More than just pain relief.
One of the general benefits of counter-pressure techniques like the classic hip squeeze, is pain reduction, based on the gate control theory of pain. The idea there is that our experience of pain is essentially diluted by filling some sensory receptors with non-painful sensory input, thus blocking out the painful input coming from contractions.
In particular the hip squeeze has the added benefit of creating a kind of clothespin effect whereby the squeeze below helps to create an opening above providing an actual relief of internal pressure around baby's head.
But I realized recently that in the focus on pain and pressure reduction, we've perhaps been forgetting to recognize another core element of the comfort being offered here.
The comfort felt simply by being held. The safety and grounding effect felt by having someone's hands, arms, body wrapped around you, offering an experience of being anchored and tethered while riding the great ride that is labor and birth.
Let's remember while pain and pressure reduction are valuable parts of comforting touch, perhaps an even more important element of the comfort we offer as partners and doulas is the power of steady, reliable, and grounding contact, not only for the physical body, but also the whole of our body, mind, and spirit.