In October 2014 I had a drug-free vaginal birth with my daughter. It wasn’t easy, but it was made easier by the pain management techniques that I used to get through the contractions. Some of the pain management techniques I used were simple things that I could do on my own while my partner slept, while others required his help. As much as the pain management techniques allowed me to get through my labor and birth without medication, I have to say that his help was invaluable. That benefit aside, I truly believe that these pain management techniques can be used by most or all women having a low risk labor that is progressing normally.
First, water is very important. I took numerous showers while I was in labor, letting the hot water fall onto my lower back during the contractions. I breathed and moaned in the steam, and felt the water against my skin. Feeling the water trickle down my body and across my painful back and belly helped me to distance myself from the pain. I could let the pain come, and focus on the water, and then it would be over. Early on in my labor I wasn’t sure if I was having real contractions or if I was in false labor. My midwife advised me to get in the bath: if it was false labor, the contractions would probably have stopped; if it was real labor, they would keep going no matter what. I found the bath relaxing and painful at the same time. My bath is small and narrow, which meant it wasn’t particularly comfortable. If the bath was larger, I think it would have provided better pain relief.
Next, I used music to help me focus on the passing of time and also used it as a distraction to get through the contractions. While I was pregnant, I made a playlist of relaxing music. It was a lot of low-key electronic music and Buddhist sounding tunes; the kind you might imagine being played in a yoga class. At any other time, I probably wouldn’t listen to that sort of music, and I don’t particularly like it. But it was relaxing and calming to have a kind of laid back, repetitive sound that my brain could focus on. My playlist played through about 5 times throughout the time I was in labor at home, which was approximately 18 hours.
Focusing on my breathing was something I found very hard to do, but persevered with it nonetheless. Taking deep breaths and counting them helped me get through each contraction, because I knew that the contraction would be over if I just kept counting and kept breathing. My contractions started out about 30 seconds long, and moved to about 50 seconds-1 minute long by the time we drove to the hospital. I knew that if I just took deep breaths and tried to let my body work with the contractions, the baby would be here soon.
Finally, counter pressure and the actions of my husband helped immeasurably. For several hours, for each contraction I got up on my hands and knees and my husband would put counter pressure on my lower back. He pressed against my back with his whole weight, and it actually helped me remove my focus from the pain of the contractions. His positive and encouraging words I also consider to be an important pain management technique. When someone is telling you “You’re doing great!” and “I love you. You are doing a good job.” it’s motivating and harder to just give up.
Giving birth naturally was (surprisingly) one of the best experiences of my life. It was hard and it was exhausting, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. At the time, it was painful, but afterwards I felt so elated and so strong, as if I had conquered the world. I plan to use the same pain management techniques the next time I have a baby, as I feel like they worked incredibly well.
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