Labor- As the name suggests, highlights hard work. Pain, muscle fatigue, physical, mental and emotional strain all come at the same time with leaps and bounds, multiplying in geometrical fashion. So the birthing mother has to have a lot of tricks and techniques in her kitty, any of which can come handy. Lots has been talked about epidural analgesia and medications, but today I will tell you about the various non medical methods to deal with labor pains and access the subconscious mind for deep relaxation.
Education, awareness should start in the antenatal period itself to alleviate the anxiety of the expecting parents. The fear of pain is larger than the pain itself, and this needs to be addressed. Relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, counselling, deep breathing, mantra chanting, Lamaze sessions should be held in pregnancy itself to make the mother familiar with all the tools available. Following are the various ways to deal with labor pains:
Warmth- Applying warmth on back, groin or tummy can help. A hot water bottle( not boiling) covered in a towel can be used. Soaking in warm water in active phase can also help if your birthing unit allows that.
Massage- It helps to warm the skin and release natural pain killers or the feel good hormones namely endorphins in the system. Essential oils with natural aroma can be used to soothe nerves. Slow massage on lower back or shoulders can be done for pain relief. Foot and temple massage, holding hand, stroking hair or cheeks can distract and pamper her.
Breathing- Breathe in through your nose and out through mouth. Focusing on breath can help in getting through each contraction. Deep breathing eases pain and conserves energy as well. Breathing techniques can be learnt in antenatal classes and Lamaze sessions. Be uninhibited and you can make noises while breathing. Localising source of pain and deep groaning(not screaming)with it really helps.
Relaxation- Consciously relax your mind during pain and release all tension. Hypnosis also plays a role. Soothing music or mantra chanting can help. Visualisation and imagery about anything peaceful for you e.g. a garden, beach, someone’s face helps. Enjoy the little pain free period in between, cherish it.
Stress balls- Squeeze them, focus on the colours, shape for distraction.
Ambulation- Walking around and staying upright helps to shorten labor. Use different positions to help baby descend in the birth canal. Use gravity to your advantage. Stand up, lean on bed or your partner, kneel down on a mat or pillow, roll on a birthing ball. Get on all fours to ease backache. Swaying, squatting position eases pain, speeds up contractions and brings the baby down. Save energy but do not continuously lie on your back.
Birth partner- Having someone to support you during labor can make the whole experience very positive. You can choose your birth partner. It could be a good friend, family member or your partner. It could also be someone who is not the part of the hospital staff, friend or family, just a woman who has given birth herself called as “ doula”.
Counting- Counting numbers or saying your own keywords for encouragement or chanting any prayer that you like helps.
Any strategy which you use in the stressful situations in your life to strengthen your subconscious mind and gain confidence can help during labor also. There are no set rules, medication and epidural analgesia can be used whenever you feel that nothing is working.