One of the most daunting aspects of pregnancy is the looming fear of delivery. What will it feel like? How painful is labour? How painful is childbirth? Is it really going to be how it is in the movies? Of course, some pain is inevitable and will depend on you and your pain tolerance and the circumstances of your delivery. We’re here to give you a realistic view of what kind of labour pains you can expect.
Labour pains involve many complex processes. From the muscles of your uterus contracting constantly to the pressure from the child on the cervix. Your hormones are working on overdrive to make sure you’re well prepared physically to handle childbirth. Labour pains are different for different people. No two people experience the same exact kind of pain. It’s important to realize that there are plenty of options available to subdue the pain if you consider a hospital birth. Something standard when different women describe contractions are that they come and go, just like a wave, and just as the pain of one contraction gets too much to handle – it passes. Think of pregnancy labour pain as a very long trailer to a very short movie.
Preparing yourself during delivery:
One thing to note about preparation is that it begins as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Research has shown that women who practiced endurance training exercises like yoga or Lamaze had quicker, easier to manage childbirths. If you are considering a drug-free approach, then it is very important to add yoga into your daily schedule. It works wonders for your breathing and strength building.
Lamaze is an incredibly helpful technique that works on changing how you view childbirth. It teaches women that it is a natural, normal process that can be managed effectively without letting anxiety get the best of you. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, massage and distraction techniques are taught. All of these help provide a very positive outlook on the act of delivery. It boosts you to be prepared mentally as well as physically for the arrival of your little one. Anxiety can ruin any confidence you might have had, so considering Lamaze classes is a good bet. Mental preparation is just as important as physical - once you’ve trained your mind your body will follow along!
Consult your doctor and other professionals on how much exercise to practice and what exercise to do – remember, overdoing it could be harmful.
Let’s get into actual childbirth. The question always comes up – how painful is giving birth? While it is understood that each person has a different threshold of pain, and people experience pain differently, there are some things that can be good to know:
- Cramping pain that comes from the abdomen is a common indicator that contractions are starting. Some women describe them as very intense period pains, some describe them as the pain you get if you have diarrhoea. It is important to remember that no matter how painful each contraction can get, it passes by.
- Cramping can occur in multiple places- your lower back, abdomen, groin and sometimes even the sides of your thighs.
- There is also an immense pressure on your bladder and bowels as the baby’s head pushes out further into the vaginal canal.
- You may notice that you might not be able to control your bowels, and urinate or poop during labour pain! It’s important to remember that these are completely normal experiences that countless women have had during childbirth and it’s nothing to be ashamed of!
- Oftentimes, the mental aspect of anxiety and nervousness is brushed over. Almost every woman getting closer and closer to delivery time have experienced some kind of anxiety. This is your body’s way of telling you that something big is about to happen and it is totally normal. Remember to have something that calms you down by you at all times, it could be a scent or even a person close to you.
Pain relief options:
Pain management during labour comes in many forms. There is medical labour pain management and non-medical labour pain management. It’s always helpful to keep an open mind about any and every resource of labour pain relief that is available to you. This just takes the pressure off of you to deliver! And it’s always nice to know you have a safety net to fall back on if the pain is too much to handle.
Epidural: An epidural or epidural block is administered by the doctor if the pain becomes too intense. It is a medicine that is injected into your lower back and it relieves pain while keeping you alert during childbirth. It takes around 15-20 minutes to work. Some side effects of this pain relief in labour include not being able to control the ability to pee, lowered blood pressure, headaches after delivery, and a fever.
Spinal block: These are used most commonly in caesarean births. It is an injection of medicine shot into your lower back and it works similar to an epidural. It takes minutes to work actively and lasts a few hours.
Combined epidural and spinal block (CSE): Using this method allows you to feel the way an epidural does but with a lower dosage of medicine. The side effects and risks of taking a CSE are the same as taking an epidural. You might be able to walk small distances on it.
Medications come under 2 types: anaesthetics and analgesics. Anaesthetics, as well all know, are used to numb pain and sensation and feeling. Analgesics work by reducing pain but you are still able to feel things and sensations. Regional anaesthetics are administered during childbirth to specific regions that are particularly under a lot of strain. Epidurals come under this category.
Tranquillisers: As the name suggests, these don’t help relieve much pain but definitely help calm the mother down because anxieties are high during childbirth and delivery. They may be used along with other types of labour pain relief.
To consider non-medical options for labour pain management, you might want to practice certain lifestyle changes way before delivery.
Physical exercise like yoga, Lamaze and even just staying active and doing small tasks each day has a huge impact on how your delivery will be.
Never underestimate the support from your near and dear ones. Pregnant women often feel like they are a burden asking for help, but remember: you deserve every bit of help and support because you are about to go through an experience that is life-changing.
It’s important to discuss your mental health from time to time and check-in with yourself. Lots of anxiety left untreated is never good for you or your little one.
Hot and cold compresses and massages help relieve pain because they ensure that there is blood circulation going on.
Practice deep breathing every day like a religion. Some women have actually gotten through the most painful of contractions through deep breathing alone!
Using distractions like music, movies, being around friends and family, reading books or doing watercolours will help take your mind off what’s coming next.
Things to keep in mind:
Remember that no two pregnancies are the same. What worked for someone else might not work for you! Each individual can handle different kinds and intensities of pain and comparing will never help!
Always keep your options open when it comes to taking medical pain relief. Many women insist on having natural births and this creates a mental block. Help is always there if you need it and shutting it out won’t do you or your little one any good!Be informed of every step of the labour and delivery process. Let the doctor tell you what is going on at every stage so your anxiety is at a minimum. The more you know, the better!