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Issue Date: January 2006 Issue


Ease Your Labor Pains

Creating a calm, loving and supportive environment can ease some of the pains of childbirth


Arooj Ashraf

Giving birth is not easy. For many women, it can be frightening and painful. But if you are healthy, prepared and relaxed, it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few suggestions to prepare for a joyous and miraculous delivery.

Knowledge is power

Read. Educate yourself and your spouse by browsing books, talking to other moms and taking birthing classes at local hospitals.

Melissa Miller prepared for the birth of her 6-pound-11-ounce daughter, Brooklyn, at Southwest Hospital by subscribing to a maternity Web site (www.babycenter.com) that updated her weekly on her baby’s development. “I need to know everything, so reading helped a lot and I didn’t freak out,” she says.

Being knowledgeable about labor reduces fear and anxiety, which allows the body to relax, which in turn speeds up labor, adds Dr. Karen L. Ashby, an OB-GYN and assistant professor of reproductive biology at University Hospitals.

Prepare for a marathon

Stay active, eat healthfully and conserve your energy.

“This is the most physical thing I have ever done in my life,” says Jennifer Lenhart, who gave birth at home to a 9-pound-1-ounce boy, Sebastian. She compares her 14-hour labor to running a marathon and suggests women should prepare themselves.

Miller barley exercised but she controlled her diet and stayed active. Being physically fit gave her the energy to push and made her 12-hour labor easier. Still, she plans to incorporate exercise more during her next pregnancy.

If you’re looking for some good ways to start, Jess Brown, a certified doula, recommends walking, birthing ball and water aerobics. “The birthing ball lets your pelvis bones move and expand, while walking helps align the baby in the right position,” she says.

Stay away from alcohol, smoking and junk food. Brown says women tend to overeat instead of consuming quality proteins from dairy, legumes and meat. “You only need 300 extra calories a day,” she says.

Create an atmosphere

Bring aromatherapy, pillows, hot oils, music, video camera and movies for relaxation, says Maureen Stein-Vavro, a certified nurse-midwife at Lakewood Hospital.

And stay home until you are in transition and ready to push, according to the experts. When Miller’s water broke, she took a hot shower, packed her belongings, arrived at the hospital an hour later and was given medicine that caused her to sleep for six hours. When she awoke, Miller was 10 centimeters dilated and ready to push.

Creating a calm and comfortable environment for mom releases her tension and prevents her from panicking during labor, Brown says.

Seek out support

Every woman should have at least two supporters, so one is always by her side providing for her needs, says Brown.

Lenhart had six supporters: her best friend, minister, doula, two midwives and husband. She says they created the atmosphere of love and positive energy that she needed.

Consider water, hypnosis or home birth

“Giving birth is an emotional and spiritual process and I wanted to experience everything,” says Lenhart, who opted for a drug-free birth. She soaked in a bathtub, lit candles and chanted “om” with her husband to relax herself. Being at home allowed her to eat, sleep and move around as she liked.

She will definitely consider a water birth next time because the water helped sooth her muscles, minimized painful contractions and allowed her to move around easily.

But, Ashby says, water and home birth are recommended only for low-risk pregnancies.

Most women, however, can experience hypnobirthing, a deep relaxation method that lets the body take control and makes labor shorter and easier. Stein-Vavro has assisted several hypnobirths and says labor is much easier because the woman is not resisting, panicking, screaming or stressing herself out. “The worst things you can do,” she says. — Arooj Ashraf


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