How do you make birth less painful - without an epidural?! So, first I want to clarify that I am not against medicalised pain relief at all. But before going straight for the strong stuff, why not give some of these ideas a go first.
Relax as much as possible
Relaxing during childbirth has many benefits, for you and your baby. The more relaxed you are overall, will mean the more relaxed the muscles of your uterus will be. If your uterus muscles are relaxed, they can soften and open more to allow your baby out (this is called dilation). If the uterus muscles are tense they will be griping and holding your baby in, making labour longer. If the muscles are tense they are straining and more likely to become tired faster, causing you pain and a longer labour. In hypnobirthing we call this the fear > tension > pain circle. Fear leads to tension, which leads to pain, which then leads to more fear. By being calm instead of fearful we can break this cycle for a more comfortable birth.
Worried about how can you actually relax during labour?! Firstly, remember as with anything, it takes practice. Which is why it’s important to practice relaxations as much as possible during pregnancy in the lead up to birth. Practicing relaxations can involve your hypnobirthing breathing techniques, listening to some hypnobirthing MP3s (you can get mine here) or anything that allows your mind to fully switch off.
Once you are in labour, the aim isn’t to start relaxing when you feel that you really need it. You should start using your relaxation techniques as soon as labour starts. This way you will be fully relaxed for when those birthing sensations become more intense.
Using breathing techniques for a less painful birth
Using your hypnobirthing breathing techniques can be a great way to remain calm and relaxed during birth, as well as helping you to have a less painful birth. At the start of labour you should use your ‘Up’ breath. For this, simply take a long, slow breath in through the nose and then slowly release the breath through the mouth. Repeat as much as needed. breathing this way calms the mind. But it also means that you are taking more oxygen in to your body. Your uterus, which is a muscles, needs oxygen and energy to work well. So by taking in more oxygen, your uterus will be able to work more powerfully. When muscles work well they don’t get so tired or painful. With more oxygen you are also preventing a build up of lactic acid, which can be another cause of pain during childbirth.
Get in to a really comfortable position
This might seem like an obvious one, but sometimes the obvious things can be forgotten when you’re in labour. Don’t presume that for birth you need to be laying down on a bed. In fact, for most people I wold recommend avoiding this). Go with what your body is telling you to do. If you feel more comfortable sitting, moving or walking around, do that. Your body will be sending you sensation that are signals for the easiest way to birth your baby so listen and trust your instincts.
If mobility is limited, either because you’re being monitored or just because moving when you’re pregnant is generally harder, use your birth partner or props to get into a good position.
Do something that makes you feel good
Apart from feeling good is nice, there’s some biology and science behind this tip. When you are happy you produce endorphins, which is your body’s natural pain relief. If you are producing your own natural pain relief, inevitably you will have a less painful birth. Start planning an thinking now about what you can do in early labour that will make you feel good. things to consider might include watching a funny film, going for a walk, having a bath, eating some yummy snacks. Plus, doing something you enjoy will act as a distraction and keep your mind off those birthing sensations
Get your birth partner to give you a massage
A massage can be a great way to boost your endorphins, aka pain relief! You can start off gently, ask your birth partner to stroke their hands up your spine and round your shoulders. Whilst they are doing this, imagine they are directing tension up and away from your body.
Many people feel birthing sensations in their lower back at the start of labour. Having a back massage can also act as counter pressure to discomfort. For this, ask your birth partner to place their hands on your lower back on either side of your spine and push down during a contraction.
Another reason why massages are so nice during labour, is again due to our biology. As mammals we crave physical affection to reassure us that we’re cared for and that everything is ok. The more love we feel, the happier we are and then the more relaxed we are.