Have you written your birth plan yet?
If you have or are about to, I bet you’ve put a lot of focus on coping with pain in labor.
Whether you’re a ‘give me all tha drugs!’ kinda gal or opting to go drug-free you know labor will be painful.
You’re focusing on what you want to prevent the pain, but have you thought about simple ways you could be making the pain worse?
It sounds really negative, however, it’s good to know what these things are. If you can avoid them, then you’ll cope better and require less pain relief.
I’ve created this guide to highlight the birthing pitfalls to avoid making during labor.
Let’s get started.
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9 Ways To Make Your Labor Pain Worse
It’s totally normal for you to be freaking petrified during birth.
I mean your whole life you’ve heard horror stories of moms pooping on the table or tearing from hole to hole, right?
Pretty much every birth on TV or movie has the mom screaming her head off.
The problem is that when you’re scared you become tense and breathe fast. Both of these reactions make the contractions feel a lot worse for you.
The fear also causes you to release stress hormones which can slow your labor and make you exhausted.
If your birth anxiety is severe, it’s best to speak to your doctor or a therapist beforehand. Cognitive therapy can help overcome your negative thoughts before labor starts.
Another option is to look into birthing classes in your area to teach you coping techniques. Hypnobirthing classes can be useful. I find mindfulness techniques are great for anxiety, and this book (I recommend the audio version) is a great read if this kind of techniques works for you.
This is a very powerful TED talk by world-renowned midwives Ina May Gaskin. It can be a bit hippyish in parts, but she makes some amazing points about modern birth culture.
2. Caregiver mistrust
Trusting your caregivers during labor is vital to help you release birth hormones (oxytocin).
If your nurse, midwife or doctor makes you feel uneasy, then your body will react and not labor well.
The mistrust creates an environment of fear and tension which heightens your pain.
Your nurse or midwife should be able to assess how well you are coping and help you through this.
Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with the policies and routine procedures of your chosen caregiver. Have they made comments that make you feel uneasy during pregnancy?
Then its best to find the right caregiver for you before your labor starts.
You may also consider hiring a doula to support you through your labor. A doula is familiar with the birth environment and stays with you all the time. This is especially important if you give birth where your nurse cannot provide one to one care in labor.
3. Birth environment
Have you considered your birth environment during labor?
You probably know who your birth partner will be, but what about the thing that makes you feel more comfortable?
Surprisingly you feel more relaxed and less tense when you’re in a homely environment.
The problem is that most hospitals are very clinical looking.
There are simple changes that you can make to your birth room, so you labor better.
First off, make sure that only people you want to be there are there. That includes your birth partner and medical staff.
If you don’t want a student in with you, let your caregiver know. Also, make sure that any staff knocks before they enter the room. Constant interruptions to you your room may slow it down.
Lack of privacy and bright lightening won’t help your labor progress. Ask your nurse to pull the curtains and dim the lights for a nice relaxed environment.
You might want to bring some home comforts such as pillows or essential oils you use in your house.
Unless there is a medical indication try to avoid suing artificial hormones to start or speed up your labor.
Using an artificial drip for labor is associated with an increased need for pain relief. That’s because your contractions are forced and don’t have the same slow built up of natural labor.
If your pregnancy is low risk and you’re heading toward being overdue, read up on natural ways to induce your labor. A good membrane sweep is a great ‘natural’ option for getting you into labor without the need for hormones.
If you do require Pitocin use during your labor, consider how this will affect your need for pain relief. Don’t feel like you’ve let yourself down if you need something strong like an epidural.
5. Posterior baby
A baby who is lying ‘back to back’ is known to cause more pain in labor.
The reason is that your baby is pressing against your spine causing back pain. In this position, your baby doesn’t open your cervix as well as a front facing position. That can make your labor a lot longer.
You can check out my tips for turning your posterior baby before your labor starts.
