I'm almost finished reading, Preparation for Birth The Complete Guide to the Lamaze Method by Beverly Savage and Diana Simkin. On pg. 134 it says, "If you contract your whole body each time a uterine contraction occurs, you will exhaust yourself after only a very short time. Only be letting the uterus work freely and actively by itself will you be able to free the cervix to open while at the same time conserving energy throughout the rest of your body."
The authors suggest to choose a focal point to encourage relaxation. I decided on a 38 week old baby in utereo set as wall-paper on my cellphone. They also suggest lamaze breathing or a guided visualization. Here is an excerpt from the one I've started to write for myself.
Close your eyes. Breath in and breath out. Relax as you exhale, and lower your shoulders until you are comfortable. Breath in and when you breath out allow the tension to flow away.
Now imagine, you have become very small and have travelled to your uterus. You are floating in your womb. The sounds around you are muffled now. The amniotic fluid is warm and soothing to your tiny body. You lick your lips and it tastes salty like the ocean surrounding the island that is your home. You point your toes and kick your feet gently while sculling with your hands. Boom. Boom. Boom. It is the rhythm of your heart. There is a lighter drum beating faster and you realize it is the tempo of your baby's heart.
You feel the tightening pressure of your womb. It is gently pushing baby down. Keep breathing. Relax your uterine muscles. Relax your shoulders. Let the wave of power wash over and through you. Open yourself to it. Embrace it and know that your cervix is opening gently like the tulips in your garden under the watch of the giant maple trees in the spring sunshine. The wave is bringing both of you closer. Keep breathing. Relax. Now open your eyes. You see the breath of your bubbles slowly ascend up to the pinkish glow of light on the outside world. You turn again and catch the first glimpse of your baby . He is sucking his thumb and his blue eyes are looking at you. You smile and want to embrace him. But you can't you are to tiny. Come now you must go back to the outside world now. Breath and relax. Soon you will hold your baby.
The point of this and lamaze is not that it will decrease the pain but alter your perception of it. How effective this will be remains to be seen.