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8 Things to Know About Pain Management During Labor

When you close your eyes and imagine your baby’s birth day, images of yourself grunting, groaning, and otherwise freaking out under the strain and pain might flash through your brain. That’s totally normal, and we get it — you’re about to push something the size of a small watermelon out of your body, and it’s gonna hurt. But before you start panicking, take a deep breath. There are plenty of pain management options out there, and they fit into all kinds of different birth plans. Read on for eight reasons to put your mind at ease about pain management on delivery day.

1. Breathing focuses your mind. If meds are not in your birth plan, that doesn’t mean you have to lay there and take the pain. There are plenty of ways to manage what you’re feeling minus the drugs, and mindful breathing is one of the most effective. No, it won’t magically whisk your pain away, but paying attention as you take a breath in and let it out can help you focus and take the edge off.

2. Warm water works wonders. You’ve probably seen pics of mamas in the tub doing the whole water-birth thing. You don’t have to go full-on water birth (though you can!) to get the pain-relieving effects of H2O. Think about how good a warm bath or shower feels after a major workout. During labor you can use warm water to get a similar sort of relaxing effect. Again, it won’t stop the pain — it will soothe and comfort you. Make sure you talk to your care provider before getting into the tub, since some situations, like being preterm or having preeclampsia, may make getting into a warm bath potentially risky.

3. An epidural is not a failure. Maybe you don’t want to feel a thing during labor. No one is expecting you to hunker down and make a Viking-esque go at it. Epidural anesthesia isn’t the make-you-groggy type of medical pain management. The goal of the spinal injection (and no, the pain of having a needle stuck in your back is not worse than the contractions) is to block the nerve impulses from the lower part of your spinal cord. You’ll feel the pressure of your baby as she moves down the birth canal, but you won’t feel the pain.

4. Other types of pain meds are available. Some mamas swear by doctor-prescribed meds during the early stages of labor. Childbirth medications typically include opiates such as Stadol, Fentanyl, Demerol, or even morphine. The major pro of these types of pain relievers is that they take care of your not-so-pleasant pangs pretty much right away. The drawbacks are that you might feel groggy or nauseated. They’re also passed on to your baby and can possibly interfere with her breathing or make her drowsy after birth.

5. Moving may actually help. Normally when you’re in pain, you might sit back and try not to move, but during labor, stillness may not be the key. Even though rocking on a yoga ball or walking down the hall (provided your doc allows it) won’t zap the pain away, it can reduce it.

6. Your mind matters. Your mind won’t numb your lower body like an epidural will, but it can take the edge off and relax you. Visualization and relaxation techniques can take your inner self somewhere else as your outer self labors away.

7. The right answer is your answer. Every woman is different. Your birth experience is just that — your birth experience. There will be people who tell you that there’s a “right” way to manage birthing pain and a “wrong” way, but unless whoever is telling you what you should or shouldn’t do has a medical degree, you aren’t obliged to listen. Pain management, like the rest of your pregnancy, is private. Whether you want to use medication or visualization or neither, the choice is yours.

8. Your birth plan is not set in stone. Two months before your due date, you were absolutely, positively sure that you wanted nothing to do with meds during L and D. You were so sure that you wrote it into your birth plan. You practiced meditating, learned about breathing, and started visualizing yourself on a sunny beach with the waves gently tickling your feet. And then you went into labor. The pain was… well, more than you thought it would be. Don’t stress. You aren’t stuck. As long as there aren’t medical reasons prohibiting using or not using meds, change is totally allowed.

What are your pain management plans? Share your pick and tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photo via Getty)