Knowing what to expect with labor pains is one of the main concerns mothers have about their eminent deliveries. The birth of a child is often described as one of the most painful events in human life so it is natural that a woman would feel anxious about her pain tolerance level. A lot of moms-to-be ask other mothers what their deliveries felt like to try to get an idea of how it might feel for them. One thing that is very interesting is that each woman might experience labor pains differently from pregnancy to pregnancy. Most often contractions are described as feeling like very strong menstrual cramps, gas, or feeling a strong urge to have a bowel movement. Some of these feelings are a result of the baby’s head pressing down on both the uterus and the colon. Birthing pains can also feel like a back ache (back labor), soreness in the hips and thighs, or fatigue all over the body. The range of experiences can definitely vary from woman to woman.
Women who are having their first babies tend to report more pain than women who have already had a child. Much of this could be psychological. Just knowing what to expect can alleviate some of the apprehension involved in delivery. Moms who have already gone through it seem to have the upper hand on pain management. When you have your child, it will be important to determine the best pain management technique for your labor pains. This might require a bit of experimentation during the process. Keep your options open and do not get upset if you find you have to “change your mind” about something as the labor progresses. Many women decide early on they will have a delivery without any pain management, but then decide on having medications or an epidural if it becomes too intense. This is very normal and nothing to feel guilty about.
There are also many natural ways to handle the labor pains as well. One thing that is universally recommended is relaxation techniques. When you are afraid of the pain or fearing what is about to happen, your whole body tenses up and can actually make the pain feel worse than it really is. By doing techniques such as meditating, you can keep your mind off of the painful experiences and think only of the positive outcome you expect. Some women imagine their cervix is opening smoothly with each contraction, allowing the baby to move down a little each time. When you think about why the pain is actually happening, you can accept it as part of the natural process and focus on your baby. Another natural method is breathing. Many birthing classes offer breathing methods that can help you to concentrate your thoughts. Your breathing might be a counting method such as two long inhales and three short exhales. There are many different patterns. Another thing you should feel comfortable doing is making sounds. It is not recommended that you shrill or scream loudly though this does sometimes happen. A more productive sound would be a low moan or groan, again focusing on your breathing.
When it comes to the position you are in, this can definitely affect your labor pains. Feel free to stand, walk, sit, lean, squat, or get on all fours. Most doctors recommend standing and walking as opposed to sitting or lying down to get the labor progressing. Sometimes though, with IVs and tubes, it is not always practical. Try to discuss your options with your physician so you will know how much movement you will be free to do. Then practice the various positions and squatting before you labor begins so you feel more comfortable. Sometimes it is recommended to get into water during labor to reduce pain. For some women, this can make a huge difference. This can be a shower or bath with water temperature at about 100F. Keep in mind that it is not recommended to get into water early into your labor as it can sometimes slow down the process.
Labor pains can be a different experience for every woman. Continue to ask others what they felt like so you will have an idea of what to expect. Learn pain management techniques and practice them before your labor begins. The more you know before your delivery starts, the better you will be able to handle your labor pains.
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