Birth Doesn’t need to be Painful
Your birth does not need to be painful, no matter what you see on TV!
I know, I know… I can’t guarantee a pain-free birth, I can’t even guarantee you’ll enjoy it. But what I can do is show you what you could be doing to have a much more positive birth than you imagined… Now you would like that surely wouldn’t you? I’m not talking about drugs or epidurals, I’m talking about natural ways to work with your body for birth
There are some main methods and techniques you can use to minimise pain and have a quicker recovery. Here are the main ones
Listen to your body and Move
Let your body guide you, it really helps. If you are feeling uncomfortable pressure or pain in one position, then move, find something that works for you. There is a range of positions that are great for labour and birth, but often just keeping mobile can help move through each contraction or surge. Positions that can help with labour are
- Kneeling on all fours, still or swaying
- Kneeling and leaning on a birthing ball, chair, birthing partner or end of bed
- Sitting on a birthing ball, rocking or circling your hips
- Standing and leaning against something lower down like a table of chair
- Standing and leaning agains your birth partner for support, or a wall
A birthing ball can be really useful as it allows hip movement and opening of the birth canal. There is also a range of positions which can be helpful to birth in. The NCT has made an easy to use PDF to give examples of these positions
Hypnobirth is all about getting into the right frame of mind or mindset for birth, envisaging the progress and result along with knowledge and belief that you can do it. Did you know that your brain cannot tell the difference between imagined success and actual success, so visualising your baby cervix opening, baby moving successfully into position and being birthed, can really help with your experience. This is in part as it all helps with the flow of your hormones, limiting the production of Adrenalin which in turn will allow the Oxytocin to flow easier. Oxytocin is the Birth Hormone (also known as the love hormone). We need to feel safe, relaxed and unobserved to produce it, which is why Hypnobirth helps so much. There are some amazing books, online courses and face to face courses for Hypnobirth out there which include
- Mindful Hypnobirthing book: Sophie Fletcher
- Your Baby, Your Birth Hypnobirthing Skills for Everyone: Holly De Cruz
- Hypnobirth: Practical Ways to make your Birth Better: Siobhan Miller
- Positive Birth Company online course
- Birth-Ed online hypnobirth and antenatal course
- Naked Birth Radical Hypnobirth online programme
- The Birth Collective online hypnobirthing course
This will only work if you like being in water… So just as a pre-warning, if you don’t I would skip this one. Birthing pools are great for labouring and/or giving birth in. They allow the birthing person to relax, move easily in the water and can even soften the perineum reducing the likelihood of tearing. You can get in and out of the pool as and when is right for you (you may need the help of a birthing partner for this, you may be a little wobbly. The temperature will need to be checked to ensure it isn’t too hot or too cold for you and your baby (no higher than 37.5 degrees c), but again this is something a birth partner can do. It all really helps with Oxytocin production so long as it helps you feel safe and calm. Water can also be used to apply pressure. For example, a shower can be used to spray water directly onto the lower back which can help relieve pressure.
Massage / Pressure
There is a range of massage and pressure techniques you can use during labour. But you really want your partner to know what they are doing. Some people opt for a Doula rather than having their birth partner learn techniques, but it can be a very personal and sensual moment so you may want your partner involved instead. There are a few options with regards to massage, a gentle massage or an intense, deep massage. The gentle massage works to limit the pain by flooding the body with positive sensations so the brain focuses on this rather than any pain, here is a short information sheet on it from Royal Berkshire Hospital. The intense, deep massage works by getting the body to release endorphins which are pain-relieving hormones. How cool is that! A massage can also help you feel calm and loved which we already know, is essential for oxytocin, so a win-win! Some birthing people complain of backpressure or pain during labour, which is often if the baby is back to back. If this is the case a double hip squeeze or some other techniques can reduce this feeling. The Serenity Doula has a nice simple guide to this. Finally, Acupressure is another option. You may want to get a bit of training from a professional just to make sure you are getting it right, but if you don’t have the time or money from The London Acupuncturist made a handy printable guide.
Now the way Yoga helps with labour and birth is in the preparation, not just a list of poses good for Labour (although there are some that help). Yoga can really get you focussed on breathing and calmness, which is fab for Oxytocin, so if you have a pregnancy yoga class near you, or if you prefer to learn online, check it out. I also found a great source of quick info from My Baby Manual
Rebozo is actually a woven scarf, which is worn in Mexico and Guatemala, but it has way more uses than an item of clothing, it can be used for support, relaxation, pain relief and massage. There are some great videos guides on youtube including this one from Mom Life TV – There is also some great information on the AIMS website
Love and stimulation
This one is fairly simple. Oxytocin is the Birth Hormone, but it is also the Love Hormone, so feeling loved and sexually stimulated can help bring on and sustain labour. Plus the release of pleasure sensations can inhibit pain messages to the brain. So things like kisses, nipple and clitoral stimulation can really help… Plus who wouldn’t want an orgasmic birth rather than a painful one? The same rules apply, you need to feel safe, private and relaxed, so make sure your birthing space is just that. An interesting watch regarding pleasurable or even orgasmic birth would be the Orgasmic Birth: The Best Kept Secret documentary
Your birthing space is such an important place to have a pain free birth, so take your time to arrange it. This is easier with home birth, but a lot of Midwife Led units have done some great work with their rooms, plus some hospitals are way more helpful and flexible to allow you the best birthing space. People often refer to a birthing person as being in “the zone” when labouring and birthing their baby, it’s so important that this is undisturbed but undisturbed does not mean alone, so make a plan based on what you feel will work best for you, be flexible with some options if things aren’t going quite to plan, and try to enjoy the experience of bringing your baby earth-side. It is an experience you will remember for the rest of your life, and as we know… this memory does not need to include pain.