Supporting and empowering positive birth and postpartum experiences in the greater Phoenix area.

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Compassionate Touch

Your body knows how to give birth.

Your body also knows what kind of touch you need during birth!

Have you considered how you want to be touched yet? Do you know what options are available to you and your partner or support team?

Today let’s look at one neurophysiologic pathway to reduce pain in labor: mechanoreceptors.

Merkel Discs being put to use with some good ol’ hand squeezes during a contraction. Captured by Alyssa Leon.

(Neurophysiologic is just a fancy word for brain-body pathway, by the way.)

While there are several receptor systems for your labor journey – and we promise to tackle the others soon – in this post, the receptors on/in your body that respond to (compassionate) touch are where we’re going…

And how you can use these receptors to your advantage while birthing babe!


Mechanoreceptors in labor.

Merkel’s Disks are the first mechanoreceptor we’ll touch on today (pun intended!) M.D.’s are found on the palms, soles of the feet, and lips. They respond to steady, maintained pressure, and the best part… these techniques work for a long time! Some things you can do during labor that use these pain relief properties include:

  • Holding hands
  • Stand
  • Squeeze a “stress ball”
  • Kiss! (this is also why some moms find themselves clenching or biting their lips during labor)

Next up are the Meissner’s Corpuscles. M.C.’s are found on fingertips and hairless skin; they respond to textures and light touch.

  • Effleurage (light fingertip massage often done on the belly)
  • Move fingertips lightly on sheets
  • People who put themselves to sleep by moving their feet on the sheets will intuitively do that. Labor might be that one time when it won’t drive your partner nuts!

Pacinian Corpuscles are found in the deep layers of the skin. They respond to deep pressure and vibration. These techniques are often used for back labor and include:

  • Deep massage
  • Acupressure

And last but not least, Joint Receptors are found in joint capsules, ligaments and synovial membranes throughout the body. They are also a long-lasting option. Your body won’t “habituate” to these either. They respond to movement – and hugging! If you find yourself swaying you are engaging your joint receptors – some tools in labor include:

  • Rock in a rocking chair
  • Slow dancing and belly dancing
  • Pelvic rocking on all fours

A deeper look.

Feeling excited about your options? How about overwhelmed?

Take a moment an breathe, Momma.

If you’re not sure what compassionate touch looks like in labor – take a moment to scroll through these gorgeous shots captured by Doula Alyssa. One of the greatest blessings of walking alongside you is getting to empower you and those who will be in your birth space! This means sometimes we personally provide support – and sometimes we coach your partner to provide that perfect touch. It is such an incredible honor to be here with you.

Do you have questions? How about tips of how you tapped into your best possible birth? We’d love to hear them below!

– Your Cherry Blossom Doulas

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