A to Z of pain relief

A to Z of pain relief

Labour is not something that is “happening” to you – it IS you. You can do this!Stressing about labour pain? Here are 26 options for coping with the pain of childbirth.

Oh, the pain. The painful pain. Many mums-to-be are understandably concerned about the level of pain they’ll experience during labour and birth, and spend a great deal of time worrying, fretting, and getting themselves worked up about what the pain will feel like, whether they’ll be able to handle it, and how they’ll cope. But there are a number of options you can try to help you to cope with labour pain.

A is for Aromatherapy

Essential oils can be helpful during labour to relieve stress, aid breathing, and help you relax, as well as help with cramps, pain, and backache. Visit a reputable aromatherapist for advice, as some essential oils are not suitable for use during pregnancy.

B is for Breathing

Most breathing techniques tend to be forgotten as labour intensifies; instead, many childbirth experts suggest listening to your own natural breathing rhythms to find a breathing pattern that’s right for you. That may be slow, deep breaths from your diaphragm; or faster, shallow breathing like a dog panting. Whichever you choose, breathing can help you focus on making each contraction a productive part of the birthing process.

C is for Compresses

Heat is a good way to ease aches and relieve pain during labour. Placing a hot compress, like a wheat bag or a hot water bottle, on your back, abdomen or groin area can alleviate some of the tension in these areas, helping you relax.

D is for Distractions

To keep your breathing regular and help you stay calm, try focusing on something you can hear – your partner’s voice, a clock ticking or a piece of music – or something you can see – light reflecting off a window or a pattern on the wall.

E is for Epidural

This highly effective anaesthetic blocks pain in the lower half of your body, by deadening the nerves carrying pain signals from your uterus and cervix to your brain. An epidural allows you to remain alert and be an active participant in your birth, while reducing the discomfort of childbirth.

F is for Feeling

Some mums-to-be find it helpful to physically reach down and feel what is happening to their body – to put their hands on their stomachs or pelvis during contractions, or to feel their baby’s head crowning. Feeling how close your baby is can be motivating and encouraging. Don’t be afraid to feel – you can always wash your hands!

G is for Gas and Air

Also called “laughing gas”, Entonox (gas and air) is a colourless, odourless gas made up of half oxygen and half nitrous oxide that has a calming effect, taking the edge off labour pain rather than completely blocking it out.

H is for HypnoBirthing

Based on the philosophy that nature intended for women to give birth relatively easily, but that the fear of childbirth incites physical pain, HypnoBirthing uses deep relaxation, visualisation, affirmations, self-hypnosis, and special breathing techniques to achieve a confident, calm, and peaceful birth.

I is for Incantation

For many mums-to-be the biggest challenge of giving birth is allowing your body to do its work by giving up control of your mind. Birth affirmations and incantations are a powerful way to train your mind to let go of the control and allow your body to do the work, enabling a less challenging labour and childbirth.

J is for Jiggle

Moving during labour takes pressure off the nerve endings in your back, and using gravity can help your uterus prepare for childbirth, shifting baby into the optimal birthing position. Swaying motions like walking, rocking on a birthing ball, and climbing stairs can be especially helpful.

K is for Knowledge

Knowledge is power, so knowing what’s happening to your body, being prepared for each stage of labour, understanding what’s going on and why it hurts can be empowering and help keep you from getting scared.

L is for Listening

Music is not only an excellent distraction, it also helps reduce the perception of pain and decrease anxiety. It has a calming effect on blood pressure and breathing, and is said to trigger the brain to release increased levels of the “happy hormones”, endorphins and dopamine.

M is for Massage

A massage can release tension and loosen your muscles during labour. Firm, long strokes down the arms and thighs in time with your breathing, a gentle massage of your shoulders, back, legs and feet, or a light, rhythmic, circular stroking of your tummy can be calming.

N is for Numbers

Counting your way through each breath can help you focus on regulating your breathing, essential for ensuring both you and baby are well-oxygenated. As you breathe in, count slowly up to four. Breathing out, do the same again.

O is for Own Your Birth

This is not something that is happening to you. This IS you. Mums who feel out of control and at the mercy of the unknown don’t cope. You ARE the contractions. You CAN work with them.

P is for Pethidine

Derived from the opium plant, Pethidine is a synthetic form of morphine. It’s a strong painkilling drug that helps you to relax and, while it does not have any effect on the labour process, it changes your perception of the pain usually leaving you feeling sleepy and calm.

Q is for Quiet

Your birth environment has a huge impact on how you perceive your childbirth experience. Creating the perfect environment relies on feeling warm, safe, private, quiet, and dark; dim lights, low talking, a peaceful room, and quiet atmosphere help you to focus and allow you to listen to your body.

R is for Reflexology

An ancient form of healing that teaches that specific parts of the body are associated with particular organs, glands and other parts of the body. A labour reflexology session involves pressure being applied to points on your feet and hands, to stimulate the pituitary gland and induce hormones that speed up labour and ease pain.

S is for Spinal Analgesia

A spinal analgesia or a spinal block differs from an epidural in that it’s delivered directly into the spinal fluid and it’s a one-time injection, rather than a continuous feed. Pain relief is felt immediately but lasts only a few hours, so it’s usually only an option if your delivery is likely to be quick.

T is for TENS

TENS works by stimulating the body to produce more of its own natural painkillers or endorphins. Electrodes are taped onto your back and connected by wires to a small battery-powered stimulator, which you control to give yourself small, safe amounts of current through the electrodes, helping ease lower back pain.

U is for Upright

Standing and squatting during labour allows you to take advantage of gravity, lengthens your trunk, and helps baby line up with the angle of your pelvis. Moving around can make your contractions feel less painful and more productive.

V is for Visualisation

Used by athletes to naturally enhance performance, mental imagery or visualisation is highly effective in managing pain during labour. Mums-to-be can visualise each stage of their childbirth, mentally preparing themselves for how to behave in that situation, reducing anxiety and fear of the unknown.

W is for Water

Many mums-to-be find relief from pain when their skin is stimulated by water. Warm water bottles or face cloths placed on your lower back can be comforting. A warm bath soothes and calms you, while taking a shower and directing the spray onto your lower back brings enormous relief from the pain.

X is for XOXOXO

Giving birth is literally a labour of love. Brief your birth support team beforehand that you might need to be reminded of how much you are loved – with hugs, kisses, gentle touches, and words of encouragement, as well as focusing on the fact that very soon, you’ll be hugging and kissing your new baby!

Y is for Yoga Ball

A yoga ball is a great way to use gravity during childbirth, while still remaining supported and able to move around. Sway, bounce or rock on the ball, regularly changing positions, to help baby move into your pelvis. This rhythmic movement on the yoga ball also takes the pressure off your lower back and helps reduce any pain in that area.

Z is for Zzzzzzzzzz

Labour is the beginning of what will likely be a long, exhausting and intense process. Focusing all of your energy on the early stages of labour can leave you lacking stamina to cope throughout its progression. Get some sleep when you can and conserve your energy as much as possible.