(1) One key is understanding what the body is doing and why is it causing discomfort. This knowledge allows you to see the purpose of each contraction.
Sometimes if we know why something is happening it makes it easier to deal with. Each contraction has a purpose. When I would have contractions, I would take deep breaths, relax my body so that it could stretch to allow room for this baby to come through the birth canal. The first reaction is to tense up and fight against the contraction. Take it one contraction at a time, keeping your mind strong and focused not on pain but on purpose. Your husband or doula, midwife or nurse–whoever you have helping you should be a great encourager telling you how great you are doing. Encouragement and support go a long way. Kick out skeptical people.
Having an atmosphere that reduces stress
Try to have an atmosphere that is calm and peaceful — cut out bright lights, loud noises, interruptions etc. We use classical music and praise music turned very low. You can add aromatherapy candles as well.
Knowing proper positions
Being flat on the back is the worst position for labor. It is easier on the doctor but bad for the mother. Not only that, but being flat usually exaggerates pain as well as reduce the oxygen flow to mom and baby. Being on flat on the back actually works against gravity, as the baby has to climb upwards because of the pelvic curve. Try sitting during contractions, laying on your side, squatting (this opens the pelvic outlet by 10%), or being on your hands and knees. Walking and movement are of great benefit for the laboring woman. The baby is encouraged to come down into the pelvis and engage properly…squatting also helps with this. Do not feel like you have to stay in bed the entire labor.
Massage and Pressure points
The husband or attendant can perform basic massage –such as stroking the legs, arms, hair, back etc. Counter pressure is extremely helpful–especially for back pain. This would be pressure applied to areas of the body that are causing pain during labor. There are also some other pressure points that some use to relieve pain. A massage on the lower back with a tennis ball is beneficial in active labor. Applying counter pressure with a tennis ball or the palm of the hand to the lower back pelvic region will bring about the greatest relief during hard labor contractions especially if you add a warm compress first.
Being able to truly relax is a major key. The natural reaction is to tense up when any discomfort is felt. However, this only causes pain. Practice relaxing daily for about 10 to 15 minutes…letting your body fully rest and become still. The trick to relaxing (for me) is to close my eyes and forget about the pain or to stop fighting against pain or discomfort.
Midwives have many tricks up their sleeves
One is the “midwife’s epidural”, as my first midwife called it. We used our crock pot set on low heat with plain water (or you add herbs and/or oils like lavender in the water) and have several wash clothes and hand towels soaking. I prefer hand towels because they are bigger. During the peak of the contraction–the person on crock pot duty, would lay a very warm towel across my back or tummy, legs–where ever I felt like I wanted one. I can not tell you how great these warm compresses are. There are many great benefits to using wet heat in labor…it aids in deeper relaxation of the muscles and tissues and dramatically reduces pain. A warm shower or a bath is very soothing. Some people use hot water bottles and warm rice socks. Cold compresses can also be beneficial. Cool clothes are refreshing on the face and neck. Warm to hot water dramatically eases labor pains and reduces localized pain when compresses are applied during hard labor contractions.
dehydration causes problems in labor. We use lots of ice chips through out labor. During early labor (for those who have that 😉 you can eat and drink lightly to nourish the body. Starving yourself is not wise — when the time comes to work if your body doesn’t have an fuel it will burn out. A tablespoon of honey during hard labor is beneficial. Examples of things to eat and drink: Toast, yogurt, soup, fruit, Twin Lab’s Hydrafuel drink, Knudsen Recharge Juice, or Alacer Emer’gen-C packets in water, or young coconut water.
Use the bathroom often!
This may sound silly but urine retention in the bladder can cause severe pain. Get up and go to the bathroom often. As the baby descends, the bladder becomes squished and compressed. Be aware of any pain near the pubic bone in the front and use the rest room often.
As birth approaches, the midwife may make a compress of warm water and olive oil for the perineum. Not only does this relieve pain but it prepares the skin for when the baby crowns. With these oil compresses, the stinging, burning sensation during crowning is decreased or eliminated. The skin is allowed to stretch naturally. The midwife may also use oil to massage into the skin and supports the perineum the until the baby is born.
Don’t break the Water
Another pain reducer believe it or not is not artificially breaking the bags of water. This water acts as a cushion between you and the baby and equalizes the pressure of the contractions. A lot of women say, “The doctor HAD to break my water.” or “My water never would break.” It is not uncommon for the water not to break until later labor. The water will break at some point so be patient and know that the water bags have a purpose–some babies are even born with it around their head. It is not abnormal for the water not to break until late in labor. Many women notice that after the water breaks the next contractions become a lot more intense. The water will break at some point so be patient and know that the water bags have a purpose–some babies are born with it around their head.
A good midwife will advise you on whether or not she thinks that AROM or artificially breaking the bags of water will be more beneficial than not. Some times, breaking the bags of water will speed the birthing process. Ask your midwife for the pros and cons of AROM.