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2:43 min| 169,657 views
You can use natural approaches, medical options, or a combination to manage pain during labor and delivery.
Prepare for labor and delivery with our online birth class. See all 51 videos in this series.
Linda Murray: Your own body has the power to make the labor experience less painful. How? Partly through the influence of hormones like endorphins and adrenaline. Endorphins are known as feel-good hormones; they help reduce your perception of pain by acting in your brain in a way that's similar to drugs like morphine and codeine. High levels of endorphins can see you through a drug-free birth, while low levels can make your labor more painful.
You can boost the level of endorphins in your body by doing your best to stay calm and confident. Small things can help, like avoiding unnecessary interruptions or unwelcome visitors, having a support person to cheer you on and listening to music you like. It's safe to say you won't feel good in the midst of labor, but the effects of endorphins can still help you out.
Adrenaline is a stress hormone that your body pumps out when it feels threatened. It revs up your body to respond with fight or flight—this is helpful if you're being chased by a bear but not when you're having a baby. The fight-or-flight response can slow down your labor, stress your baby, and worsen your pain. You can keep levels of adrenaline low by staying as calm as possible and by planning ahead to keep fear and panic at bay. One helpful way to do this is what you're doing right now, learning about birth. The more you understand what's happening, the less of a mystery it will be, which reduces fear and tension. Another thing that helps is having a caring support person close enough to touch you, which has been shown to lower the production of stress hormones.
As you're dealing with the pain of contractions, it helps to remember that while they hurt, they aren't constant, they roll in like waves, with breaks in between, and you can take them one at a time. You'll feel each contraction build up and peak and then ease and fade away. The most intense contractions last 60 to 90 seconds from start to finish. You can relax for a few minutes between each one. Use that time to rest and calm yourself and gear up for the next one.
Little things can go a long way toward creating an environment that helps you through labor. Think ahead of time about what details you'd like to set the stage. Maybe you want your support person to speak in a calm and steady voice, the nurses to discourage people from coming in and out of the room, low light when it feels right, some essential oil in a scent you love and some favorite mellow music to zone out to or upbeat music to help you power through. Setting up an environment suited to your taste can help you feel more in control and positive throughout labor.