Dealing with labour pains

You've probably heard that giving birth is painful. This is enough to make most people worried. One way to manage your worry is to read up on the subject and prepare as well as you can.

When you give birth, the uterine muscles work at their full capacity as the cervix opens and gradually dilates by 10 centimetres. The ligaments holding your pelvic bones together become stretched and taut.

Rest during the pauses
Many factors will affect how you experience and manage the pain. These factors include how complicated the delivery is, how long it takes, your personal pain threshold, the support provided by your midwife or partner, your health, how tired you are and how secure you feel.
Remember that there will be pauses between the contractions, when you can rest and recuperate.
Try to focus on one contraction at a time instead of seeing it in too large a perspective. Remember that this type of pain does not signal danger or illness. It is guaranteed to pass – and afterwards you will be holding a little person in your arms.

Your body can deal with labour pain
In our well-organised society, it can be frightening to face something we can't predict or fully control.
Listen to your body. Even if you feel worried or frightened, your body knows how to give birth. That's what it's designed for. Believe in yourself. Your body will make endorphins to help you when the pain gets too strong.

Pain is subjective
Pain is very hard to measure. This is because it is very subjective and is strongly affected by your mental attitude – which is something you actually have a fair amount of control over.
Studies have clearly shown that increased anaesthesia, for instance an epidural, does not necessarily improve the labour experience.

A doula can make you feel more secure while giving birth
Having a person to offer support and a feeling of security and control is likely to improve your labour experience. Read here about how your partner or birthing companion can help.
Your midwife might not be on hand all the time, and it may be nice to spend some time alone in your room with your partner or birthing companion.
Having an experienced and reassuring labour coach, also known as a doula, can be a good alternative if you want some extra support. You can find a doula by contacting your maternity clinic, or by Googling "doula" or "Odis" (the Swedish organisation for doulas and labour coaches).
Maintaining a sense of control does not necessarily mean doing without anaesthesia. It simply means deciding what feels right for you. You should feel that you are participating in the process and making some of decisions yourself or with the midwife.

Find our your options
It is a good idea to speak to the midwife in advance about the available pain management options and their pros and cons. You could also prepare by planning the birth in your mind and writing it down. Read more about preparing for labour.
Fear can actually make your labour pains feel worse – so the better you prepare and understand what is going on, the greater your chances of a positive labour experience.
Read more about the three stages of labour and different birthing positions.

There's nothing wrong with choosing to have anaesthesia during childbirth. Giving birth is not a competition. Don't listen to other people's negative stories. What's important is for your labour to go smoothly and be a positive birthing experience. It should feel right for you and your personal situation. Every birth is unique and – hopefully – leads to the miracle of bringing a new little human being into the world.

Read more about labour in our app, The Pregnancy Book.
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