When you start to feel those first contractions, you know you’re little bundle of joy is not far from her arrival. Usually, labor begins slowly with some twinges of contractions spaced sporadically. As time progresses, so does the severity of contractions. That’s when it’s time to get into gear and employ your labor pain management techniques. It’s a good idea to have researched and selected some of the techniques you want to use prior to going into labor so you are prepared with the methods and tools you may need. Today we’re exploring a variety of labor pain management techniques as options during the birth of your child.
First, it’s important to prepare yourself for comfort and familiarity as much as possible. This may mean staying in your own home until active labor begins and then going to the hospital or birthing center, which hopefully you’ve had a chance to tour during your pregnancy. Have your birthing team in place and on call so they are ready to activate when the time arises. Usually partners, friends or a doula can offer the most help, and others can take over childcare duties for older siblings, your work responsibilities and other obligations that will now take the back burner. Also, you’ll want to draw on your knowledge of labor to help guide you through the process. Don’t go into it completely ignorant – that can lead to panic and fear. Rather, read up on signs of labor and typical procedures so you feel assured everything that is happening to you is completely normal.
Rhythmic Breathing: Deep breathing is one of the easiest ways to try to relax your body. During labor, breathing through contractions can really help. This is why Lamaze and other similar practices used to be very popular. If you’re not into taking a class, you can practice controlled breathing during pregnancy so you’ll be able to draw on it when active labor sets in. This is the same type of breathing you may do in exercise or yoga. Even if you can’t take long slow breaths, focusing on short consistent breaths will do the trick. Feel free to moan, groan or make any other noises that will help you cope with the pain.
Positioning: Using a variety of positions is another terrific labor pain management technique. The goal is to take pressure off your back so sitting leaning back on a pillow or sitting backwards on a chair leaning forward on a pillow can assisting in relieving the pain. Rocking also helps, which you can do in a traditional rocking chair, standing up or on an exercise ball. Getting on your hands and knees takes pressure off the back or, like during pregnancy, lying on your side with pillows between your legs may ease your labor pain. If you need these supplies in the hospital, ask your labor and delivery nurse what is available. Chances are they have some helpful tools on hand.
Movement: Many women find it helpful to keep moving during active labor. Walking, standing or shifting side-to-side are the most common movements. Some women squat holding onto a bar. Movement labor pain management techniques are best done with the help of your birthing team and may allow your partner to be involved in the process.
Massage: Another wonderful way your partner can help is to give you a gentle massage. You may want your feet, legs or shoulders rubbed as you breathe through the pain. Let your masseuse know the type of pressure you prefer and lotion or aromatic oils may help soothe and calm your muscles and all of your senses.
Warmth: Warm water or warm compresses can relieve labor pain. Some women choose to take a warm bath or shower with the supervision of a partner, nurse or doula. Soaking is believed to speed up labor. You can also use a removable shower head to target your abdomen and back where you need the most relief. Warm compresses have a similar effect of focusing on certain areas where pain in concentrated. If you get too hot, allow your partner to cool you down with a cold wet towel or ice pack.
Medication: In most cases, medication is an option. You may want to try natural labor pain management techniques before asking for an epidural. But if the pain is unbearable for you, medication is usually an option.
Good luck using these labor pain management techniques! Remember, it’s called labor for a reason, but the end result is your beautiful, wonderful baby.