Birth Pains can be alleviated
It is natural to be scared of birth pain
Some women avoid drugs or other medical interventions while others are happy to consider all available options to avoid as much pain as possible. Your knowledge about pain and its alleviation, and the steps you can take, will help you in having a positive experience of childbirth. It is always good to remember that there is a purpose to these pains: soon you’ll be cuddling your bundle of joy in your arms.
Understanding Birth Pains
Birth pains are different from other types of pain – you get breaks between the contractions. If you are frightened and feel insecure, you will tense up, and this will increase the pain. You must therefore let your body do its work and not fight what is happening. Think about the fact that your body was built to give birth. Nobody expects you to manage without any form of pain relief. Speak to your doctor about pain relief, and what will be available at your birth venue.
Natural Pain Relief
One of the best ways to alleviate the pain of the initial contractions is to move about. Walk around the house, listen to music, play board games, place a hot-water bottle on the small of your back, lay out a few baby clothes, pack your bag, or go for a walk outside – there are many possibilities.
You may also want to take a few personal items with you, things that give you a feeling of security. This could, for example, be your favourite shirt or top which you might want to wear rather than clothes issued by the hospital. Or it might be your own pillow or a MP3 or ipod synced with music which makes you relax. When you are upright and moving, you will get the maximum effect of the pain-relieving endorphins that your body releases.
Lumbar massage can relax you and alleviate pain because it increases the release of oxytocin, the hormone that stimulates contractions. The baby’s dad or the nurse can massage you. Some women find it comforting; others find it distracting when they want to concentrate on the contractions.
Medical Pain Relief options
There are several pain relief options for labour. The common ones are morphine/pethidine, spinal anaesthesia or epidural and nitrous oxide. It is good to discuss with your gynaecologist about your fear and all the options available.
When you practice deep, calm breathing, your entire body will relax. Breathe in very calmly through your nose and breathe out through your mouth. The more you concentrate on controlling your breathing, the more control you will have over the labour process. If you feel you need to make noise, do so. It may feel liberating to link sounds to your breathing. Some women find a rhythm that helps them through the contractions. Some may slowly count to ten – when they have reached ten they know that they are over the worst part, the pain is decreasing and they are heading for a break.
The pain relief of hot water
Hot water (36-37º degrees C) relieves pain because heat travels along neural pathways faster than pain does. Hot water also stimulates contractions. Almost all birth venues offer showers and baths. A bath works best if you are dilated to four or five cm – not before this stage because it can make your contractions ease off. The hot water relaxes you because it increases the secretion of endorphins. And it makes contractions seem shorter. Nobody will be completely pain free but hot water will make it easier for you to get through the contractions.
How Dads can help
Fathers can be of great source of support during labour. It’s a good thing for the mother-to-be to be able to cling to him – and she can squeeze his hand or his arm when her contractions are painful. It can be a comfort to receive encouragement from him, have him give you a lumbar massage, to relax with him, have him fetch coffee and even just his physical and psychological presence can be very reassuring.