Labor Pain – What to Expect When You’re Giving Birth
Every woman’s experience of labor pain is different. Some women experience only mild discomfort during labor, and for others, it is an incredibly painful experience. Some women are in labor for less than an hour and, for some, it can take many painful hours to deliver the baby. Read on for a complete guide to the types of pain you might experience and how to manage labor pain naturally or with medical intervention.
What is Labor Pain?
Put as simply as possible, labor pain is pain experienced while having contractions before giving birth. It generally affects the back or the abdomen and can present as aching, stabbing, pushing, or cramping sensations.
Labor Abdominal Pain
As the uterus contracts, you may feel sharp or cramp-like pains in the abdomen. They may feel similar to Braxton Hicks contractions but will be regular and increase in intensity. Most women cope with abdominal labor pains by breathing through them.
Labor Back Pain
Some women find that the pains from contractions radiate around to the lower back, resulting in stabbing or aching back pains. Finding a comfortable position is the key to coping with back pain during labor.
Pain Relief During Labor
In addition to abdominal and back pain, the actual vaginal delivery can be very painful. Pain management during labor is a very personal choice. Hopefully, you’ve made decisions about your labor pain relief in your birth plan. You can plan for either natural pain relief methods or the use of pharmaceutical drugs.
Natural Birth (Drug-Free Labor):
Many women choose a natural labor because they want to be fully aware of what’s happening to their bodies because they are concerned about adverse effects of medication, or because they want to be able to bond with their babies immediately after delivery. To ease pain during labor naturally you can:
- Seek distractions
- Use Breathing Techniques
- Movement and Massage
- Visualization and Hypnobirthing
- Birthing Bath or birthing ball
When it comes to your level of labor pain, and the best way to relieve it naturally, it’s hard to plan in advance. The best you can do is to know what the options are and include them in your birth plan.
Medical Pain Relief Options:
You may decide to include pain relief medications in your birth plan. Most pain relief options are either analgesics (you’ll still feel everything but the edge is taken off the pain) or anesthetics (your body will be numbed and you won’t feel the pain. Your options for medical labor pain relief include:
- An epidural
- Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas)
Talk to your midwife and/or obstetrician about the medicated pain relief options that are best for you and include them in your birth plan.
Frequently Asked Questions about Labor Pain:
Question: How bad is labor pain?
Answer: As we’ve said earlier, every woman’s experience of labor pain is different, both in intensity and sensation. It may feel like
Question: Can I change my pain relief options during labor?
Answer: Sometimes. You may have opted for a natural birth and then find that your labor pains are much stronger than you anticipated. You can generally decide to have nitrous oxide at any stage of labor, but anesthetics (such as the epidural) can only be administered early in labor.
Question: Is back pain a sign of labor coming?
Answer: Yes. Lower back pain can be a sign that labor will start soon. But it is also a common pregnancy symptom in the third trimester and you may experience strong back pain weeks before you actually go into labor. When back pain is combined with regular contractions, it is a sure sign that your labor is starting.
Learn More About Pregnancy, Labor, and Delivery:
Do you know the signs of labor that you’re looking out for? Can you tell the difference between Braxton Hicks Contractions and genuine contractions? More information on the earliest signs that you’re going into labor.
What will you need before, during, and immediately after your delivery? A checklist of what to pack in your hospital bag.
A doula can offer you physical and emotional support during labor and in the postpartum period. Find out more about what a doula does and how to find the right person for you here.