Childbirth is a marathon. There’s no two ways about it. It is work. It is painful. (Most of the time~there are women who experience painless births). You feel trepidation at the onset of labour, and then contractions start. Slowly. They are intense, but you think, “It’s not that bad! Maybe I can do this!” And then the pain intensifies to a new level, and you panic a little. ”I can’t do this! It’s supposed to get so much worse!” But then after a little while longer your mind adjusts to the new level, and you think, “I can do this. It IS that bad, but I can do it.” Then it intensifies again and you hit a wall.
What can you do?
Relax as deeply as you can.
Breathe in, breathe out. Relax twice as much with each exhale. Close your eyes. Make your body go limp, and “check in” with each area to deepen its relaxation: Head and neck? My jaw needs relaxing. Shoulders and arms? Limp noodles. Belly and chest? Could let out some tension holding up my belly. Back and bum? Sink down deep like soft butter. Legs and feet? Jiggle, shake, release.
Make sure your limbs are floppy. Do something that makes you feel GOOD, like smiling, laughing, (yes, laughing! The same hormone that makes you feel happy, helps your body give birth: oxytocin!), having your hair brushed, or your arms and back touched very lightly. Make out with your partner. Get a massage. Breathe in, breathe out.
Dance, sway, flop your head back and forth. Moan. Sigh. Sing. Just get deep into a relaxed state, and know that no matter how relaxed you feel, you can always go deeper.
Move from where you are. Often, changing from lying to sitting, or sitting to standing, or even from left side to right side can make labour feel manageable again. It doesn’t always feel more comfortable while you are changing positions, but once you’re there, and shift around a bit to find your ‘spot,’ it can feel a million times better.
Some positions to consider during labour:
- Hands and knees
- Sitting on a birth ball
- Sitting backwards on a chair
- Sitting on your partner’s lap, facing them
- Sitting on the toilet
- Standing, leaning on a table
- Standing, with your arms around your partner’s neck
- Standing in the shower with your arms against the wall
- Squatting beside the couch, bed, or chair
- Semi sitting in a lunge position
- Lying on one side, propped up with pillows
- Kneeling on the floor, bed, couch, chair, or in the tub
Find a rhythm.
For many women, rhythm is helpful in coping with labour. This is particularly the case during transition, and in the later part of dilation, when things are the most intense. Swaying, rocking, slapping, squeezing, nodding, grunting, singing, and even shouting in a repeated pattern helps! This tip is less about relieving pain, and more about coping with it. Some women count backwards from ten. Some visualize waves hitting the shore over and over, or receding away from their body. Some women chant, “I can, I can, I can, I can!” It is the repetition that helps. Often the rhythm required matches the intensity of the contractions. So, while swaying may be helpful midway through, slapping or yelling may be required closer to the end.
Get in the water.
Warm water has been termed ‘the natural epidural’ for its pain relieving properties in labour and this is absolutely true. Being in the shower or immersed in a tub is very helpful for women in labour~a combination of warmth, full body sensory comfort, the weight of the water combined with the weightlessness of the body, and the noise of the water all combine to relieve pain. Deeper relaxation is possible in warm water. Deeper relaxation is possible when semi weightless and suspended in water. Deeper relaxation is possible with simply the sound of water trickling or rushing, and this helps relieve pain in labour. Having someone pour water over your body repeatedly in a rhythmic fashion while you are in the tub? Heaven.
The more we fight giving birth, the more it hurts. The more we relax into it, the less it hurts. And the faster it goes. And the faster you get this: