Tori's Blog

Managing Labor Pain

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Labor is a natural — although challenging — process. No two women have the same degree of labor pain, and no two labors are exactly alike. Ultimately, you need to choose the pain relief option that’s right for you.

The best approach to labor pain relief depends on your preferences and on how your labor progresses. Sometimes, you won’t know what kind of pain relief you want until you’re in labor. Still, it’s a good idea to think about your options for managing labor pain ahead of time. Find out what’s available at your hospital or birthing center, and discuss your preferences with your health care provider.

There are many ways to ease and control labor pain. Relaxation exercises, breathing techniques and frequent changes of position often help — particularly in the early stages of labor. Your partner or labor coach can massage or firmly press on your lower back, or apply ice packs or heat to your lower back. Other options include playing music and taking a shower or bath.

As labor progresses — and contractions become stronger and more frequent — many women add medication to their arsenal of pain relief options. Epidural and spinal blocks, for instance, temporarily block pain in the lower body.

Nontraditional options for managing labor pain may include hypnosis, water immersion, acupuncture or reflexology. None of these techniques stops the pain of contractions, but they may help you feel more relaxed and better able to handle labor pain.

Expect the unexpected

Labor and delivery are unpredictable. Labor pain may be more intense than you expected, or it may hurt in a different way. Even if you have a plan for managing labor pain, you may decide to change it as labor progresses — or the specific characteristics of your labor may prompt your health care provider to suggest a pain relief option that wasn’t in your original plan. Keep in mind that birth isn’t a test of endurance. You won’t have failed if you ask for pain relief.

One thing is certain: The more you learn about options for managing labor pain, the more prepared you’ll be to handle labor — however it unfolds.

Mayo Clinic

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