When you feel those first contractions, you might feel a thrill of excitement — and fear. It’s no secret that contractions can hurt, especially as you move through labor. But each contraction also brings your baby just a little bit closer.
As you move through the labor and delivery process, you have multiple options for reducing and handling your pain. You can choose to use whichever options are best for you.
Natural Comfort Techniques
Before you even arrive at the hospital, you can start to use natural comfort techniques to work through your contractions.
“Even moms who choose an epidural can benefit from these comfort measures,” says Teresa Brevda, RN, FACCE, CLC, perinatal educator at Memorial Family Birthplace. “All these comfort measures and coping strategies that we teach have no side effects. They are all natural and can be very effective.”
Comfort techniques help control the “fear, tension and pain” cycle. When you feel contractions, you might feel fear of the pain. Fear makes you tense up your muscles, making the pain worse and even slowing down labor.
But you can reduce your pain by remaining relaxed. As your body relaxes, it releases endorphins, which can keep you calm and reduce feelings of pain.
You can use multiple techniques to remain relaxed, including:
- A warm shower or bath
- Breathing deeply in a rhythm that feels right to you
- Changing positions between contractions
- Dim lighting
- Feathering your fingertips over your abdomen
- Hot packs
- Ice packs
- Massage of your back, hips, hands, feet or neck
- Visualizing holding your healthy baby
If you practice these techniques before you go into labor, they can be even more effective when it’s time for your baby to arrive.
Comfort techniques can be used throughout labor, but you can add on other techniques, too. One un-medicated technique is a philosophy called HypnoBirthing.
HypnoBirthing includes all the comfort measures of childbirth classes above. HypnoBirthing, also teaches that the mind is powerful and birth doesn’t necessarily have to be painful or scary. It is a natural process in which you can connect with your body and your baby.
Women who use HypnoBirthing use different techniques to keep themselves in a very calm and relaxed space. Techniques you can use to stay calm include:
- Deep breathing
- Light touch massage
- Meditation to stay focused on your child and yourself
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Self-guided visualization
Memorial Family Birthplace HypnoBirthing is an interactive class where couples practice with the HypnoBirthing Practitioner for the complete 5-class series.
If you would like some form of pain medicine, but don’t want an epidural, nitrous oxide might be the right choice for you. It is a very safe option that is growing in popularity.
To use nitrous oxide, you will use either a mask that covers your nose and mouth or a tube that you can breathe into. Nitrous oxide, a gas, flows through these devices and helps you relax.
You are in full control of the nitrous oxide during your labor and delivery. Moments before your contraction, you can place the mask over your face and begin to breathe. Once your contraction peaks, you can take the mask away. Nitrous oxide can be used during induction procedures while in labor and delivery or for vaginal laceration repair after delivery.
Nitrous oxide does not cross the placenta, so it doesn’t affect your child in any way. While it doesn’t offer full pain relief, it can help you relax and is very safe. Your side effects may only be dizziness or wooziness.
*Nitrous oxide is currently only offered at Memorial Hospital West Family Birthplace.
Epidural Pain Relief
Most women who give birth opt for epidural pain relief. You can ask for an epidural at any point during your labor as long as you can sit still for a minute or two.
An epidural is pain medicine that is placed directly into your spine. An anesthesiologist will numb your skin with a small needle. Then they will ask you to bend forward before placing a needle between the bones in your spine. This needle will be attached to an IV. Pain medicine will continuously run through the IV until you are done with delivery. Your legs and lower body will feel numb, so you’ll need to stay in bed once you have an epidural.
The medicine in an epidural can prevent pain in your lower body while you are fully awake, aware and able to move your upper body. But it’s important to remember that epidurals relieve pain, but don’t relieve pressure. You might feel some pressure, especially when it is time to push.
Epidurals are safe, but do have some risks of side effects like itching, nausea, fever, low blood pressure or back pain after it is removed. Rarely, they can cause more serious side effects like infection, severe headache or seizures.
Memorial Family Birthplace offers online perinatal classes that teach you about these forms of pain relief for labor and delivery. We work closely with you to follow your birth plan and deliver the care you want. We strongly encourage you to learn more about labor and delivery pain relief through the following three online perinatal classes.