This can help keep both you and baby well oxygenated, relaxed, and decreases exhaustion.
Enjoying a moment of laughter reduces fear, stress, and anxiety. It is said that the most common reason for women to have labor slow or stop and require intervention is due to fear and anxiety preventing them from being able to relax. Telling a person to relax is always easier said than done so having something to laugh about is a great way to help a laboring mother forget about being anxious about being anxious and show her how to relax.
Laughing has been found to increase joy, improve mood, and enhance resilience. As a woman enters the transition stage of labor, she often starts to feel as if she can no longer continue. She is exhausted, feeling like labor will never end, and tempted to give up. Improving her mood and boosting her resilience can give her just the push to keep going.
Socially, laughter helps to bond people. This act can enhance teamwork and defuse conflict. Occasionally in a birthing experience, a couple’s desires for their birth experience may differ from the facility or the caregiver’s policies or normal practices. This can lead to conflict which can cause the laboring mother anxiety. The old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” has a bit of a point. If you start to feel anxious with your caregiver or facility staff, try using humor as a way to help you bond with the team. This may help them feel more open to stepping outside of their comfort zones and help you to look back on the experience in a more positive way.
How can laughter be used in labor?
Are there movies that really make you belly laugh? Is there a particular TV series that you can watch a million times and still laugh until tears roll down your face? Do you like a particular comic or comic strip that makes you smile from ear to ear? What about jokes?
If you are having a home birth or even in the early stages of labor, you can watch movies or TV shows at home. If you have a computer or portable DVD player or even an iPad, you can bring that with you to the birth center or hospital. Just don’t forget the charger and you may want to bring a small extension cord in case the outlet is not near where you. Another idea is to keep a Pinterest board of humor to look back on or create a YouTube playlist of all your favorite funny videos.
Consider clipping jokes, memes, or comic strips and write, glue, or tape them to a note book or index cards. You can tape them up around your room or birthing area or flip through them like flash cards. If you need some inspiration, I attach a humorous meme/picture/comic strip at the end of my Favorite Finds Friday posts each week.
You may also think about funny experiences or stories you like to remember that you have had with your husband. Write down a few sentences to jog his memory in a notebook. During labor if you need to hear one of these stories, he can look in the book and retell you the story.
- What helps me to laugh at the end of a long, hard day?
- What makes me laugh when I’m feeling sad, grumpy, or just in a funk?
- What makes me really laugh?
“Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more. Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.” (Smith and Segal)
I highly recommend including laughter as a part of your birth plan. Find some funny videos, jokes, comics, or stories that you can watch, read, or have someone read to you while you are in labor. It will help shorten labor and improve how you feel about your labor experience.