Labour and contractions

By ElleTens Australia

Before we are handed the tiny love of our life in a pastel striped blanket (yes, all Australians hospitals seem to use the same striped blanket), we all know that there is the unknown of labour awaiting us.

As much as we want to try avoid thinking about the delivery room, being prepared and knowing our options is what can make the experience less traumatic. There are a variety of pain management options available that may be worthy of consideration when preparing your birthing plan, including nonmedical techniques and medical pain relief options.

Every woman’s birth experience and labour is individual as she is. Most women will agree that contractions are intense, powerful and at times overwhelming but it doesn’t mean that a natural birth is impossible, far from it. 

There are many drug-free pain relief options available to assist labouring mums through their contractions. You may be familiar with some or all of them.

Let’s start with our most important resource – your midwife With continuity of care a priority for many women, working with one or a group of qualified midwives throughout a pregnancy provides great comfort to women during their pregnancy, labour and post birth.

Continuity of care allows you to build relationships and trust which are so important during your pregnancy. Having a professional by your side that understands what is happening every step of the way through your labour as well as being an advocate for you and your baby’s needs is priceless.

Looking at the pages of the Midwifery and Maternity Provider Organisation Australia (MMPOA) website will give examples of what is on offer in your area.

So you have a wonderful supportive midwife by your side, what else do you need in your arsenal pack for labour?

Your midwife will discuss pain relief options with you and how to work through contractions. Some natural pain relief options suggested may include:

  • Breathing – focusing on the outward breath during a contraction not only helps to relax you but also gives you something to focus on. This is one of the techniques also taught during pre-natal yoga
  • Music – creating a positive and soothing environment helps you to relax and helps build the positive hormones in labour
  • Massage – the power of massage during a contraction can be really helpful in promoting endorphins to help your labour pain. Your midwife can do this or give your birthing partner some tips!
  • Changing positions – creating a space so you can rock, dance, walk, use a birth ball or squat. These are all great ways to labour actively and it can help speed up labour
  • Water – most birthing suites offer a warm shower or bath, the water is soothing and can relax you as well as help speed up labour
  • Visualisation – using imagery or visualisation engages your senses and reduces your awareness of pain. Picture meeting that little precious little person you are about to hold, every contraction means you are one step closer to that moment
  • Using a TENS – TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) can be used from first contractions and throughout your entire labour. Labour TENs machines have a boost button to provide extra intensity during a contraction. It can make labour more manageable and also provides you with a sense of control or focus – being a control freak myself, this really appealed to me
  • Most hospitals will have TENS machines for hire, or you may also want to consider buying your own, to give you the flexibility to use it prior to heading to the hospital for pain relief and also once you return home. If you have private health insurance, you may be eligible for a rebate
  • Calmbirth® Program – is a childbirth education program that was developed to assist couples to truly understand birth, release fears and anxiety about birth and teach the skills required to create positive birth experiences
  • HypnoBirthing™ program – built around an educational process that includes special breathing, relaxation, visualisation, meditative practice, attention to nutrition and positive body toning.

Medical pain relief options

By now you have probably heard lots about the use of gas and air, injections such as pethidine or diamorphine, water injections and of course the epidural. It’s a good idea to discuss how these work with your midwife and also be aware of any side effects.

Discussing your birth plan with your midwife and birthing partner prior to the birth is beneficial as it tells them about the type of labour and birth you’d like to have, what you want to happen and what you want to avoid. Keep in mind you will still need to be flexible in case medical intervention is needed. 

The hardest thing for every woman to imagine is what a contraction feels like and how intense labour pain will be until she is in labour. Regardless of what mix of medical and non-medical pain relief options you opt for, take comfort in that the intensity of the experience will be quickly forgotten once that beautiful baby is placed in your arms.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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