Being afraid to give birth is understandable. If you’ve ever seen a woman giving birth in a movie or TV show, or if you’ve ever seen it in person, it can feel scary from the outside—the woman giving birth is clearly in pain! 

While pain is an inevitable part of the birthing process, learning all you can about giving birth and the different pain-management techniques can help you feel more confident going into the big day. 

What Happens During Birth?

The labor and birth experience is unique for every woman, and you can’t know exactly how it will play out until the moment it happens. However, the birthing process falls into three primary stages for every woman. These stages include early and active labor, birth of the baby, and delivery of the placenta. 

Early and Active Labor

Toward the end of your pregnancy, you might start experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, which are your uterus’s way of preparing itself for birth. These contractions are infrequent and don’t lead to actual labor—but many women confuse these contractions for actual labor.

You will know that labor has officially begun when your contractions become consistent and increasingly painful. True labor contractions cause your cervix to efface (thin) and dilate, which is what will eventually enable your baby to pass through. 

Early labor is the longest phase. During this phase, your cervix will dilate to 5 cm. The timing of this stage is unpredictable and can last anywhere from hours to even days.

Active labor happens when your cervix dilates from 6 to 10 cm. This stage happens more quickly and is often the most painful. 

Birth of the Baby

Once your cervix is at 10 cm, it will be time to push the baby through the birth canal. This stage can last anywhere from minutes to hours. During this stage, you will be asked to “bear down,” as if you’re having a bowel movement during each contraction. 

Delivery of the Placenta

Once the baby has been born, the placenta, which is the organ that housed your baby for nine months, will be delivered. This stage is relatively quick, lasting roughly 30 minutes to an hour.

How Can I Manage the Pain During Labor and Birth?

There are many different options when it comes to managing the pain that happens during labor and birth. 

Medical Pain Interventions

There are many different medical pain interventions that can help manage pain. 

Epidural (or regional anesthesia) is one common pain management option that many women turn to during labor and birth. For many women, an epidural causes numbness from the waist down, lessening or even erasing the pain of contractions and pushing.

Natural Interventions 

If you want to avoid medication during birth, there are many natural pain remedies you can try, including: 

  • Getting a massage
  • Taking a warm bath or shower
  • Calming or relaxing music
  • Rocking on an exercise/birthing ball
  • Practicing deep breathing exercises
  • Meditating
  • Practicing other relaxation techniques
  • Acupressure

You’re Not Alone

Facing an unplanned pregnancy can feel overwhelming, especially as you think about giving birth. But you’re not alone in this. At The Hope Clinic, we’re here for you. We offer free Labor and Delivery education classes to help you know what to expect and feel prepared.

Contact us today to learn more about the different ways we can help support you—all free of charge.

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