Women’s bodies were designed to grow, birth, and nurture babies. When we are supported and our bodies allowed to work effectively, our capacity to manage pain or discomfort associated with labor and birth extends to meet our needs, and there are many tools to help provide comfort.
“Because pain and suffering often go hand in hand, we tend to think they’re the same thing. But they’re not. Pain is a physical sensation, while suffering is an emotional experience. We may suffer (feel helplessness, anguish, remorse, fear, panic, or loss of control) even when there is no physical sensation of pain. And we may experience physical pain without suffering. ” from Coping with Labor Pain at Our Bodies Ourselves
How to prepare for labor
Understanding how your body works, what is happening to you and addressing your fears can help you prepare for labor. Choosing a provider you trust, a place of birth where you are comfortable, and ensuring you have good support will also be key to laboring effectively. Finally, knowing some of the many tools to help comfort you — and when each is appropriate — will help you and your partner or family members address your needs during labor.
If you receive care from a midwife and/or have a doula to help you and your partner during labor, they will have an array approaches and know how or when to use them. If not, you will want to have an assortment of options to help you manage your discomfort and pain.
While pain medications can be among the options to help manage pain in labor, they have limitations and risks to you and your baby. Understanding those limitations and risks will help you decide whether and when they would be useful.
Below are some resources to help you learn more about the process of labor, measures you can take to labor effectively and be more comfortable, and the impact pain medications can have on you, your labor, and your baby.
Process of Labor:
- “Ecstatic Birth: The Hormonal Blueprint of Labor” by Sarah Buckley from Mothering Magazine
- Stages of Labor from Lamaze International
- An Overview of Labor & Birth from Childbirth Connection
Comfort Measures and Pain Relief:
- Labor Pain: What You Need to Know from Childbirth Connection
- Comfort in Labor by Penny Simkin at Childbirth Connection
- Labor Positions and Movement in Labor from Lamaze International
- Coping with Labor Pain from Our Bodies Ourselves
- Best Evidence: Labor Pain from Childbirth Connection