Would you expect to feel your body working hard if you ran a marathon? For sure!
And more than likely you would educate yourself, and be physically and mentally prepared on how to manage.
It would be hard and probably impossible to just rock up and run 42km with no education or preparation and have a positive experience?? You could argue that labour and birth are no different!
Just as you can expect to feel the ‘normal’ physiological pain from running, you can expect with the uterine contractions of labour functional, physiological pain. So if you are well prepared you can definitely have a positive (and drug-free if you wish) labour and birth journey.
As a Midwife caring for labouring women for many years and teaching couples the Calmbirth® Childbirth Education program let me share my top 5 natural pain relief alternatives that can help you during labour.
Learn about the mind-body connection so that you can get your body working efficiently for labour and birth. Know how to best evoke the relaxation response in YOUR own body and practice this leading up to your baby’s birth. By being ‘relaxed’ it means your parasympathetic nervous system is activated and not your stress system when you’re in ‘fight or flight’. This means that the labour cocktail of hormones guided by oxytocin and beta-endorphins (your body’s own morphine!) will work their magic allowing your body to work efficiently and effortlessly.
This sense comes before sight and speech and is our first language. The human touch is powerful and can be used for an oxytocin boost in labour and birth in many ways including soft touch, firm massage, acupressure and the most simple yet effective with hugs and kisses. Our skin is our largest organ and the oxytocin release that touch induces is vital for labour and birth contractions and breastfeeding.
Breath work connects our mind to our body and encourages better blood flow, more oxygen and hormones to be delivered to your body and most importantly your baby. This is so important in helping your muscles work efficiently and to conserve energy for both of you to manage the hard work of labour.
Warm shower or bath.
When the intensity of contractions feels like it will literally take your breath away – get into the shower or bath to help RELAX! Water immersion for pain relief is well documented as an effective pain relief strategy and waterbirth has been shown to improve health outcomes for mother and baby, meaning it is a very safe option for labour and birth.
A TENS machine or Transcutaneous Electrival Nerve stimulation, is a very safe, drug free pain relief alternative for mother and baby. It works on the Gate control theory, with easy to apply electrodes positioned on the lower back providing electrical impulses to the nerves and tissues. This blocks or breaks the pathway of nerve messages so the pain messages don’t reach your brain as normal. Some women use it only in the early phases of labour and some keep it boosting the entire time…drug free!
You have so many more options at your fingertips to work with the physiological and functional pain during natural childbirth, drug free if this is your goal.
And just remember that the female body has been birthing babies for generations. As the amazing midwife Ina May Gaskin said,
“It is important to keep in mind that our bodies must work pretty well, or there wouldn’t be so many humans on the planet.”