Labor is painful, no doubt about it. But it doesn’t have to be suffering.
Labor pain is.... PURPOSEFUL- pain during labor is typically due to a contracting uterus. Which is needed to birth your baby. Painful, but not without purpose. ANTICIPATED- the last few weeks of pregnancy are loaded with anticipation. You know it’s coming, you know it can be challenging, you know it can be painful, but you don’t know when. INTERMITTENT- in the throws of labor, it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Whether contractions are averaging a full minute or in double peaks, they won’t last forever. When a contraction does end, the best thing to do is let it go. Allow your body to relax and savor the quiet moments in between as you wait for your baby. Many times in labor, I’ve seen women experience complete relief when a contraction ends. Some women can even sleep in between contractions! Rest is crucial to surviving a long labor. NORMAL- have you ever burnt your arm taking something out of the oven? Or cut your finger instead of the apple? Or for heavens sake, stepped on a plastic triceratops? All of the above mentioned examples are neither normal or purposeful pains. They are unexpected and sudden interactions with pain. Labor on the other hand is gradual and natural. It’s something that your body is supposed to experience and (in most cases) you are more than equipped to handle it. Thinking back to my first birth, for me personally, the more normal I understood birth to be, the less afraid I was. Reducing fear reduces pain.
So, as a doula, what are my recommendations on how to prepare for PAIN in labor? 1.Get educated! Childbirth education is HUGE in managing labor pain. Understand the pain! Preparation is key. 2.Hire a doula! Obviously, I’m biased to this one. But from personal experience of having a doula in my own births and from professional experience- I’ve seen firsthand the difference continuous support can make. Doulas are specifically trained to support women through the ups and downs of labor. Doulas carry with them a “bag of tricks” containing, but not limited to- physical support for managing labor pain and progress, as well as education to make informed decisions when such situations arise. There is a great deal of evidence which sheds light on the use of continuous labor support leading to a decrease in epidurals, medically assisted deliveries, and cesareans. Overall, doula supported births typically lead to happier, healthier births. Want to know more? Check this out- Evidence on Doulas 3.Research! Research! Research! I highly encourage you to do your research on everything. We are living in the age of the internet. You can find a mommy group, blog post, infographic, or article about any and every topic. But with that can come lots of opinions, biased information, and “facts” (with little to no evidence to back them up). So as you research, be cautious of sources. If you’re going to put the time in to do your own research, be sure it’s spent on evidence based materials. Here are a few starting points-