We're officially 14 days past due, and I've finally started having contractions the last couple of days. They're getting pretty intense, but since I can still speak through them, they aren't strong enough to send me to the hospital. (We went in with a false alarm Monday morning.)

I didn't have the time or money to take any labor classes during the pregnancy (was working two jobs for the first two trimesters), so I don't have too many pain management tools in my toolbox right now. I've sort of depended on my mother for advice there. So far, I've gotten some training on using deep, cleansing breaths.

On my own, I've discovered that I can get some relief by creating a sort of current between two inanimate objects. For example, if I'm soaking in the tub, I press my feet firmly into one wall and my shoulders and head into the opposite wall. When standing, I get about a foot or two away from the wall, raise my arms, and push firmly into the wall while solidly planting my feet. I have no idea why this helps, but it does. Unfortunately, my method does not working while I'm lying in bed at night which is when most of my contractions seem to come.

Does anyone have a tip or trick to share to alleviate labor pain either before or after going to the hospital?

asked 30 Dec '09, 07:03

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Artemis
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ironically enough, we left for the hospital before anyone had a chance to post an answer. Layla was born at 1:44 PM CST on December 30th! My mom coached me through proper breathing, and I got an epidural. The breathing was important because the epidural only worked on the left side at first, so I continued to have painful contractions on the right. Once they fixed that, things went very smoothly, and I only had to push for about 10 minutes! Thanks for all the great answers, everyone!

(01 Jan '10, 01:05) Artemis

Congratulations!

(01 Jan '10, 03:12) Scottie T

Congrats!!! Also surprised you have enough energy to post on moms4mom so soon. :)

(01 Jan '10, 13:56) Scott ♦♦

Thank you! Our little one loved the carseat and didn't wake up for over an hour after we got home. Also, we had some friends over for New Year's Eve, so there were plenty of arms to hold her. :)

(01 Jan '10, 16:50) Artemis

Congratulations Artemis!

(01 Jan '10, 19:57) Tammy ♦♦

My wife and I took a birthing class on the Bradley method. The goal of the Bradley method is to allow birth to be a natural process, avoiding medical interventions to "speed up" something that naturally takes a day or so to complete, and to manage the pain of labor instead of eliminating it with narcotics. In the class, we learned about many techniques to manage pain.

  • Relax. Relax your muscles. Let your shoulders droop. Let your arms feel heavy. Have your partner guide you in relaxing all the muscles of your body. If your muscles are tense, the painful sensations increase, causing you to tense your muscles, and on and on in a feedback loop.
  • Breath. Focus on breathing slowly, deeply, and naturally. Oxygen in your blood helps you to stay relaxed. Holding your breath does the opposite. Breathing and relaxing can help you to find your rhythm.
  • If making noise feels good, make all the noise you want. But your throat may hurt later.
  • Stay hydrated. During the later stages of labor, have sips of water or ice chips between contractions. Giving birth is an athletic event. If you get dehydrated, you'll run out of energy, your blood pressure will rise, and so will your stress level.
  • Change positions. Don't just lie on your back in bed. Walk around. Sit on the toilet. Get on your hands and knees. Squat.
  • If it feels good, have your partner give you a good firm massage. Counter pressure to your contraction pains can be very helpful. There were times when my wife didn't want anyone touching her during contractions, but there were other contractions when she wanted pressure applied to her back. We put two tennis balls in a sock to use for applying back pressure, but I never used it.
  • Make the environment conducive to relaxing. Turn the lights down. Play calming music or background noise. We downloaded this album and brought an iPod and small clock radio with an iPod dock to the hospital.
  • Have your partner ask others in the room to remain quiet and calm. If you're at the hospital and the nurse or doctor want to come in the room during a contraction, have your partner or other assistant politely ask them to wait a minute while you get through this contraction.
  • If available, take a hot bath or shower.
  • Have your partner guide you in meditation or tell you stories of fun, happy, relaxing memories. Have your partner describe places that are important to you and make you feel safe and secure, or places where you can relax. They don't have to be actual places, just places where you feel calm and safe. Have your partner stay positive, but calm.

My wife did a outstanding job and she was able to give birth without the use of drugs. If the pain is too intense, you won't be a failure for having an epidural. But many mothers are able to give birth without getting the shot, and I'm sure you are able as well, so I would encourage you to avoid it. Good luck! You'll do great.

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answered 30 Dec '09, 14:55

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Scottie T
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edited 30 Dec '09, 16:44

The counter pressure was really helpful for me. We actually had my husband and doula pressing on either side of my hips which was really great.

(30 Dec '09, 16:49) Kiesa ♦
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Oh, and my husband couldn't believe how hard I wanted him to press.

