Pregnancy and you blog

Managing labor pain: Trust your body

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. October 26, 2010

If you watch reality shows about childbirth, you may come away with the idea that labor and delivery takes about 30 minutes and you can control labor pain with one or two relaxation techniques. So wrong! Sometimes labor is short and not so sweet, and other times labor is long and drawn out — and you won't know which way your own labor will turn out until it's over.

To handle labor pain, try various positions and techniques throughout labor. For example, you might rock during a few contractions, stand and sway for a few contractions, and then bounce on a labor ball for a few more. If lying down on the floor or squatting seems appealing, find a way to do it. What's best is what feels right at the moment — and it's likely to change as labor progresses. The foot massage that felt great when you were 4 centimeters dilated may make you want to kick someone at 6 centimeters. The rocking chair that seemed soothing at 6 centimeters may make you nauseated at 8 centimeters.

Also consider using noise as a distraction during labor. You might prepare a couple of playlists or burn a couple of CDs ahead of time — one featuring upbeat, energetic music and the other featuring quieter, more comforting tunes. You may end up using both types of music, only one or none at all. Again, this is something you won't know until you're in labor. I always thought I'd want music during my own labor, but silence was my preference once the contractions became more daunting.

As labor progresses, you may find it helpful to repeat a word or phrase over and over — either out loud or in your head. Ideally, your mantra will be something positive, such as your baby's name. If something more negative seems to stick in your head, though, go with whatever works.

In the end, don't be afraid to try anything and everything during labor. If something feels right, do it until it doesn't feel right anymore. If you run out of ideas, ask your nurse, midwife or doula for help. Have faith in yourself and your body as you bring your baby into the world.

Oct. 26, 2010