Labor is intense and it’s hard work. What is available to help me get through it?
I’d love to address this from the perspective that you’ve already decided within yourself your reasons for choosing an unmedicated birth. I do not feel it’s my place to talk you into or out of personal decisions. Remember, I had my first 3 births inside the hospital setting, with the use of an epidural. This is an area close to my heart and I hope to share that with you.
During a consultation, when I am asked about pain in labor, I like to use the following analogy. Let’s say someone was pinching the fool out of you. (I know, not nice, and contractions are not at all like someone pinching you, but stay with me for a moment.) Would you be better able to tolerate it if you could walk, move around, DO SOMETHING to get your mind off of it…OR would you handle it best if you were strapped in bed, hooked up to a bunch of monitors, lines and BP cuffs?
The answer is pretty obvious.
We are able to tolerate pain better if we aren’t sitting/lying in one position, only being able to concentrate on that one stimulus.
So, for starters, being home and in your own environment, where you are already typically your most comfortable and relaxed is the first component. The freedom of eating and drinking throughout labor, coupled with the ability to move as desired in this comfortable environment allows you to progress more smoothly.
Once active labor is established and your birth team is present, they are able to help facilitate changes as needed to vary your support. The use of water in labor, whether it’s using your shower or a bath/birth tub helps to alleviate some pain and make it more manageable. Does that mean you have to birth in the water? Of course not. Many people who do not plan to have a water birth enjoy the use of water at some point during their labor.
In addition to water, your support team provides touch, through massage or counter pressure in ways that you control so that it is truly a help to you and not an annoyance.
Aromatherapy with essential oils can be a part of your laboring environment either from a diffuser or added to a carrier oil for your massage. Many midwives carry special blends of herbs or homeopathy to help take the edge off, smooth transitions or to help calm or center the laboring mother.
Finally, and I don’t think this is quantifiable, the one-on-one support of the laboring mother with her support person (Doula, spouse or midwife) throughout those super intense contractions taken one at a time is invaluable. I have supported women during this time who say, “I can’t do this anymore,” and with the right encouragement, support, their trust and responses to what I am working with them to do, they are able to go on and deliver their babies without issue. It doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult, but they did manage and they have a new respect and appreciation for their capabilities.