Labor Pains

Ouch! Labor Pains

Excitement, joy, fear, or anxiety is just a few of the emotions that may be running through your mind when labor starts. Let’s discuss the phases of labor and a few coping tips to help you with labor pains.

THE FIRST PHASE OR EARLY LABOR

Early labor is the longest stage of labor. This is the time where you need to get all the rest you can. You’re going to need it later, so relax. Go about your regular daily activities, but stay close to home. Eat a light snack if you’re hungry, but don’t overdo it.

CONTRACTIONS

  • Mild to moderate pain lasting 30-45 seconds
  • Some women never notice the contractions
  • May be at regular or irregular intervals
  • Usually 5-20 minutes apart

SYMPTOMS

  • Emotional, excited, nervous. Some women are happy and talkative, while others are tense and quiet
  • Backache
  • Diarrhea
  • Menstrual-like cramps
  • Indigestion
  • The ‘nesting’ urge-working on your baby’s room, organizing clothes and blankets
  • Bloody show- a blood-tinged discharge

HOW TO COPE

  • Use relaxation techniques such as breathing, aromatherapy, etc.
  • If it’s night, try to fall asleep
  • Walk, but stay close to home
  • Have a LIGHT snack
  • Distract yourself from watching the clock by reading, watching TV, working on the baby’s room, or any non-strenuous activity
  • Stay hydrated
  • Have a friend or family member over to visit

THE SECOND PHASE OR ACTIVE LABOR

This is the stage where the real work begins. The second part of labor is shorter, lasting from 2 to as long as 10 hours. Contractions will build in intensity and duration, and you will have less time to rest in between. This is usually the time to head to the hospital.

CONTRACTIONS

  • 3-5 minutes apart and lasting approximately 40-60 seconds
  • Stronger with increasing discomfort
  • Less time to rest in between
  • Still may not be at regular intervals
  • Might be unable to talk through them

SYMPTOMS

  • Fatigue
  • Leg discomfort
  • Increasing backache
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

HOW TO COPE

  • Start breathing exercises
  • Walk or change position frequently
  • Keep bladder empty
  • Start pain medications if in your birth plan
  • Take a warm bath or shower-water is a natural pain reliever
  • Warm compresses on the back
  • Have your partner give you a massage
  • Lean against a wall
  • Use relaxation techniques such as visualization or meditation
  • Suck on ice chips-with your medical caregiver’s permission

THE THIRD PHASE OR TRANSITIONAL LABOR

This is the most exhausting, overwhelming and demanding phase of labor. You will have no doubt whatsoever about what stage you are in at this point. Although it typically only lasts 1-2 hours, it will feel much longer due to exhaustion and intensity of contractions.

CONTRACTIONS

  • Highly intense
  • 3-5 minutes apart
  • 60-90 seconds long

SYMPTOMS

  • Cramping, trembling legs
  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling overwhelmed, easily irritated
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Rectal pressure
  • Urge to push
  • Shaky
  • Having chills or being hot and sweaty, sometimes alternating between the two

HOW TO COPE

  • Breathing exercises, if being used
  • Relaxation techniques-visualization or meditation
  • Try, although difficult, to relax between contractions
  • Ice chips, if allowed
  • Change position

Labor is a unique experience for each mother, so learn as much as you can about your labor options. Remember that relaxation is vital, and the more you tense up the more painful labor can become, so don’t fight the contractions. Take it one contraction at a time and let nature take its course.

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