When you’re pregnant for the first time, the thought of labour can be quite daunting. "What will it feel like?" and "How will I cope?" are very common questions. Often the amount of information out there can be overwhelming, making it hard to know where to start. With that in mind, the following is a collection of The Top 10 Coping Strategies to reduce pain, avoid medical intervention and help your labour progress faster.
1. Medical Pain Relief
Epidural, gas and air, pethidine and other injectables you didn’t even know existed. There are a lot of options when it comes to medical pain relief. And often, it seems, almost just as many opinions.
While some people worry about the effects certain medications may have on their unborn baby, others swear that the relief they provide can actually help labour progress faster - great for both mum and baby!
Do your research so that you can make an informed decision about your pain relief and what’s right for you. (For more information on the different forms of pain relief check out "Pain Relief during Labour: Your Options".)
2. Keeping Fit During Pregnancy
Studies show that women who remain fit and active during pregnancy tend to have shorter labours and are less likely to need medical intervention.
Keeping active also has the added benefit of building up your endurance and improving your mood and energy levels. With the right exercises it can also strengthen your pelvic floor and assist in OFP (Optimal Foetal Positioning).
There are many activities you can enjoy safely during pregnancy including yoga, walking, swimming and even belly dancing! Many gyms and community centres offer classes specifically for pregnant woman where you'll also get to meet other expectant mums.
3. An Active Labour
Did you know that by keeping active during labour you can actually help it to progress faster? And by staying upright you can harness the power of gravity to help deliver your baby?
Bed-bound labours are slowly becoming a thing of the past, with more women transitioning from passive to active participant. This empowering technique is about trusting your instincts and understanding that your body is designed to do this.
Walking, squatting, kneeling and rhythmic movements like rocking on a balance ball will, not only provide you some relief but also help to open up your pelvis.
4. Water and Heat
Our natural reaction when we experience pain is to tense up, which only makes the pain worse. Water and heat are both wonderfully soothing during labour and many women swear by them for natural pain relief.
A warm bath can help to both relax your muscles and calm your nerves, while the extra buoyancy makes it easier for you to move around. Showers are particularly effective for targeting lower back pain as you can direct the shower head straight onto your back. If water isn’t an option, try using a heat pack on your lower back instead.
Hypnobirth, Calmbirth, visualisation and positive affirmations are just a few of the more well-known techniques employed by labouring woman. All centre around the belief that staying calm and relaxed will reduce pain and help your labour progress.
During labour we tap into our primal side and meditation encourages you to relax and believe in your body’s ability. Even simple things like turning down the lights and focusing on your breathing can help you stay calm and feel more in touch with your body.
Massage releases endorphins, your body’s own pain-fighting, stress busting, super hormone. Not only that, the soothing touch of a loving partner can help you feel safe and secure and is particularly effective for relieving lower back pain.
Try combining a pregnancy massage with essential oils for added benefit. Some of the most popular oils for labouring women include:
- Lavender - for relaxation
- Peppermint - to relieve nausea
- Jasmine - to increase the effectiveness of contractions
- Clary sage - to help induce labour
Distraction can involve anything from watching a favourite movie to listening to music, or even having a snack. Eating and drinking also provides the added benefit of helping to keep you hydrated and maintaining your energy levels. Try ice lollies, chocolate, or carbohydrates like bananas, bread and cereal for a long, slow energy release.
A popular method of distraction is to grip a comb in the palm of your hand. Interestingly, many women report the urge to grip onto something. Reflexologists explain that there are actually pressure points located along your palm that, when stimulated, release endorphins.
Just as certain hormones help to bring on labour, adrenaline and fear can actually slow down and even halt your labour. Understanding what’s happening to you during labour helps to reduce anxiety and take away that fear.
Read books, watch instructional DVD's, attend antenatal classes, talk to other parents and healthcare professionals and learn about your options during labour so you can make informed choices. Websites, like this one, provide a great range of articles to get you started. Why not try signing up to our forum and begin chatting to other expectant mums and dads today?
9. Birth Plan
Rather than a strict set of rules, a birth plan should be viewed more like a wish list for how you hope your labour will progress. It needs to be flexible and changeable.
A birth plan is your opportunity to talk through any worries or concerns you may have with your partner and doctors. It will help you feel prepared and in control, and eliminates any unnecessary worrying on the day.
Include things like which coping strategies you’d like to try and your thoughts on medications. As well as more specific things like who will cut the cord and when visitors are allowed in. In this way, you can also begin to focus on the exciting moment you get to meet your baby.
10. State of Mind
A woman’s state of mind can play an enormous role in how well she copes with labour. Although it’s completely natural to feel nervous, it’s important not to let your worries get the better of you.
As your growing belly becomes a magnet for everyone else's birth story, the tales of horror can begin to pile up. Try to surround yourself with positive stories (and there are plenty!) and politely request others save theirs till after your baby is born.
A great way to boost your confidence is to write down a list of positive thoughts and repeat them often. They can be quotes, affirmations or simple words of encouragement.
Every woman experiences labour differently, and how you choose to deal with it is a very personal thing. Relaxation and self-confidence are key, so learn as much as you can about your options and choose the things you think will work best for you. Whichever methods you decide on always remember, your body was made to do this. And when it’s all over, you get to meet your baby!