Natural birth doesn’t happen naturally — it’s the result of a lot of planning and preparation that begins during pregnancy. When choosing natural birth, which is giving birth without pain-relieving medicines, you need to know about these topics before your first contraction.
The Natural Process of Labor
It’s important to remember that labor is a natural and normal process — and that pain is natural, too.
“Labor pain is not an indication that something is wrong — it means something is right,” says Teresa Brevda, RN, FACCE, CLC, perinatal educator at Memorial Family Birthplace. “When contractions are longer, stronger and closer together, the closer you are to the end.”
During a labor and birth class, you can learn about the stages of labor and how your contractions change during this time. You can also learn about the physical causes of pain during labor so you can understand how each contraction brings your baby closer to you. Knowing what to expect can take away some of the fear and anxiety involving labor and delivery to make the experience more positive.
The Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle
Not feeling afraid of labor is key to reducing pain as you bring your child into the world. When you feel afraid, you can enter the fear-tension-pain cycle.
When a person is facing a painful situation, the usual response is one of fear. As we foresee future pain and fear, we start to build up tension in the body and muscles, so when we do have a contraction, it’s magnified because we have this huge level of tension.
Another consequence of this cycle is that blood is drawn to your limbs instead of your uterus. Less blood in the uterus can cause labor to stall and contractions to become less effective or even stop. Labor stall can lead to a longer, more painful labor and increase your chances of a C-section.
Without fear and tension, you can stay relaxed. Your contractions won’t be as painful and can be even more effective. That means faster labor, which can help you avoid pain medicines.
Gate Control Theory of Pain
According to the gate control theory of pain, there are two pathways that transmit both painful and pleasurable stimuli to your brain. Your brain can only feel the pathway that is sending the bigger, faster signals. When you are having a contraction, pain is the pathway that you feel.
However, you can use the gate control theory to your advantage. You can work to override the pain signals with soothing sensations like massage, brushing your hair, hot packs, walking or changing positions. These sensations can minimize the pain messages heading to your brain during a contraction.
“There is something called the 20-minute rule,” explains Brevda. “This means that every 20 minutes, you should switch up soothing sensations, so your brain doesn’t get too used to the feeling and still effectively focuses on the soothing sensations.”
Comfort and Pain-Relieving TechniquesAny of these comfort and pain-relieving techniques can be used at any point in labor to help yourself stay relaxed. Brevda recommends these techniques:
- Breathing techniques
- Changing positions
- Feathering or using light touches
- Guided visualization
- Hot packs
- Ice packs
- Massages of hands, feet back and hips
- Taking a warm bath or shower
- Using a birthing ball or peanut ball
“The evidence shows these strategies become more effective the more you practice them,” says Brevda. “Plus, they can also help you sleep better and feel better during pregnancy.”
You can also create a relaxing environment for labor while at the hospital. You can choose to have dimmer lights or use aromatherapy techniques. You can listen to music that soothes you or you love to dance to. You can keep the room warm or cool it down. Whatever helps you stay relaxed is the right environment for you.At Memorial Family Birthplace , we offer a personalized birthing experience so you can have all the comfort you need during labor and delivery. We also provide comprehensive classes on your options for pain relief during labor, including how to plan a successful natural birth.