How Much Does Labor Really Hurt?
How much does labor really hurt?
Let me just start by saying, A LOT! There is a reason it is called labor, that’s for sure. Contractions are no fun, but you do get the best gift in the entire world when it’s over. There is so much talk about being pregnant, that you may often forget about the delivery. It makes sense since you’re pregnant for nine months, but only in labor for a short time (hopefully). One thing that I wish all my patients would do prior to giving birth would be to attend a birthing class, or at least watch some births online. When you know a little more about what to expect you might be able to handle the delivery a bit better. Birthing a child is NOTHING like on TV, I promise. Think about how you want your delivery to go, and please don’t say pain free. That’s not going to happen, sorry. Do you want to breastfeed or formula feed? Epidural or natural? Family in the room or just support person or spouse? The answers to these questions will facilitate your next step of learning. I’m not going to get into it on this post, but feeding takes instruction and practice, regardless of your method. If you plan to get an epidural, great, if not, how do you plan to deal with the pain? What I can tell you is that it is a pain that you have never felt before. You need to prepare yourself if this is the route you really want to choose. Best-laid plans are also just that, plans. So, don’t feel bad if you’re plan doesn’t happen the way you want it to. You still get the same great result. A beautiful little babe!
There are several essential oils that can help with labor. I’m a dōTERRA gal, but I’m sure you can experiment with whatever you prefer. Just be careful, as there are some oils that should not be used during certain trimesters, or pregnancy at all. I wrote an entire post about pregnancy and labor with essential oils that you can see here.
First, let’s talk about the natural route. If this is something you are considering, I would strongly recommend getting a support person that will be there to fully support you whether it be the father of the baby, a friend, or a family member. Talk with them about your plans, and what your goals are. Sometimes the pain can be so strong that you want to change your mind. You need to discuss your true limit with your partner so they can support you with what you really want. Hypnobabies is a great program that can be done at your convenience in your own home that can help you prepare for a medication free delivery. Preparation is key if you are strongly leaning toward this route.
Create the room to your liking as much as possible. Most hospitals will let you set up your room with music, pictures, diffusers, and your own blankets if desired. Think of anything that is going to make you feel more comfortable. Water is a great treatment for pain, so if this is something you’d like during your experience be sure to pick a hospital that allows for tub use. Keep in mind that some interventions do not allow you to get into a tub during labor. You will need to discuss this with your physician or Midwife. Most likely you will not know what position will make you most comfortable, but know that your hospital should have an array of birthing balls, over-the-bed birthing bars, and handles on the bed. You can walk, have your support person massage your back, or even get on all fours.
Contractions are not continuous, but do tend to come close together (goal is every 2-3 minutes lasting 60-90 seconds), so you can relax for a quick moment before preparing for the next one. Birthing classes can help with breathing exercises, imagery, and visualization that can aid in distracting you from the pain. Practice your plan so you can focus on getting through each contraction. So, what do contractions feel like? Well, they can be different for everyone. For some they feel like very strong period cramps, others may feel back pain, for me I tell everyone that it felt like someone was putting a knife up my bum and twisting it. For real. Not fun, but totally worth it for the time period I did have to feel them.
Now for the epidural. Never feel like this is a weak choice….ever! Labor is HARD! Regardless of how you deliver, know that you are stronger than you ever thought you could be! So, what is an epidural? This is a thin line that enters the epidural space in your spine through a needle in your back to deliver pain-relieving medication. The most painful part about this procedure is the numbing medication that is injected into your skin prior to placement. You will (and should) still feel some contractions/pain, and should be able to move a bit to be able to push. Some epidurals are heavy where you can’t feel anything or even move your legs, while other epidurals can be weak where you feel too much, or they may not work at all. Epidurals are an elective procedure, and are not guaranteed to work. So, still prepare for pain just in case. During placement you will need to sit quite still to allow the anesthesiologist to do his or her magic. This can be difficult since contractions are still coming frequently. The epidural should begin to work within a few contractions. Your physician will instruct you on when it is a good time to start an epidural, should you choose to do so, but you are the only one who knows how your pain feels, so don’t be afraid to speak up. There is technically no time that is “too late” to get an epidural, however, if you’re close to delivering and have been dealing with the pain you may be better off just pushing through until the end. Your recovery will be better, and your baby will not receive effects from the epidural.
There are also additional medications available that can help with labor pain for someone not wanting an epidural, but still wanting to take the edge off. Your physician will discuss with you what they use, and again, do not be afraid to ask questions and speak up. You are in control of your healthcare, and the delivery of your baby. No matter what you choose, know that you are beginning a wonderful new chapter in your life, and every day gets better and better!!
Disclaimer: Please seek the assistance of your physician or pediatrician before making dramatic changes in your lifestyle. Even though I am an RN and Lactation Consultant many of my ideas come from narrow personal experience in my work, and trial and error with my own little ones.
Welcome! I’m Brittany. I’m a mom of two toddlers living in Northwest Ohio with my husband, Chris, and our two cats, Simon and Oliver. I’m a labor and delivery nurse, and an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I love finding new ways that make parenting easier, while providing a fun learning atmosphere for my girls at the same time. In my blog you will find tips and tricks for dealing with pregnancy, labor, and parenthood. My favorite part about being a nurse (besides getting to welcome little miracles into the world, obviously) is being able to educate new Moms (and Dads) on how to care for their little ones at the very start. Parenthood is such a complex and exhausting journey that we need to have support from others who make us feel like we’re not alone. You are not alone here!