Whether or not you choose to get an epidural during labor, you will need to cope with a certain amount of contractions. Because hospitals recommend not getting the epidural until you’re dilated because it can slow down labor, you will need to cope with early labor contractions. But, contractions don’t have to be painful and you can avoid pain in labor.
What hospitals don’t always tell you is that they can only give you an epidural during a certain timeframe. And that window of time can be very small. Especially if you dilate quickly.
If you’re too far dilated, then it can be too late.
So, even if you want the epidural, you should prepare yourself and learn how to avoid painful contractions just in case you can’t get the epidural for some reason.
But, there is nothing to fear in labor.
While culture has ingrained in you that labor is a screaming at the top of your lungs, painful experience, that is not the case. I had two natural births without epidurals and while I did make groaning, bellowing noises, I never once screamed.
Going into labor, I was armed with techniques for avoiding pain during contractions. Even if you don’t get an epidural, there are many natural and safe things that you can do to cope with the intensity of contractions.
And, you don’t have to have a high pain tolerance to cope with contractions. Anyone can learn to do it. So, here are my top 5 ways to avoid pain in labor. Hopefully, this list is a good starting point for you on your journey to prepare for labor. May you be empowered in your journey.
1) Take a bath
Baths during labor are a natural epidural. In fact, some say that taking a bath can slow down labor. So, you’ll want to save the bath for when you absolutely need it.
You can treat the bath like an epidural and wait to get in when you feel like you need some relief.
I used the tub a lot during my first birth. I would sit in the tub and prop my feet up, staring at my lovely pink toenails and think about how excited I was to meet our baby girl soon.
Be advised that even if you like jets in the tub, they may not feel good when you’re in labor. Normally, I love a nice Jacuzzi jet tub. During my first labor, the first thing I did when I got in the tub was turn on the jets.
It was way too much.
The noise and intensity of the jets was just too much stimulation. I had to turn them off right away.
During my second birth, I was advised not to get in the tub because I had a lot of amniotic fluid and they wanted the baby to be lower and engage. They worried that lifting the weight in the water would cause the baby to float higher in the amniotic fluid. Which brings me to my next point.
Water still feels really good during labor. If you can’t (or don’t want to) get in the tub, then try hopping in the shower.
2) Take a shower
If you’re waiting to get in the tub or don’t have access to a tub but the thought of water still sounds really good, try hopping in the shower.
If you’re giving birth at a hospital and they don’t have a shower or bath, you can try laboring at home for as long as possible so you can have a shower or bath if you want.
It feels so amazing during labor!
You can even diffuse some essential oils in the shower. Get it nice and steamy and then put a few drops of your favorite essential oil in the water. Essential oils can be so amazing during labor and there are some oils that actually helped me during labor (read about the essential oils that worked for me during labor).
When I got in the shower in labor, with each contraction I would let the hot water pelt my body while I put my hands on the wall and do labor lunges or sway back and forth.
Honestly, this coping technique hands down was what got me through most of the contractions during my second labor.
3) Get a foot rub
You can prepare a blend of essential oils in a carrier oil such as coconut oil and bring it for a foot massage during birth. Then, your partner or doula can rub your feet while you relax through contractions.
Granted, some people don’t like massages or being touched. Don’t feel like you have to try this just because I’m recommending it.
However, my doula told me that during labor sometimes people who hate to be touched will love massages and people who are affectionate can dislike being touched.
That’s what happened to me. I am a pretty affectionate person, but there were a few times I didn’t want to be touched. Mainly during contractions. But I did still enjoy my foot rub.
Laughter is the best medicine. Joking and laughing in labor can help take your mind off of the intensity.
When things started to pick up during my second labor, my husband and I began talking about how the midwife Ina May Gaskin tells her patients to say to themselves “my cervix is getting huge” during labor. Then, we started saying that in our best Donald Trump impersonations. It was hilarious! We laughed long and hard during early labor.
Laughter also seems to move pressure downward. In labor, you want your thoughts, movements, and sounds—everything to be pushing down. In my opinion, laughter in labor is the best way to get the baby out.
So, put on your favorite comedy show in early labor. Or, watch your favorite comedian (Michael Mycintre, Ben Stone, and Seinfeld are my all-time favorites).
Whatever way you find to laugh in labor, do it! I promise you’ll have fun and you won’t regret it.
Before my first birth, I would practice all of the breathing techniques for labor. My husband would coach me through them each night before we went to bed.
Then labor hit.
And I forgot everything that I had learned. The breathing techniques didn’t seem to be working. I couldn’t quite grasp how I was supposed to do them during contractions.
After we arrived at the birthing center, my doula began coaching me on how to breathe. I would slowly take a deep breath as the surges rose, and then I would quickly let it all out in one big exhale as the surge peaked and fell.
It seemed so different than how I had practiced. But it worked! My tip for any pregnant momma is to keep trying until you find what breathing techniques work for you during labor and then keep at them. It’s ok if it’s different than the birth class teaches you. As long as it works.
Do whatever works best for you.
For me, making loud noises worked. I’m not talking about high pitched, screaming noises. No, I made deep, moaning, guttural sounds. Those types of sounds move your energy down which helps move the baby down in the birth canal.
Before my second birth, I heard a birth story of a woman who kept saying “Open. Down. Out” during labor. She opened so wide, in fact, that she didn’t tear at all. And she birthed quickly and easily with no epidural. If I remember correctly, she didn’t have a tiny baby either.
So, I determined to try this during my second labor. As soon as I could no longer talk through the contractions, I began moaning the words “open” and “down” during each contraction.
And you know what? It worked!
I even had a much faster and much smoother delivery (read ways that your second labor will be easier than your first). Maybe it’s because it was my second labor and my body knew what to do. But, I attribute part of my success to moaning those two words:
When you focus on moving your energy, thoughts, and sounds downward and out, it can help your baby move down and out more quickly and easily. Above all, relax with those words and sink into labor.
You only have to go through it once. And then you have your sweet baby on the other side. And it’s beautiful.
What ways did you learn to cope with labor? Share your tips with us!