The idea is that you keep your bump as front facing a possible. Avoid lying on your back or position that recline your pelvis.
In labor its best to keep upright and avoid being on a bed. This may be an issue if you need to be constant monitoring during your labor. Your nurse or midwife will be able to assist you in helping your baby to turn.
Posterior babies need time to turn in labor which can make your labor longer. Your caregiver may even suggest Pitocin to speed the labor up. Of course, altogether that can lead to a much more painful experience.
My advice would be to try and prevent your baby from turning posterior before birth.
I always find it amazing how easy it is to forget simple solutions to birthing problems.
It’s common to forget to eat and drink during labor, especially when your contractions ramp up.
Dehydration is a big factor for increasing your pain levels.
Your body relies on water to make the cells work as best as they can. When your body is dehydrated, your energy and focus will suffer, making coping a lot harder.
In fact, if your body is severely dehydrated, it can actually stop your labor. That may then lead to you needing iv drips or Pitocin.
The best thing to do is to keep hydrated as soon as your contractions start. Tell your birth partner its one of their jobs to make sure you keep your fluids up when you forget.
You don’t need to drink liters during labor, but enough to prevent thirst. Your body is working really hard, so give it the fuel it needs.
Ice chips are a great way to keep your fluid levels up. Plus they will help to cool you down and make you feel more comfortable.
7. Your Breathing
I’m gonna give you a tip I give to all the laboring moms I care for.
Master your breathing, and your labor will completely change.
Think of the last time you were in pain. Did you automatically hold your breath?
I bet the answer was yes.
Holding your breath is a natural reaction to pain. However its bad news for labor.
When you hold your breath, you deprive your muscles of oxygen which heightens your pain levels.
The same is true when you breathe to fast during your contraction. Your body reacts by panicking and making your feel faint and out of control.
Learning how to breathe throughout your contractions is a great skill for coping with labor. When you breathe properly, your muscles and your baby gets the vital oxygen they need.
Focus on your breathing to get through the contraction. It helps you be rhythmic and relaxed as your tummy tightens.
Using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is very effective at providing pain relief and helps you to focus on taking long deep breaths.
Your birth partner can help to focus you by doing the breathing with you. Your nurse or midwife will also help keep your breathing under control if you start to panic.
8. Not Using Coping techniques
I know you’ll already have a plan for what medical pain relief you’ll use, but what about natural pain relief.
It’s not surprising to know that if you don’t have any coping techniques to use then, you’ll ask for the painkillers sooner.
Yes, painkillers are great for taking the pain away, but they can add unnecessary risk to your labor. That includes restricting your mobility, increasing your risk of assisted delivery or requiring Pitocin to speed things up.
Check out my guide to 10 natural coping tools for labor.
If you have the option, consider having a water birth. It’s ideal for relaxing you and is well known to reduce the need for further pain relief in labor.
You may also love using heat pads or having your partner massage your back during your contractions.
These techniques can also help you stay at home as long as possible which allows your labor to progress better.
9. Birth Positions
Whatever you do, stay off your back during labor.
I know that most movies you see have women delivering on their back. It’s the worst position possible for you and your baby.
Lying on your back put lots of pressure on your back focusing the pain on the area.
When you lie down, your body is working against gravity that helps your baby to move downwards. Therefore lying on your back is likely to make your labor last longer.
If you need to stay in a bed, make sure you’re sitting as upright as possible. Otherwise get up and move around the room to help your labor.
Don’t feel scared to rest; you can lie on your side with a peanut ball to give your baby room to move.
Make use of birthing balls and bed bars to help your body work with gravity, regardless of your situation during labor. Any good nurse or midwife will be happy to help you do this.
As you plan for your birth, keep in mind the things that can increase your pain.
You want to use as many natural coping techniques as possible to prevent intervention and the chance to have a natural birth.
This guide has highlighted the things that can make your labor pain worse, and how to resolve it.
You can do this Mama, go get the birth you want.