Having a baby is a known blessing, while the painful process of birthing a baby is a known curse. Duration and pain of labor can vary greatly per mother. It can also wildly vary for the same woman through birthing different children. Here are nine tips for reducing pain during childbirth and take some of the aches out of your labor of love.
Hot water bottles, wheat bags, or a simple warm compress can all help provide effective relief for contracting muscles during childbirth. They won’t provide an artificial length of constant heat, like electric heating devices, so they are a perfectly safe way to ease labor pain and relax the muscles in your back, abdomen, neck, or groin areas.
Just as a warm bath can help ease sore muscles or relieve tension, laboring in warm water can help soothe contractions. Birthing pools are an increasingly widespread tool found in many hospitals, birthing centers, and homebirths as well. There is a reason physical therapy pools are so successful with muscle movement and joint flexibility; water helps. Women who spend most or part of their laboring hours in water are reportedly found to be less likely to need an epidural or other invasive pain relief than those who spend all of the time out.
We’ve all heard the age-old, “keep breathing!” from the Lamaze instructor videos and classes. But how does breathing really benefit moms having babies? Focusing on your breathing will help relax you. It also keeps your body in a rhythm. Try to breathe deep and slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. Keeping your mind and body focused on these relaxing breaths will help each contraction pass, and it helps conserve energy.
Mind over Fear
Owning and understanding the pain during childbirth gives mothers a tremendous advantage. The mind-body connection is a powerful thing. When you give in to fear and anxiety, the muscles and nervous system, which depend on your hormones and circulatory system, produce stress hormones and get out of balance. Tense muscles actually hurt more than relaxed muscles. Keep your mind fresh and focused on positive things and your body will relax more and you will experience less pain.
Stand up. Walk around. Prop yourself up in various positions. Try a birthing ball. This will not only help blood flow, but it will aid your body in loosening pressure points. Many moms find that rocking back and forth on their knees and elbows helps to ease back labor pain. Try whatever works for you, and don’t be afraid to change positions often to relieve discomfort.
Never underestimate the power of rest. Especially in the early stages of labor, you will want and need to conserve your energy. Make yourself as comfortable as possible. Use your favorite pillows, play your favorite music, and relax. Watch something non-stressful on television, do some word puzzles, play a card game with your spouse. Take your mind off the growing contractions as much as you can.
Tense muscles hurt more. Have your spouse, doula, or midwife help ease muscle spasms with a gentle massage. Providing counter pressure to muscle pain can often be beneficial. Small circular motion on small points such as your hands, feet, and temples can also release concentration on your body’s reactions to other areas of your body.
While certainly not for everyone, some mothers make the decision after research to allow for an epidural to relieve childbirth pain. Circumstances will be different for every mother with each labor. Never feel pressured to take an epidural from the hospital if you truly do not want one, but also try to keep an open mind to options as your labor progresses. Some mothers experience no ill side effects and are able to rest and relax through the long hours of labor with the help of an epidural. Potential side effects such as possibly prolonging labor, epidural headaches—prolonged horrible spinal migraines—and other more serious complications are all factors to consider.
Different from simply resting, relaxing is perhaps one of the most beneficial things you can do to reduce pain during childbirth. As your uterus contracts, focus on relaxing all your other muscles. This not only will ease the discomfort of your contractions, but it can also speed the progress of labor. Endorphins are relaxing hormones released in a laboring mother’s body. They are designed as a natural pain-relieving release, produced in the nerve cells. Relaxing will help carry these healthy endorphins to the area your body needs them to be.
Laboring and delivering a child to the world is a tough job. It used to be much more life-threatening than it is today. The pain is a big part of the process, no matter what you do to help reduce it; however, by grace, the reward far exceeds the battle.