Mind over medication
Medication is not the only way to deal with labor pain. In fact, many women find they don’t need drugs at all. Cathy Relyea, a marketing account executive and new mother in Midland, Mich., settled into a Jacuzzi-style tub during labor and began counting bathroom tiles whenever she felt a contraction coming on. By the time her contractions became really intense, Relyea was 10 centimeters dilated and ready to push. Things progressed quickly, and her son, Zachary, was born less than an hour later.
With or without medication, you can try a host of other popular pain-relief techniques, including:
- Kneeling, sitting or squatting in different positions, sometimes with a birthing ball
- Back rubs (ask your partner or coach for a massage)
- Relaxation and breathing techniques (commonly used in Bradley and Lamaze childbirth-education classes)
- Screaming (don’t worry — the nurses have seen and heard it all)
Sometimes pain relief is truly alternative — such as acupuncture or hypnosis — or just plain mundane. For instance, during my second daughter’s birth, I taped a picture of my first, Emma, to my hospital bed. During contractions, Emma’s smile became my focal point.
Just remember that no matter how impossible it may seem, you will get through labor. Marion McCartney, a certified nurse-midwife and director of professional services at the American College of Nurse-Midwives in Washington, D.C., likes to compare labor to a marathon. Ask runners if it hurts, and they’ll say you bet. But they learn how to cope. They learn that the pain is OK. And at the finish line, you’ll be holding the best reward life can offer.