As your due date approaches or passes, it’s completely normal to start to get impatient about meeting your little one, but that doesn’t mean every new mom-to-be feels ready for the big event. Feeling nervous, scared, or unsure about labor is normal too, and it’s something pretty much every mom-to-be has experienced at some point, and to some degree.
Know your pain-relief arsenal
Even if you’re not planning on using a pain reliever in labor, it can be helpful to know what the different types of pain relief available are, so that you know your options in case you change your mind. If you aren’t planning on giving birth in a hospital, you may not have the option of medical pain relief, but birth centers and midwives tend to be well trained in non-medical pain relief, and some birth centers do offer non-epidural pain relievers. You may have read it all before, but, especially for anyone without a medical degree, it never hurts to refresh your memory of exactly what your options might be.
- Systemic analgesics: Narcotic pain relievers that go out over your entire body, instead of the specific region of your body that’s feeling pain, are more commonly used in early labor than later on. They can either be given as a shot or through a patient-controlled IV, and may leave you feeling woozy or drowsy. Systemic analgesics during labor generally aren’t given in a high enough dose to block out feelings of pain entirely, but they should make it easier to relax, and keep the pain from bothering you as much.
- Regional anesthesia: The epidural, which is the most discussed type of labor pain relief, is a type of regional anesthesia, as is a spinal block. Regional anesthesia numbs the pain in a specific region of your body, leaving the rest of you, including your mind, sharp and awake. If given in too high of a dose, regional anesthesia during labor can make it difficult to feel when you’re pushing. However, nurses are trained to coach laboring women through pushing through regional anesthesia. Regional anesthesia, including epidurals, comes in different dose-strengths, which can sometimes be changed with the next dose.
- Letting go of tension: Telling someone not to worry or be tense almost never gets good results, but when it comes to purely physical tension, there are ways you may be able to deliberately release some of it during labor, even if you haven’t quite managed to put your worries to bed. A lot of stress is carried in very specific parts of your body. Loosening your jaw, for example, can help loosen the tension in your vagina. Releasing your hands instead of clenching them can also help to release some tension. Letting yourself vocalize instead of trying to stay quiet can also help to relieve tension. Loosening the tension in your body is important because muscle tension adds to pain in labor.
It’s easy to worry about pain during labor, but as much as people love to talk about labor and birth pain, there’s less discussion of the endorphins that show up during labor. Your body has been getting ready for labor in the same way that you’ve been getting your home and your life ready for Baby’s arrival, and by now, you’re as prepared as you’re going to be.
On your mark
You’re waiting at the starting line, ready to bolt to the hospital, birth center, or phone to call your midwife. Make sure your body is right there with you, going through its stretches, ready for the starter pistol – or starter contractions – by giving yourself the chance to move around a little. It’s not the time to take up the pole vault, or cross-country skiing, but it is a great time to take a walk around the block, do some prenatal yoga, or go swimming (as long as your water hasn’t broken yet). Really, any activity that makes your body feel strong and capable, and ready for the big challenge it’s about to face is a great way to go.