(30 Dec '09, 16:50) Kiesa ♦
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Great summary, Scott, and thanks for the compliments :) I really enjoyed birth, thanks to being able to relax through it. Good luck, Artemis. I hope you had the birth of your dreams. If you'd like to read my birth story, it's posted on our blog: www.infinitesimalchange.blogspot.com

(01 Jan '10, 18:54) Fun2Dream

Stuff they recommended (can't speak to what worked exactly, except these seemed to help):

  • Have your partner use a tennis ball to put pressure on your lower back just above the tail bone
  • Sitting on those big round "birthing balls"
  • Hot shower, and using hand sprayer on the same spot as the tennis ball

This all kept Tammy going for several hours at the hospital, but due to "back labor" they eventually suggested an epidural. After the epidural, Tammy said, "I haven't had a contraction in a long time", and I looked at the monitor and said, "you're having one right now."

Best wishes! Remember, the first days are emotionally and physically exhausting, for everyone. You're not alone. Hang in there. It gets better!

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answered 30 Dec '09, 11:36

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Scott ♦♦
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All of the things Scott mentioned did help along with deep breathing and focus. I didn't use a focal point but I would take deep breaths and concentrate on relaxing my muscles as I was bouncing on the birthing ball, in the shower, or using counterpressure with the tennis ball.

(30 Dec '09, 16:12) Tammy ♦♦

That's how my epidural was with my first child. It was so strong, I had to be told when I was having a contraction so I could push.

(30 Dec '09, 23:18) mkcoehoorn

The upside to drugs during labor is that, depending on the dosage, it takes the edge off the pain or eliminates it completely allowing you to rest prior to pushing. I had epidurals with both of my kids with both effects. The second time around when I had the lower dosage and therefore more pain, I did find it very helpful to make a sound while breathing out. This can be done with out screaming your throat raw. It is very like a martial artist shouting when kicking or punching (I studied karate in 7th - 9th grades) or a vocal performer phonating to warm up the voice (I also sing barbershop).

While waiting for my epidurals I had to use other pain management methods. I found the breathing methods taught in my birth classes were more likely to cause me to hyperventilate. So instead I breathed in for a count of 4, held my breath for a count of 4, then breathed out for a count of 4.

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answered 30 Dec '09, 23:15

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mkcoehoorn
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Consciously relaxing helped me a lot. My yoga teacher had told me that it is very hard to tense up whilst breathing out, so I found concentrating on the out-breaths really helpful. You breathe in as a reflex, but it is easy to tense up and hold your breath, so remembering to breathe out is important.

I personally found that as labour got more intense I wanted to be left alone, I wanted my husband to hold my hand, so I could squeeze it, but apart from that I didn't want anyone to touch me, so I could concentrate and focus inwards.

I visualised contractions as waves, as they get intense you breathe out and they reach a peak then you can breathe in again as they subside. This is until you get to transition when you might get double-peaks as the contractions opening your cervix give way to those pushing the baby out.

Especially in the final pushing stage I found it helped to keep gravity on my side - babies come out easier down hill. Your tail bone makes a small up hill at the base of your spine if you're lying on your back. This is why active birthing methods talk about staying upright. When I was tired, I would lean forward over a bean bag or the edge of a bed or settee, or as a last resort lie down on my side.

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answered 31 Dec '09, 20:10

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Meg Stephenson
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Many childbirth experts (Dr Sarah Buckley, Ina May Gaskin, Sheila Kitzinger etc.) emphasize the emotional and instinctive aspects of childbirth a lot when writing about pain management and relaxation during birth. So it is not so much about techniques and knowing exactly what and how to do, but trusting your body and letting go in a relaxed, warm and cozy atmosphere.

This excellent article by Dr Sarah Buckley explores the physiology of childbirth, showing that it is a process triggered by the love hormones oxitocin and beta-endorphin - same hormones that are present when making love. Therefore, she emphasizes e.g. the importance of a stress-free, cozy environment, where the mother can feel safe and protected. In this kind of an environment she is able to relax and focus on working with her body in labour. Here is another good article by Dr Buckley.

There are many practical tips how to create this kind of an atmosphere - even in a hospital setting. Ina May Gaskin writes a lot about the meaning of love and touch. In "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth" she mentions e.g. kissing with your spouse, which helps in relaxation. In my 2nd labour, we tried and tested this with my dh and yes, I would strongly recommend it. :) You can also use your favourite music, candles, etc. in order to create a familiar and relaxing atmosphere. Metaphors such as putting a flower in a vase and thinking "my cervix is opening like that flower" during contractions might help.

As the "must-read" book in preparing for childbirth mentally, in addition to Ina May Gaskin's book, I would recommend Birthin From Within by Pam England. They also organize workshops in US.

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answered 06 Jan '10, 13:31

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HW
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Asked: 30 Dec '09, 07:03

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Last updated: 06 Jan '10, 13:31