Thursday, July 17, 2008


I was clearing space in the freezer yesterday and the pain of the ice was biting deep into my palms, it was most unpleasant. I started thinking about a woman on the Rollercoaster Homebirth website who said she'd been practicing her breathing while holding an ice cube.

I also heard that that was the thing to do - somebody asked the Community Midwife in Holles Street about breathing techniques, and practice, and she responded with 'you can practice breathing all you like. Try practicing your breathing while you're holding an ice cube, and you'll find out about pain management'.

I left a note on the Homebirth thread to point out that this is bollocks, and stop all these poor women going around freezing the hands off themselves. The pain of holding an icecube is completely non-analogous to the feeling of a contraction - you manage them in completely different ways. I'd far rather have a contraction than hold an ice cube, personally. As Tracey Donegan, a doula, hypnobirther, and birth writer said when she followed up my comment, holding ice is not a natural function of the body, the pain is to tell you to let it go before you damage your skin. She doesn't know why this inane idea is still being taught in ante natal classes.

What I learned in my private, alternative, natural ante-natal/yoga class was much more useful - it's the ha-ha-ha-blow breath - three short 'hah' breaths followed by one long blow. It's incredible, and gets you through any huge transition stage surge.

I find the best thing to do with an icecube though, is put it down, and run some water on your hand.

8 comments:

PĂ©itseoga said...

i hope i learn that breathing technique in the drogheda hospital antenatal class... i'm also going to do some antenatal yoga in august, but no idea what will be covered.
i read this chapter by tracy donegan where she does the maths, and lays out how many minutes out of the hour you will actually be in pain, and that the receding pain isn't as bad as when it starts up, and that you get a minute or so inbetween to relax. it made it sound much less scary. maybe the ice cube technique should be practiced with holding the ice cube for 30 seconds, or a minute and then putting it down for 2 minutes!

jothemama said...

No, no, Peitseoga, the point is that labour pains are no more like holding an ice cube than they are like burning yourself with a match or cutting yourself with a knife, or hitting yourself with a stick!

They are opening, widening, progesssing pains that are pushing your baby closer to you, and your emotional response to them can be one of welcome. You circle your hips breathe into them. The bit at transition, just before you begin to push, can be huge and overwhelming and you need a lot of support then. And I found the pushing itself hard the first time, because I was so tired.

But as to the contractions (expansions is more appropriate) I enjoyed them, mostly :)

jothemama said...

Oh, and you don't have to learn that breath you just do it - try now: three short, open mouth out breaths, making a 'hah' sound, and one long blow afterwards.

problemchildbride said...

Jesus, with that pain ahead of you why would anyone want to make it worse by holding ice-cubes?

I'm sorry to read your son's birth was difficult, Mama Jo. Whatever the circumstances were, hormones can go all to buggery and really bring you low compounding anything else that may be going on. Here's hoping the wee fella's birthday marks a transition back to better days, eh.

Best to you, Jo.

jothemama said...

Thanks for that PCB, that's the idea alright.

jothemama said...

Thanks for that PCB, that's the idea alright.

Rechru said...

Thats so funny about the ice. I kind of thought that too - I knew what they meant by recommending it, that its all well and good to tell someone to "breathe" but when it comes to it and you might be panicked, its hard to "make" yourself breath so with the icecube at least you can sort of practice. Except your poor hand is not supposed to endure being frozen off whereas your body IS supposed to cope well with contractions or as you say expansions! I have an absolute horror of pain and blood, cut my finger last weekend on broken tile and a meltdown ensued with me yowling and footstamping and gasping for hot, sweet tea for the shock while himself tried to wrap it in a towel and figure out - how on earth did I give birth? The whole drama was played out word-for-word on the phone to the parents later that evening once the hot,sweet tea had done the trick, and they both asked the same question - how did I manage childbirth without so much as a panadol! My answer to all was that its not the same thing at all. Babies MEANT to come out like that. Blood NOT MEANT to come out of finger like that. Blood supposed to stay IN finger! I experienced the two types of "pain" completely differently.
Peitseoga the contractions for me were like that, sort of crescendoed quickly then died away till the next one - each one bringing my lovely little baby closer and closer to the world! [Am jealous of you now with it all ahead of you! It was THE MOST EXCITING MOMENT OF MY LIFE sigh]

Rechru said...

Good God sorry about the length of that comment!