I am just a Mom with four babes and a penchant for exercise. I am not a doctor, doula, midwife, nurse practitioner, labor and delivery nurse or anything sort of professional when it comes labor. I guess what I am saying is I am not really qualified to speak on pain management during birth, except for my own experience.
So that is what you get. Here are my Top 5 thoughts based strictly on my own experience. Sift through it and use what is valuable to you, and trash the rest.
1. You do you. I usually HATE this catchphrase, but I think that it totally applies in this case. There is no “right” way to do labor and delivery. If you want to feel every labor pain from start to finish, fantastic. But if you prefer to have some medication to take the edge off, just as wonderful.
In the same vein, pain management is going to look different for everyone because we are all unique with different personalities and tastes. So my first suggestion is to know yourself. Spend some time thinking about what you think would help based on your preferences.
For example, I am not a music person. I don’t listen to it ever really, not even in my car. So it was pretty safe to say that a good jam would not be my magic fix.
2. Take your mind off of it. Never underestimate the power of distraction. I feel like this works really well in the mid stages of labor where things are starting to escalate, but are not yet transition or active labor.
I used television as a big distraction with my first three labors. With my second, I literally binge watched “Say Yes to the Dress” getting up for every contraction and then continuing my binge fest.
Maybe there is something that would help take your mind off of it.
3. Breathing/Noise/Position. I really can’t comment on this one as I feel it is so individualistic to each person and each labor.
As far as position, there are so many – from all fours, tub, exercise ball, you name it – and I pray that you are blessed with as fabulous nurses that I had that can guide you and give you suggestions.
Breathing and noise kind of go hand and hand in my opinion. Personally, I am very quiet as I like to go into a zone so to speak. This feels very similar to the zone that I try to hit in a tough workout – blocking out the world and accepting the difficulty and digging deep to overcome it.
In the same way, I felt like the pain is much more tolerable when breathing is controlled and slower. It can be very easy to slightly hyperventilate, but slowing down the breathe and making it more purposeful seemed to help me relax.
4. You know that book “The Five Love Languages”? Well my language is “words of affirmation”. So it came as no surprise that I got a small boost of confidence whenever anyone said a even a small, uplifting word to me. The doubt would start to creep in, and if I got some encouragement from the nurse, doctor or Nick, my resolve strengthened.
Even if this isn’t your love language, I think EVERYONE gets a boost from some encouragement. I mean it is kinda like a really tough workout, and the instructor shouts out a “you got this” just when you about ready to throw in the towel.
I told Nick half way through this one that I needed him to tell me I could do this. So tell your people ahead of time to cheer you on.
5. My game plan was pretty singular this time around: prayer.
I saved this topic for last because I realize that this may not apply to you all, and even if you are a Christian, my tactics may differ if you are Protestant and not Catholic.
That being said, if you are at all interested, carry on because this is the thing that helped more more than any other.
Going into this labor, I really wanted to use the pain as a chance to offer penance and prayer. I figured I may as well be productive with the suffering, and it also doubled as a distraction.
In the middle phase where pain was not as intense, I said a Rosary for the baby. This took a good chunk of time as I had to stop for contractions. Even if you are not Catholic and do not pray the Rosary, you could simply pray for your baby.
Also in this phase, I had a list of prayer intentions/requests that I went through, devoting a contraction to each. I really, really liked this as it sent my mind elsewhere, and it also made me realize how blessed I was to be in this situation despite the pain.
When things really started to ramp up, I no longer had the presence of mind to go through different prayer intentions, I simply alternated between two of my own personal biggies about which I pray frequently. I also found myself crying out very short prayers…even so simple as saying “Jesus help me”. It might sound crazy to you, but it did give me a renewed strength. And to be honest, in the final stages, I feel like it is what got me through more than anything.
So there you have it. This is mostly my personal story on pain management, and again everyone is different. So sift through and use what is helpful it anything.