10 Surprising Ways to Cope with Labor
From Everyday Family
Do you remember the "practice" contractions you had to go through during childbirth classes?
When your helpful, kindly educator instructed your partner to
squeeze your hand or place a clothespin on your ear in an imitation of
Can we all just shake our heads in a collective and resounding denial
that those exercises in no way prepare you for the journey that is
Labor is a lot like like your first ride on a roller
coaster-incredibly scary, filled with highs and lows, and once you're on
the ride, you're locked in until the end.
Fortunately, as a labor and delivery nurse and a mom of three, I can
tell you that no women experiences labor the same-and no two labors are
the same. Likewise, there are a variety of different methods to help you
cope during labor.
1. Yoga. Obviously, I don't advise doing yoga during labor.
(Although, some devoted yogis may find that helpful...) Rather, I really
encourage pregnant women to give yoga a shot during their pregnancies.
Not only does it help keep you flexible for the actual birth, (um, do
you know how far your legs go back??) but it really helps you to learn
how to train yourself to breathe and focus, blocking everything else
out. Which is exactly what you need to do to concentrate through each and every contraction.
2. That pesky focal point. Along the same lines as
yoga, finding a focal point during labor really does help. I know, I
know, I rolled my eyes during childbirth class too when they had us
"focus" on some glossy, outdated posters they passed out. But I was
surprised to find that during my second labor, focusing on a simple
light in my bathroom helped me to get through my contractions easier. It
was such a small thing, but if I blocked out everything else and just
breathed, staring at that light, I managed to make it through the
contractions without the epidural.
3. Being in the buff. Well, this is awkward. But the
title says "surprising ways," right? I once had a patient who insisted
on doing things her own way in labor. No monitors, no interventions,
nothing. Which is great. As a nurse, I'm a patient's advocate first and
foremost. But I have to say that even I was taken aback when, near the
end of her labor, she whipped off all of her clothes and climbed, stark
naked on to the bed, where she remained cross-legged until she announced
that she was ready to push. Sometimes, you just have to do your own
thing during labor. Even if that means ridding yourself of the
confinement of clothing, apparently.
4. Laughter. I once saw a patient laugh the entire time that she was in labor and giving birth. I kid you not, this woman gave birth while giggling.
She was just so overjoyed about having this baby that she couldn't
contain her happiness. That's a birth I will never forget. And not only
can laughter be an effective form of pain relief (laughter actually
physically helps to block the pain signals emitting from the brain), but
it may actually help lead to an orgasmic birth. Now that I think about it, maybe that's really why she was so happy...
5. Acupuncture. According to this study,
acupuncture may be a low-intervention way of helping women to get
through labor. After studying 45 women who underwent acupuncture while
in labor, researchers found that 85% of the women reported that the
acupuncture helped them to cope with their labors. And not only did the
acupuncture help them deal with the pain of labor, but the group also
ended up with "significantly fewer" c-sections.
6. Rocking chair. I think that this simple piece of
furniture is one of the most overlooked tools for coping with labor.
When a woman experiences a contraction, one of the first things she will
do is rock back and forth - it's a natural coping mechanism for the
pain that also serves the dual function of helping the baby come down
the birth canal. If you find that laying in bed is too uncomfortable or
walking is too painful, try sitting up and rocking gently in the rocking
chair during the early stages of your labor. (You probably won't use
this during later stages, as it can impede the baby's head once she
engages in your pelvis!)
7. Hypnosis. The results of a study
that looked at women who received hypnosis during labor were
interesting. Although many of the women reported no major perceived
benefits from receiving the hypnosis (basically saying that they didn't
notice that it helped to relieve their pain), the results of the study
showed a different story. The women who received hypnosis during labor
actually did have shorter labors, shorter postpartum hospital stays, and
reported lower pain intensity to their nurses as compared to the
control group. Interesting. Now look at this watch...
8. Sacral support (pressure point). Sometimes, it's
incredibly hard for a woman's support person to know what to do to help
her during labor. But one of the best tricks of the trade I've learned
is to have the support person perform sacral pressure on the laboring
women. Basically, the support person makes a fist and places the flat
part against the lower part of the woman's back, applying firm pressure.
This trick is especially helpful for women having back labor, as it
helps alleviate the pressure that the baby's head is putting on her
back. I actually had one woman about to get an epidural use this method
with her support person, and she made it all the way through her labor.
She credited this one trick as making all the difference. Be sure to ask
during your childbirth classes for a demonstration if you're not sure
how this one works, or ask your nurse during labor.
9. Music. Music can definitely help create a
soothing and calming environment during labor, or provide a welcome
distraction. I'm a big believe in visualization too - so if you can
visualize your labor the way you want it to go as you make yourself a
labor playlist, all the better. Pick songs for each stage of labor - and
don't forget some upbeat "warrior-types" of songs to get you through
those last stages. You can do it!
10. Dim lighting. One of the easiest tricks I've
found for getting women through labor is simply dimming the lights.
You'd be amazed how stressful a crowded, busy hospital room can be with
glaring overhead fluorescent lighting can be. That stress also increases
the body's pain levels and lowers a woman's ability to fight off that
pain. Simply dimming the lights, or shutting them off completely
instantly lowers that level of stress in the room and helps her get
through her labor more peacefully. Such an easy thing to do!
Image: Getty Images