So many women go through labour every single day, not realising that there are some simple things they can do to help reduce the amount of pain and discomfort they feel during labour.
So, lets cut to the chase – what 8 things should you avoid in order to prevent labour being more painful than it needs to be?
Labour Pain Cause #1: Lying On Your Back.
Not only does lying on your back put all of the weight of the baby and your uterus on your back (which is not great for blood supply), but your uterus contracts forward, so you’re not working with gravity – you’re working against it. At all costs, avoid positions on your back in labour. Instead, choose upright, forward-leaning positions where possible. It’s okay to rest on your side if you need a break – but just keep off your back. Reclining should also be avoided where possible, unless its for a break.
Labour Pain Cause #2: Not Having A Doula.
Some women and/or their partners worry about having an extra person in the room during birth. However, a doula is a trained birth support person who has the ability to change the experience of birth a couple can have, from a painful, stressful event to a more relaxed, highly supported one. In fact, studies have shown that a doula is more effective than hospital staff or the mother’s friends or family, due to a support trifecta she can provide unlike anyone else: she is known to the woman, she is trained, and she can provide continuous support (wont leave the mothers side).
Doulas not only build a relationship with you and help to educate you before the birth, but they have learnt many skills to help with pain. This includes comfort measures for the mother, specific tools for coping with pain, positions to help move baby when he or she is in a tricky or painful position, and how to help everyone feel at ease. Studies have shown that women who use a doula use less pain relief, are more satisfied with their birth and dads feel more satisfied with their role too. A doula supports the mother’s partner so he can better support her too – and that’s gotta be good for everyone.
Labour Pain Cause #3: Fear.
What has fear got to do with it? When we’re fearful, we tense up. When we’re tense, we don’t breathe deeply, our body is tight and and we feel more pain. So, how do you combat the fear? I believe the best things a woman can do for herself (and her partner) to help prevent fear is get informed and educated with good quality information and surround herself with great support. This includes:
Getting independent birth education (out of hospital)
Reading books that give you great information.
Hiring a doula or independent/homebirth midwife
Considering a homebirth
Look into Calmbirth/Hypnobirth classes
Join pregnancy or birth groups that are supportive of your choices (BellyBelly’s forums are a great place to start)
Hang around people who are supportive of your choices and have had the kind of experience you want
Ignore the horror stories and avoid spending time around negative people.
Labour Pain Cause #4: A Stressful Birth Environment.
Is someone is in the birth room that you don’t want to be there?
Is the midwife or doctor upsetting you with their bedside manner?
Is too much is going on around you?
Is it too noisy or do you keep being interrupted?
These things can all make you stressed during labour. As per above, stress causes tension, and you’ll end up not coping as well with the pain. Make sure you’ve chosen great support people to make sure these things don’t happen. They are on a vigil to protect your needs in labour. Make sure any untrained birth support people who will be at the birth have read BellyBelly’s article 10 Tips On Being A Great Birth Support Person. The team around you need to be able to rally together, getting you through your toughest moments in labour. Unfortunately what happens when they fall apart or aren’t supporting you like you hoped, you’ll want the quickest escape route to try and deal with the stress – usually in the form of intervention to get it over as quickly as you can. A woman in labour cannot hold together her birth support team.
Labour Pain Cause #5: An Induction Or Augmentation With Artificial Oxytocin.
Sometimes an induction becomes necessary due to the health of the mother or baby, in which case it is very important that you trust your doctor and make the decision thats best for you. However if there is no urgent medical need and you can avoid an induction, your body will be able to labour in a more natural way. While it can be lifesaving for some, being medicated with a drug that was designed to really ramp the labour up to get the baby out quickly can be quite painful for many women. I would not say all, as I have worked with a couple of doula clients who have required an induction with syntocinon, but not asked for pharmaceutical pain relief. But many find it challenging, myself included during my first birth. Syntocinon or pitocin is for those who need to get the baby out NOW. And you’re committed to doing what it takes to get the baby out once you’ve started. This will involve other interventions, so weigh up if the risks are worth it for you. Your decision is yours and yours alone.
Only accept an induction if you truly need it.
Labour Pain Cause #6: Not Researching Natural Pain Relief Options.
Where possible, its best to start with natural pain relief options rather than medical ones – some are particularly effective. After attending births, its been surprising to hear what helped my clients best cope with pain. One told me how the simple action of breathing with her made a massive difference, because it gave her something to focus on. Another said she was so happy to hear me suggest to get into the birth pool, because she wasn’t sure if it was too soon (its more effective as pain relief later in labour). Once she got in, she relaxed and baby was born soon after. Natural pain relief options can certainly help relieve pain.
While some drugs are available to you to completely numb the pain, it sets off other courses of action, which may ultimately still result in pain and complications. An epidural can immobilise you in bed, meaning you wont be able to have an active labour and help your baby move down. You wont be able to feel yourself push unless the epidural has worn off, which means that you could be pushing ineffectively, especially for first time mothers. This means that a forceps, vacuum or caesarean birth may become necessary.
You may be surprised – many natural options are effective enough to get women through the harder parts of labour – but if you don’t know your options then you don’t have any. Take a look at 13 natural pain relief options HERE.
Labour Pain Cause #7: A Posterior Baby.
Many women with posterior babies (baby’s spine against the mothers spine) find ‘back’ labour to be challenging. This is because on top of normal labour pain, they feel strong back pain. However, there are several things you can do about this. As a preventative, look into optimal fetal positioning (see the website www.spinningbabies.com), which can help encourage baby into an anterior (front) position. It involves simple positioning activities and tools and tricks – for example when you sit, sit in a way that your bum is above your knees, which changes the position of the pelvis.
You might like to find out if the centre you are birthing at offers sterile water injections, which can take away ALL the back pain for some women, and a significant amount for others. It doesn’t work for everyone but its a fantastic, natural option. Some hospitals aren’t aware of the sterile water injections, so print out BellyBelly’s article here and ask them to investigate if they don’t know about it. If your centre allows you to bring in your own acupuncturist during labour, this is another option to help with back pain.
Keep active in your pregnancy as best you can, even a 30 minute walk every day at your own pace will help your body, mind and your birth. Keeping active during labour, changing positions and working with your pelvis will help to keep baby turning and moving until he or she is ready to be born.
Acupuncture is also a great option for turning babies, as well as general pregnancy wellbeing and birth preparation. Osteopathic and chiropractic checkups are also worthwhile to make sure your body is aligned and primed for birth. Its definitely worth booking yourself in with experienced practitioners to prepare you for the best birth possible.
Labour Pain Cause #8: Being Dehydrated.
Not drinking enough water and being dehydrated can cause problems in labour, because when you’re dehydrated, your uterus doesn’t contract as efficiently. Every single cell in your body relies on water to function properly, and when you don’t have enough, things start to break down – even your energy levels, concentration and focus can suffer when you’re dehydrated, no matter if you’re in labour or not.
You don’t have to throw back a heap of water, little sips often are ideal. Make sure you have bendy straws in your birth bag, so your support team can offer you drinks easily without you having to hold the cup. If you put a piece of tape across the cup to hold the straw in place, this can help stop the straw from moving around while mamma is trying to drink. The little things make a big difference.