Friday, September 24, 2010

natural pain management for labour and delivery

As I mentioned a couple of times before (here and in Em’s birth story), I chose to give birth naturally and wanted to learn and use as many natural pain management techniques as I could for labour.  I mentioned in her birth story which ones I used, but I wanted to give a bit of a ‘review’ here of what did and didn’t work for me.


From about 32 weeks on, I began listening to various relaxation tracks as often as I could remember to do so.  Most often I listened to them while lying in bed at night, and usually fell asleep during them.  I would wake up almost immediately after they finished (and iTunes moved on to another song) and according to the internet that meant I was still taking in what the scripts where saying and wasn’t falling asleep but rather changing consciousness.  Sure. 

Either way, the scripts were very helpful in helping me to stay relaxed during labour and to provide Emily with a peaceful birth.  Hypnobirthing claims to be a means to eliminate pain during labour, however this was not the case for me.  It MAY have decreased the pain somewhat, but there’s no way to substantiate that as I have nothing to compare it to.  As I mentioned though, in between contraction I was able to relax, walk around with Craig, and chat with those around me, and during the contractions I just used to breathing techniques to try and breathe my way through them.  My contractions were pretty close together, even from the start, so I wasn’t able to fall asleep between contractions, but it did help me to keep my energy up somewhat (20 hours of active labour and 40 hours without sleep is going to tire you out regardless!) so that the pushing stage wasn’t too drawn out.

I would recommend hypnobirthing for those who have anxiety or fear about labour and want to prepare themselves emotionally for the experience, and who want to maintain that relaxed attitude throughout labour.  In Craig’s words, “I was super impressed by you babe, you did a wonderful job.  I know that it probably hurt like crazy but you handled yourself really well.  I'm really glad that you didn't snap or get frustrated with me, and I'm happy I could be there to support and help you with whatever I could do.”

On that same note, the next technique for natural pain management is:


hospital 5

The Birth Partner:

Seriously, having a supportive person in the room can make it or break it (in my opinion) if you’re trying to have a natural birth.  Not only would it be frustrating if they were constantly asking if you’d like an epidural (even if it was just because they don’t like seeing you in pain), but as well, they can be SO helpful in suggesting a change in position or to provide hands on pain relief, especially if they have attended classes with you or have done research into ways to assist a labouring woman.

Craig did SUCH an awesome job.  I was honestly expecting him to be a little bit out of his element in the delivery room, but he was so intuitive and supportive the whole time and it was such a joy to be able to share the experience together with both of us feeling like we were sharing the work.  I’m sure you’ve probably seen videos of women yelling profanities at their partners or not wanting anyone to touch them – not me and that was probably because he was such a good help and always knew touches that would help me, and as well because I was able to manage the pain well because of the hypnobirthing and the next technique.



Sterile Water Papules:

I described the procedure in another post, but I wanted to reiterate again how helpful it was for back labour.  It was awful to be experiencing such excruciating pain in my back along with the contractions, and having the midwives perform this (twice!) was such a relief.  I went through the first 10 or so hours of contractions without it but it was nice to have the papules for the last few cm’s and transition.


hospital 1

Performing ‘the popsicle’ on my hand as a calming touch.

Comfort Measures:

About a week before Emily came, Craig and I watched a video by Penny Simkin (who also wrote a FANTASTIC book called The Birth Partner) that described comfort measures that the woman and her partner can perform to help manage the pain and help labour to progress.  Even if the woman has watched and learned these techniques, it can be easy in the middle of a contraction to just want to curl up in a ball because of the pain, so it was great to have Craig there to suggest things.  And they helped SO much.  Craig performed a double hip squeeze whenever I was having back labour before the midwives did the water papules, and it made each one a little easier to take.


 No photo of the labour ball, sorry – we didn’t take any photos at home before the hospital!

Labour ball:

During the early morning hours, I spent my time with my arms and shoulders draped over the ball rocking my hips back and forth during contractions.  Later in labour when we were helping her to move down the canal, I would sit on the ball and do figure 8’s with my hips.  Helpful in so many ways.  Get one, it’s just a normal exercise ball.


Hot Baths:

I wasn’t able to take baths for the first 8 hours because my water had broken and if my labour wasn’t progressing enough to have me delivery within 24 hours, they don’t want you to introduce any bacteria, and I had to wait until morning for the midwives to visit and check me.  I could have called them earlier because my contractions were 5 minutes apart for most of the night, but I didn’t want to sit being watched for hours and hours so I waited until they called back again.  And I took a bath anyways in the middle of the night because I KNEW I was in labour and things were progressing.  We don’t have a very deep bath tub, but even the little bit helped to ‘lift’ my uterus a bit and carry a bit of the pressure during contractions.  The warmth was also very relaxing.


Lastly, one other ‘technique’ (for lack of a better word) that I found helpful both for preparing for and managing labour was:

  hospital 2


A few months before I delivered I read a book that had a prayer for labour in it, an I rephrased it for my own purposes:

Father, as I look forward to delivery of my sweet baby, I am thankful to you for having enjoyed a blessed pregnancy of full duration, I thank You in advance for Your Word, Your blessings, Your peace, Your presence and Your divine intervention.  I pray that if it is Your will there will be no problems of any kind and that the delivery will be quick, short, easy, and painless. I pray that she will come in Your perfect timing and that I’ll have time to get the the proper place with the proper help, with her Daddy home and by my side!

Father, I pray that our baby girl will move into the proper position with her head down, facing backwards.   I pray that the umbilical cord will be in the proper position and that my body will function perfectly as labour moves along, with all of its parts performing in the perfect way you designed.   I pray that You will grant me peace and relaxation as I am labouring and will not allow fear of pain into my heart.    All fear must go and stay gone for I have God, Who is perfect love and casts out fear.

Father, I pray that at the proper time for delivery my water will break and my uterus will do its job and begin to contract and push my baby down the birth canal and out into our loving arms and lives.  I pray my cervix will dilate fully and easily to 10 cm., to be elastic and stretch.  I pray that you will help my uterus, vagina, perineum, vulva and cervix to perform as designed and to stretch without complications or tearing so that I will have an easier recovery and few complications.    I pray that You give me the strength to work through the pain of the contractions and to avoid any drugs or medical interventions; I wish for this labour to be completely natural, and I know I will need Your presence and support to do this.  I know that I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me, and I have faith that You will be with me throughout labour and delivery (and parenting!) and carry me when I have not the strength.

Thank you for blessing us with this beautiful and wonderful baby girl and continuing to bless us with a strong and love-filled marriage.  We look forward to raising her to love You and to live a life of faith.


Prayer is also very helpful during labour.  Craig and my mom prayed with me many times, asking for God to give me strength and help move it along so we could see our little girl.  He was definitely there with us. :)


I’m sure there were other little things through the day that was helpful in making labour an easier process and to assist us in achieving our goal of a natural and peaceful birth.   Our midwives also made it such an enjoyable experience, and we were so happy with them, Craig and I have definitely agreed that we would like to attempt a home birth the next time if we’ve moved to a bigger house (one of the issues this time around).

We are so glad we worked together towards natural birth, and I think that the efforts have also paid of in our daughter.  I’ve read that birth can often have an effect on a baby, and if it’s any indication, Emily is such a pleasant, relaxed baby who just loves to cuddle with everyone (but especially her mama! :) 


Resources (some of the products I mentioned):

The Birth Partner
Comfort Measures for Labour
Mindful Mammas hypnobirthing tracks

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