Putting up with contractions when the D-day arrives can be excruciating, but fortunately there are many solutions for pain relief during labour.
From the moment you start experiencing lower back pain, in the early stages of labour, to the instant you hold your baby for the first time, you can use different methods to 'kill' the pain. If there are no complications, it will be up to you whether you take advantage of such techniques or you deal with the pain to undergo labour in a more 'natural' way. Obviously, there's not a 'right' or 'wrong' decision here, since it's a personal choice with which you'll have to feel comfortable and secure. In the long run, all ways lead to the same goal: your baby's birth.
As you may already know (and if not, talk to your doctor or midwife about it), you have a nice range of medical pain relief for labour: epidural, spinal, the gas and air technique, TENS machines and pethidine injections, to mention the most important ones. However, if you are opposed to the idea of having drugs to make the labour process more bearable, you need to know that you can also try natural pain relief in labour.
Do you want to know some of the natural alternatives to soothe your pain when going into labour? Then, don't miss the following lines.
Pain relief during labour: Heat therapy
At this point of your life, you may have tried, probably more than once, applying warmth to reduce pain in certain parts of your bodies. Well, labour pain isn't an exception, since heat can help tense muscles relax. Don't hesitate to use a heating pad or a wheat bag (even better if it's a lavender kind) to warm your tummy and back. If you don't have either of those, you can use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel, or a warm compress, which you should place on the perineum (the area between your vagina and your anus) to prevent it from tearing when delivering.
Pain relief during labour: Water
Experts support the idea that water immersion in the first stage of labour can give you pain relief, along with relaxation. Being in lukewarm water may help the perineal muscles relax, which can reduce the intensity of the pain and make delivery more gentle. If you don't want to have a bath, a simple shower can do the trick as well, since you can aim the shower head at the area that hurts the most. Regarding water, we can't ignore water births and their reputation for taking birth to a new dimension. According to some studies, women who labour in the water, even if it's partially, are less likely to need an epidural, or another medical pain relief, than those who do it out of the water.
Pain relief during labour: Breathing
This is one of the 'classic' non-pharmaceutical techniques for pain relief during labour. The goal is to set a rhythmic breathing that matches with the rhythm of the contractions; in other words, when you feel like a contraction is coming, take a deep breath and try to hold it until the contraction starts to fade away, moment in which you'll have to breathe out. This method can raise the level of oxygen in your body, allowing your baby to get an extra amount, which he'll need to endure birth. When contractions give you a break, try to relax and get ready for the upcoming ones.
Pain relief during labour: Changing positions
Being free to shift positions during labour is another essential tip to keep pain under control. You need to find a comfortable one that also promotes the uterine contraction, like upright, leaning forward or squatting, which triggers the relaxation of the pelvic joints, enabling the baby to descend further into your pelvis on his way to the birth canal. Kneeling down on the mattress and leaning on a birth ball, getting on all fours or sitting in a chair are meant to be other good birthing positions to get pain relief during labour.
Labour is usually long and painful, and nobody can blame you if you need to stop for a second to get some rest. However, and even if it seems tempting, avoid lying on your back to do so when you are in active labour, as that may provoke slower but more painful contractions. Rather, lie on your side, which will also keep your pelvis open.
Pain relief during labour: Hypnobirthing
This antenatal education intends to teach you ways to stay calm and in control when facing labour. It's a discipline that mixes positions for labour and birth, self-hypnosis and deep relaxation, along with breathing techniques. The main purpose is to embrace a new attitude towards giving birth, so that you can keep the adrenaline levels under control and reduce any anxiety or fear regarding the D-day.
Pain relief during labour: Acupuncture
This millennial discipline is used for pain relief (for labour too), though its effectiveness in this particular case creates controversy. However, some researchers have found that the women who had acupuncture needles placed in their skin to reduce, for instance, lower back pain, are more relaxed and less likely to ask for an epidural. Acupuncture is thought to boost the production of natural painkillers in the spinal cord.
Finally, you won't run out of options for pain relief during labour. You may happen to use medical techniques, alternative ones, both or none... who knows? As labour feels different to every woman, you never know what you may end up wanting when you come into action. Writing down your preferences in a birth plan may, at least, help you rule out your least favourite methods, which can make the final decision far easier.