12 Moms Talk Childbirth & What Actually Helped With Labor Pain

mom in labor
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When it comes to the childbirth, every woman's ideal scenario is different: Some moms-to-be dream of a predictable hospital delivery, others of laboring in a pool of water, others of having their baby at home -- but if there's one thing every woman hopes for, it's a pain-free birth (or as pain-free as possible, at least!). The question, of course, is how to achieve that goal. Epidural? Deep breathing? Does anything really work?? We asked real moms what worked for them (and what didn't), and their answers might be surprising. 

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We all understand that childbirth can be very, very (did we say very yet?), VERY painful. But there are ways to help manage the pain. And we say "manage" because while some women are blessed with the elusive miracle of a truly pain-free birth, many of us decidedly do not have that experience. Between the contractions, the hours and hours of waiting for baby to come, and the time it takes to push the little one earthside, well, is it any wonder that women needed to come up with some hacks to make the experience a little more bearable? 

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We found women who were willing to share their tips and tricks for the big moment. Read on to see what worked for these moms, and don't go into labor unprepared! 

  • Restful Rhythm

    1

    "One of the natural pain relief options I used while in labor is called sleep breathing, because the breathing rhythm is similar to breathing while asleep. This breathing technique helped greatly not only with my pain but also with my mental state of mind. I performed my breathing by inhaling and filling my abdomen with air first, rather than my lungs. Each time I inhaled, I counted to four and with each exhale, I counted to eight. My focus was on the rise and fall of my abdomen."

    "Believe it or not my pain was very minimal, I had absolutely no tearing at all, and I was able to deliver my son with only ten pushes in 15 minutes. Everyone is always shocked to hear this because it's very unlikely with a first child."

    -- Petrina Burman, thewalkingmombie.com 

  • Support System

    2

    "I used a doula for the birth of my third child, and while it wasn't completely unmedicated, it was amazing. I wish I had had a doula for all three."

    -- Christy, stainedwithstyle.com

  • Good Vibrations

    3

    "In my births, I would especially site three techniques, drawn from or inspired by the book Birthing From Within, which were helpful. During the most intense parts of my first birth (around transition), I found that I was able to take the physically intense sensations of the contractions, and turn them into colors. They would start as vaguely warm -- yellows shifting to oranges, and turn to a bright vibrant red at the peak of the contraction. It was like a form of synesthesia. I started to think if these colors as a manifestation of my intense love for me baby. I imagined them surrounding her in this intense loving energy. It wasn't that I no longer felt the pain, what I felt was still really intense and challenging, but I redirected and reinterpreted it, and that made it more manageable."

    -- Sarah

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  • Making It Work

    4

    "I had every intention of delivering without any pain medication. I had a wonderful doula on hand who employed techniques such as reiki. She also used acupressure. However, if one doesn't know it already, let me be the first to share -- pregnancy and labor are extremely unpredictable. My birthing plan documenting my pain management went out the window when I was induced. Given that I had to be induced, my water had to be broken. When they broke my water, all bets were off and my contractions went from 0 to 500,000 in a span of seconds with no letdown. The pain became unbearable even with all of the great techniques my doula was doing. I also became tired and wasn't even fully dilated yet. I opted to get an epidural. That decision was a huge one considering how terrified I was of them. I'm still terrified, but I would do it again."

    -- Maliyka A. Muhammad, MA, MPH, www.maliykaishealth.com

  • Feel the Fear

    5

    "I guess I would say I used deep breathing and a terrified facial expression to make it through my three births!"

    -- Name Withheld

  • Water Therapy

    6

    "I had a natural water birth at a freestanding birth center, so drugs were not an option for me unless I had to be transferred to a hospital because of an emergency. Because I was in the water for the end of my labor and delivery (about 5 hours), my tissues were very soft and I didn't need any stitching afterward."

    "Two things that helped me incredibly during the natural birth process. Number one, focus on your breath. Any chance you get, breathe deeply into your diaphragm. The belly and baby needs and loves oxygen. Just take long, deep breaths in between contractions. Because no drugs are involved, your body will naturally know when to push but you do have to consciously breathe deeply in between. The short, quick breaths are a bit of a myth."

    "Two, contractions typically only last one minute. We can do anything for one minute, right? Yes, it's a long minute, but there's an end to it, and in between contractions there can be peaceful, deep, long breaths."

    -- Jen, greenbabydeals.com

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  • On the Move

    7

    "What really helped me when the contractions started to get intense was to keep moving. I was lucky because they were cool with me walking around as much as possible at my hospital, even though I had to stop and grab the wall a few times! After a while though, I couldn't move at all!"

    -- Marie

  • It's a Gas

    8

    "I used only a small amount of gas and air in labor. It was otherwise a natural pain-relief free birth."

    -- Katie

  • Something to Talk About

    9

    "I delivered four babies, one Cesarean and three natural at home in water. Two babies were long labors, 20 plus hours, with no pain meds, and the two shorter ones were six and seven hours. I used water birthing and talking through the contractions, in addition to support from my husband and midwife." 

    -- Kerry

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  • Make Some Noise

    10

    "I was really, really loud during my labor with my daughter, and even though I think I scared the other moms, it made me feel so much better! It kind of felt like screaming on a roller coaster or in a scary movie, like a cathartic thing."

    -- Name withheld

  • Give It a Squeeze

    11

    "I know this may sound strange, but it was suggested by my midwife and worked well for me. I had a perfectly natural, unmedicated birth with the help of combs. That's right, combs, like a man would use for his hair. Small pocket combs, one for each hand, placed with the teeth facing the palm can help ease pain when one makes a fist and presses the teeth into the palm. I suppose it is a reflexology or acupressure point but all that mattered to me was that it worked!"

    -- Hyapatia Lee

  • Have a Ball

    12

    "One of the things our birth class instructor suggested as a tool for helping with pain was an exercise ball. I bought one when I was still pregnant and started working with it as a way to make my core stronger, and I was so happy I had it when I finally went into labor. The best thing was to kneel down and lean over it and then rock my hips back and forth!"

    -- Catherine B. 

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