St.Vincent Women’s Hospital offers Integrative Therapy as a part of our holistic approach to patient care and healing environment. Integrative Therapy uses a combination of techniques to re-energize, relieve stress, and help you heal more quickly. Techniques include light massage for hands and feet, breathing techniques for relaxation, clinical aromatherapy and the labyrinth.
Touch is one of the most basic forms of communication. Sometimes, a simple touch from a friend, loved one or care giver is comforting, reassuring and helps relieve stress. Yet, often times we are afraid to touch those who need it the most. The nursing staff at St.Vincent Women’s Hospital have been trained in light touch massage for hands and feet as part of our holistic approach to patient care. New moms receive a relaxing 15-minute postpartum massage from our certified massage therapists.
Breathing Techniques for Relaxation
Just like other comfort measures, rhythmic breathing can enhance relaxation and relieve pain. Through practice, experimentation and adaptation, you and your Care Partner will find the best way for you to use breathing as a relaxation tool.
There are two basic types of breathing used for relaxation:
- Slowly inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.
- Allow all of the air to flow out; pause briefly, then inhale again.
- Repeat breaths about six to ten times per minute – half your normal breathing rate. This is a guide; it is not necessary to count or time your breaths. Remember to keep your mouth slightly open and relaxed during slow breathing. Also, try to keep your shoulders down in a natural position to make breathing most comfortable.
- Use normal chest breathing; inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.
- Allow any discomfort to guide the rate and depth of your breathing.
- Repeat breaths about twenty to thirty times per minute – one and a half your normal breathing rate. This is a guide; it is not necessary to count or time your breaths. Light breathing is very useful if and when you find you can no longer relax with slow breathing, or you are instinctively speeding up your breathing rate. Again, remember to keep your mouth and shoulders relaxed.
Hyperventilation occurs when the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood is altered causing you to feel lightheaded, dizzy or have a tingling sensation in your fingers, feet or around your mouth. Breathing too deeply, too fast, or experiencing increased tension can lead to hyperventilation.
To avoid hyperventilation:
- Re-breath your own air—breath into your own cupped hands
- Relax and reduce tension
- Set a slower and more shallow breathing pattern
Tips to Remember:
- Begin using breathing techniques when relaxation alone no longer keeps you comfortable.
- Change your breathing pattern as it becomes less effective.
- Inhale through your nose (unless your nose is congested) and exhale through your mouth.
- Place the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth to reduce dry mouth.
Remember, there is no “right way” to breathe for relaxation. Use whichever technique feels right and works for you.
Adapted from Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn, The Complete Guide by Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley and Ann Keppler. 2001.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils for a therapeutic purpose. It is an ancient treatment which allows us to use the therapeutic properties of the essential oils to treat physical disorders, such as arthritis or migraines, and mental disorders, such as stress or depression. Aromatherapy is a holistic therapy that can promote and maintain health and vitality; it is not meant to replace medical advice or care.
What are essential oils and where do they come from?
Essential oils are the steam distillates obtained from aromatic plants. They are found in the flowers, leaves, bark, wood, roots, seeds, and peels of many plants. However, it is important to note that essential oils and “fragrance oils” (found in perfume) are not the same. Essential oils are pure, natural plant extracts which have been found to provide both physical and psychological benefits; whereas, “fragrance oils” contain synthetic chemicals and do not provide therapeutic benefits.
What can essential oils do for you?
Essential oils can provide relief from nausea, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, stress, inflammation, muscle/joint pain, fatigue and sinus pain. Essential oils are for external use only; avoid contact with eyes.
The Labyrinth is an ancient Greek pattern which has come to symbolize an inner journey. It is characterized by a single path which weaves an intricate pattern before reaching a center point. Tracing the path of a labyrinth is thought to stimulate the part of your brain which reduces tension and stress.