3 Stages of Labor
You can expect you’ll have pain during labor and the secret to knowing how to manage your labor pain is by understanding that you will likely feel and think differently during each of the 3 stages.
Stage 1, EARLY LABOR is the easiest and longest part of labor, your cervix is thinning, shortening and also beginning to open. Labor pain is moderate. Your thoughts are clear and you’re most likely excited. Your contractions start off irregular and not very effective but as you progress, they will become regular and more effective and of course become more powerful.
Stage 1, ACTIVE LABOR is tougher. You will experience longer, stronger and more intense contractions. They will occur more frequently, somewhere around 3-5 minutes apart and last anywhere from 60 to 90 seconds. Labor pain will be more intense. Your thoughts become more focused getting through the contraction and you become impatient with annoying distractions. This phase may last anywhere from 3 hours to 12 or more.
Stage 1 ends with TRANSITION. Transition is when your “opening” contractions begin to shift into “pushing” contractions. This part is mercifully the shortest phase but it is by far the most challenging to manage because things that worked before might not work anymore. These contractions are stronger, last longer and finish dilating the cervix. Labor pain timing will be a roller coaster but likely to be very intense. Most times women experience these contractions with extreme weariness or mental fog and this is when they are most vulnerable to suggestion. A good coach will pay attention for these signs and then watch over you closely. This phase usually only lasts a half hour to a couple hours.
Stage 2 is the pushing stage and ends with the birth of your baby.
Stage 3 is the birth of the placenta.
Labor Pain Management Tricks
Now that you understand the stages of labor and the corresponding labor pain, you can see why pain management is really only very useful during the middle and last part of Stage 1. That’s where epidurals do the most good and where the techniques I’m about to share with you work best.
During Active Labor, a woman’s back can suffer the brunt of the pain and get extremely tired, which results in added pain. Here is what’s happening: as the upper segment of the uterus is contracting it’s pulling upward on the cervix to open it and the uterine muscle is squeezing very tightly. The pain comes in waves and radiates backward toward the spine. At the same time the lower segment of the uterus is softening and opening to allow the baby’s head to descend which as it does, applies downward pressure on the cervix. The contracting uterine muscle engages auxillary back muscles for support. This causes back pain.
The back pain can be more intense than the contractions themselves and is often referred to as ‘back labor’ which occurs in about 25% of births. A lot of times, back pain is caused by or made worse by the baby being facing upward toward her pubic bone, in the “occiput” position. It means the baby’s back is pressing against the mother’s spine and it’s not something you should simply grin and bear – Speak up so your birth team can help you move onto your hands and knees which will ease the pressure on your lower back. It also puts you in a good position for a back massage.
Tip # 1 Back Pain
Learn as many tricks as possible to help relieve back pain. Take a mini-massage class or watch YouTubes. And practice everything you learn ahead of time!
Tip # 2 Relaxation
This was covered extensively in a previous blog, however, I’d like to add a bit more here: there are numerous ways to increase your ability to relax. Think about music, low lighting or darkness, aroma therapy but be sure to research this thoroughly trusting only experienced professionals as some aromas aggravate rather than help. Consider hypnotherapy, hydrotherapy as in water emersion or shower, hair brushing, and simple breathing.
Tip # 3 Hip Squeeze
A quick lesson in counterpressure
Stand with your partner standing directly behind you, place his hands, open palmed on your hips so they are cupping your hip bones. (His palms should be open and basically flat – the fatty part of his hands right over the knobby part of your hip bones.)
Without squeezing his fingers closed, have him apply inward pressure to your hipbones – pressing the bones toward each other. When done correctly, your partner will feel the tension in his pec muscles, not so much in his hands or arms. Also, when done correctly, you will feel immense relief, almost pleasure, in the pelvic and hip area.
This exercise is so valuable during labor that you may want to practice a lot prior to the start of labor. Your partner will need to build those pec muscles and stamina!
Tip # 4 Position Changes
You’ll most likely believe you shouldn’t move around much but that isn’t always true. Be open to changing positions to see if you can find one that brings a little relief. I mention quite a few in my Birth Plan Essentials guide, which is FREE when you sign up.
Tip # 5 Rocking
Many birthing suites have a rocking chair. If not, ask for one. There is something very comforting about rocking so you might want to try this.
Tip # 6 Apply Heat
You can make homemade heating pads with rice and socks (inexpensive and very effective). Heat one of these babies up quickly in the microwave and lay it across your back. Yum!
Tip # 7 Foot Massage
A good foot rub does wonders. It’s even better when your partner studies up on pressure points and holds pressure on those points while doing a nice long massage. Again, if you’re going to use essential oils for aromatherapy, be sure you get sound advice first.
Tip # 8 Visualization
This takes a bit of practice so you might incorporate it in your relaxation meditations. See yourself comfortable, happy, powerful and ultimately successful.
I hope you try these techniques and love them. Good luck and keep us posted. We’d love to hear from you!
PS. If you haven’t downloaded your FREE guide: Birth Plan Essentials. Sign up and get it now! And, if you like this article, then …