The thought of labor pain freaks women out. The nearer the due date approaches, the more nervous you get about dealing with the pain. You don’t know what the pain is really like. If it is a subsequent delivery and have carried a painful experience from the past, you are even more unnerved. But the inexperienced women are purely taken for a ride from what they see on TV or what they hear from friends. What you need to understand, though, is that labor pain is something that varies from woman to woman both in intensity and the duration. How you endure it solely depends on you with some substantial help coming from your midwife and the medical crew.
If you spoke to women about their experience, they talk at lengths leaving the final verdict in your hands.
Some women could post about their experience on social media and make it sound like it is lot easier than you thought. But someone else might take it as the worst ordeal in one’s life.
One woman called Valerie Rowecamp posted on her Facebook page that it all began with something as usual as menstrual cramps. With the hours passing, the cramps became “downright uncomfortable, but not necessarily painful”. She, in fact, did not need any medication to manage pain while giving birth. After the delivery, she was taken aback that her labor didn’t go beyond her level of tolerance.
Kebuileng Moshoeu wrote on her Facebook page that she felt a major pain kicking in just 30 minutes after inducing her labor. She thought she was going to die in those terrible nearly eight hours of her life. She also added that when at the sight of her son, felt like going through it all was worth the baby.
Here are a few things you might want to know about labor:
1. What makes labor hurt:
The uterine contractions are very powerful. Your uterus is pretty muscular, and it squeezes hard to get the baby out. It’s these contractions that make labor painful. The intensity of the pain depends on the strength of the contraction, the size and the position of your baby. Also, if you have had Pitocin, the chances are the contractions will be stronger and therefore painful.
The pain is also felt on the back, bowels, bladder, and perineum besides your entire pelvic area, the entire torso, and the abdomen.
2. Your endurance levels:
It is purely based on genetics and past experiences that threshold levels of pain. You should bear in mind that fear and anxiety contribute to the pain. But having said that, you won’t be able to alter your inherent capacity of tolerance.
3. Getting Support Matters:
Having a midwife or doula by your side is a great help while in labor. Studies have suggested that those women who seek help from a midwife or doula report little use of medication for pain management. These women also have lower chances of Cesareans and have great satisfaction with the birthing experience when compared to women who don’t seek help. It’s all about the moral support that comes which helps the woman to endure the pain.
4. The stages of labor pain:
Labor pain builds since onset. It has the following stages:
Early labor: It lasts for eight hours or more. The cervix dilates to three to four centimeters, and starts to efface to thin out. You might feel contractions that last 30 to 60 seconds occurring at intervals of 20 minutes. The contractions grow stronger with increasing frequency.
Active labor: It lasts between two to eight hours. The cervix dilates to seven centimeters. The contractions keep growing stronger and longer, with little intervals. Most women seek pain medication at this stage. However, many are administered the pain medication earlier than they can ask for it.
Transition: It lasts for an hour. The pain is the strongest at this stage. The cervix dilates to ten centimeters. With the growing intensity of the pain with contractions closely spaced, the pain also reaches your groin, your sides, the thighs, the back and you might as well have nausea.
Pushing: It lasts anywhere between few minutes to 3 hours. The pain is overtaken by your strong urge to push down your baby. Several women agree that pushing eases the pain as it relieves the pressure. Some even describe the push as “popping a bowling ball or watermelon”. You will feel a burning or stinging sensation around the vagina as the head of the baby becomes visible. The stage when the head becomes visible is called ‘crowning’.
Placenta delivery: It lasts about 30 minutes. It is perhaps the easiest of all the stages with mild, cramp-like contractions that push the placenta. Moreover, at this stage, you are preoccupied with your newborn.
Tips to easy labor:
Apart from opting an epidural, you could adopt relaxation techniques such as rhythmic breathing, Lamaze lessons around self-hypnosis, meditation, visualization, or HypnoBirthing or Bradley Method that can calm your mind and loosen your muscles. Some women might get help by changing positions from kneeling to curling or squatting.
What’s it about Epidural:
Although you have the advantage of pain-relief through an epidural, most women find it very dissatisfactory not being able to deliver naturally. They call it the ‘epidural guilt’. On the other hand some don’t want to use an epidural because they believe it might have side-effects. However, quite a good number of medical practitioners believe that epidurals are safe and that there is enough misinformation that is misleading people about the side-effects being blown out of proportion. A few studies have also suggested a direct connection between unrelieved childbirth pain and postpartum depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.