The Sources of Labor Pain
Why Does It Have to Hurt To Give Birth?
While some women have relatively easy labors and deliveries, you more often hear the real horror stories about giving birth.
If you are ever afraid of something, one way to alleviate that fear is to learn about it, so take a look at some key pieces of information when it comes to labor pain.
The Signs of Labor
Body related reasonsThe sources of labor pain that are most easy to understand and explain are functional. These are the pains that occur because your body is opening and changing in order to deliver the baby, and though these sensations are certainly normal, they can be difficult to bear.
Labor pain often results from the degree of dilation of your cervix, from the position or descent of the baby and from the strength of your contractions, and this doesn't even mention any extra pains that any medical procedures might cause you.
You'll find that what these pains have in common is that they are caused by the way that your muscles are working so hard. Relaxing the muscles, instead of fighting the contractions, can alleviate this pain.
For me personally, once I understood that most of the labor pain is actually from the uterus changing shape, rather that the baby pressing through the birth channel, it to away some of my fears. I was always afraid that the baby would get stuck or something, and the thought of the baby pressing through for hour after hour was very frightening for me. Well, that's not the case. God knows why the dilation process has to be so painful, but at least it is only due to muscle work and preparing to give room for the baby to be born. That, I found much easier cope with!
Physiological reasonsSome sources of labor pain can be physiological, which means that the pain is a result from something happening that is out of the norm. This pain can be quite terrifying even for women who have given birth before.
The most common source of physiological labor pain is due to the position of the baby. A posterior baby, one who is facing up, can result in a substantial amount of back pain for the mother as can a breech baby, who is born feet-first.
These days, babies positioned with their feet down are most often not born vaginally, but rather through a caesarean. (Although in most cases a vaginal birth is completely possible also in this case, but the risks tend to be a bit higher.)
Also, if your baby does have a posterior position, it might be good to know that in most cases the baby turns right before actually being born. Talk to your midwife if you are worried!
Your position during the contractionsYour own positioning can also affect how much labor pain that you experience.
People are beginning to understand that a birthing position that involves the mother lying flat on her back can actually increase the pain. More and more doctors are encouraging women to pace, kneel up or squat in order to give birth, so think about these options before you enter labor! The key is to make sure that you can relax your back and pelvic area completely during the contractions, that way the pain is minimized.
Fear and anxietyFinally, it is also important to remember that one of the leading causes of labor pain is fear or anxiety. For instance, if you have no idea of what to expect from labor, you'll find that the process is a great deal more terrifying if you can't tell if something is normal or not. This tension can make your labor more frightening and due to the nervousness you might feel, there is a chance it will make labor more difficult and more painful. Becoming educated on the process can alleviate this fear as well as help you prepare for the big day itself.
My prenatal yoga teacher told my about an experiment she had done when she gave birth to her first child. At this point in time she lived somewhere in South America and moms did not get their own room at the hospital. My teacher had practiced breathing a lot and focused on relaxing and breathing during the contractions. But next to her was a woman who was obviously scared. She cried and yelled and was very tense during the contractions. My teacher decided to try doing that during one of her contractions. She did - and it was a nightmare. Much more painful than relaxing and focus on the breathing. She only tried once...
To me, it is completely amazing that a mom can decide to carry out such an experiment in the middle of giving birth - I sure didn't! But I'm glad she did and told me the story; it really kept me motivated to practice my breathing and relaxation and to use that during the labor and delivery.
When it comes to labor pain, be aware that it will vary for every woman, but also remember that there are real causes for it and also real solutions, e.g. different types of pain relief. Take some time to understand your body a little bit better and make sure that when the time comes, you are prepared!
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