Three Things That Helped the Most During Labor

Before my first child was born, I studied Hypnobabies. It helped a lot during the early stages of labor, but I didn’t have the same amount of success as many other people who study this technique. I would highly recommend it, but I did still really, really want an epidural once things got really intense. There were a lot of things I learned from Hypnobabies that helped me during my baby’s birthing, but the most helpful was this:

1. Breathe deeply and calmly. Inhale deeply, then let it out in a slow, controlled manner–in a low moan, or blowing softly.

At the beginning of labor, when contractions aren’t as intense, I found myself softly blowing out air. As they got harder, I heard myself moaning through each one. I’m pretty sure I sounded like a cow toward the end of labor (moooo!). Also, at one point I found myself shushing myself aloud: just the same way I might calm my child at bedtime: “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Shh, Shh, Shh, Shh, Shh…” This worked for me by doing two things: offering me a way to let out my breath in a slow, controlled way; and also by using my inner dialogue to calm and comfort myself. It may sound strange to people around you, but it can be very comforting. And if it works, then who cares?? Also, you can even think of it as shushing your new baby, offering comfort to him or her as they go through this experience that may be as traumatic for them as it is for you.

2. Get yourself into a deeply relaxed, calm mental state BEFORE each contraction begins. Then, ride that wave of relaxation through the entire contraction.

I found that as long as I was prepared BEFORE a contraction, I could manage my breathing well and tolerate the pain–even work with it. But if a contraction caught me off guard, I felt like a trapped animal–wide-eyed, panicked, and in extreme pain.

Use your inner dialogue to calm and comfort yourself. Tell yourself things like, “It’s okay. There, there. Shhh. There you go, that’s it. Its alright.” Hypnobabies really teaches you what to do to get yourself to that deeply relaxed place.

Before my second child was born, I studied the Bradley Method. This method is meant to be studied as a couple, which I liked. One of the most helpful things I learned from this method was the “Gate Control Theory of Pain.” You can read more details about this theory through an internet search. In a nutshell, I’ll sum it up like this:

3. Gate Control Theory of Pain: Pain signals are carried to the “nerve gates” of the spinal cord and then to the brain. Non-painful input (like a foot massage) can essentially close the nerve gates to the pain input. This allows the brain to process the non-painful stimulation (like a foot massage) INSTEAD of the painful stimulation (like a contraction).

The idea is that your partner can help you through each painful contraction by offering non-painful input. For me, foot massages worked best. For others, it may be a hand massage, back rub, stroking the forehead, soaking in a warm tub or shower, etc.

I love foot massages, so I asked my husband to massage my feet during contractions. This was, by far, the best thing that helped besides the epidural. My only regret was that I didn’t ask him to do it right from the very start of labor. I sure could have used it. Using good breathing techniques and some other things I learned from Hypnobabies and the Bradley Method, along with the foot massages, I was able to (mostly) block out the pain of each contraction and feel the good sensations of the foot massage instead. Of course, when things went into active labor, it was more or less impossible for my husband to continue rubbing my feet. But it was great while it lasted.

Waiting impatiently to be admitted to the hospital where I can finally get an epidural

Waiting impatiently to be admitted to the hospital where I can finally get an epidural

What one thing helped YOU manage pain during labor, besides an epidural? Please leave your answer in the comments!

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2 responses to “Three Things That Helped the Most During Labor

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I did the Bradley method, which similarly emphasizes relaxation. In the early stages getting up into the shower and having someone spray warm water on me was helpful. In the later stages, when the thought of moving at ALL was unbearable but I needed to progress, I got on hands and knees and had the nurse or my husband do some deep massage on my lower back. I also found myself naturally doing really deep breathing as things got worse–maybe producing a similar effect to the “shhhhh” thing. It was a physical thing to do that gave an outlet of sorts for the pain. I’m not convinced that going natural is for sure the superior way to go–I definitely didn’t get a “natural birth” high after my daughter was born, but I do think that my labor progressed more quickly and pushing was much more effective and efficient because I didn’t have an epidural. But I was also so overwhelmed with pain that it was hard to enjoy the moment.

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    • Thanks, Camber! I am definitely not the best advocate for natural childbirth, either. When I had my second baby, my cervix was dilating super-duper slowly until I had the epidural, which helped me relax and then I finally dilated at a good, steady pace. But after I started pushing, my baby got “stuck” and got more and more distressed, so they turned off the epidural so I could feel better when to push. Holy cow. What a nightmare. Definitely no natural high for me, either. I was in way too much pain to enjoy the moment or give my baby anything more than a very brief, weak smile (more like a wince). I had a much better time bonding with her the next day (after the percocet really set in!).

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