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Maya I. Richardson: Tips For Minimising Pain in Childbirth; Enjoying the Birth of Your Baby

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Before and during pregnancy:

Nourish your body:
Make sure that you are well nourished. Supplement with vitamins and minerals you are deficient in, and toning and healing herbs and supplements (red raspberry leaf tea, stinging nettle, yellow dock, alfalfa, red clover, and chlorella) Eat a varied diet with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. If possible, go on a cleanse before you get pregnant (but not during).

Clean out your bowels:
When there is buildup of toxins, mucus, and waste in the intestines the baby coming down will put pressure on the colon. This can be another reason for pain. It is wise to undergo a body cleanse before you get pregnant (not during pregnancy though). Make sure that your bowels are functioning properly. The stomach should be soft (no hard spots), and you should empty your bowels at least twice a day. (Although I know of some people who still are constipated even with 2 bowel movements a day). The bowel is the most important organ to work on in the body because this is where you absorb what you are eating. If your body can't absorb nutrients, it will have no building materials to heal and nourish. Learn about colon cleansing.

Do aerobic exercise (biking, walking, running, aerobics etc.), 3 times a week x 30 minutes, and a strength training program 2-3 times a week. While exercising and after, your body produces endorphins. Your body will produce these natural painkillers in labor and birth more easily if it is accustomed to it. If you have been exercising before, it's safe to continue a reasonable exercise program. If you have not been exercising, gradually build up resistance and intensity. In both cases pay close attention to your physical signs. Don't get out of breath, and don't exhaust yourself.

Learn as much as you can about childbirth and how your body functions:
Rid yourself of fear and useless emotional baggage. Choose a place of birth where you will be undisturbed and free to be yourself and concentrate.

Labor and birth:

Avoid artificial means of starting labor:
Women I know who had been given pitocin to augment labor had a terrible time. They often report that contractions have double peaks or more, and sometimes the pain is present even in-between contractions. Vaginal exams, monitors, and other needless interventions may also increase pain unnecessarily.

Food for energy and endurance:
Drink and eat according to your needs. Your body needs fuel because it has a lot of work to do. If you are fasting, your uterus will be depleted of energy, and will not be able to function normally. I would encourage eating light and easily digested foods such as vegetable/barley soup, vegetables, and fruits. To drink: clean, preferable alkaline, electrolyte enhanced water, Twin Lab's Hydrafuel or Ultrafuel, and vegetable juices. You will not likely want to eat a whole lot when you are in active labor. Do make sure you are well hydrated though.

Stay active and change positions frequently:
If labor or birth becomes painful, try changing positions. Listen to your body what feels right. The baby could be pressing on nerves, vertabraes or tendons. If you're laying on your back, the baby will compress major blood vessels. If the baby is posterior, or if you are experiencing back pain, try to shift your weight forward and apply counter pressure on the lower back.

Use the restroom often:
Pressure on a full bladder is always uncomfortable, and more so when a whole baby is providing the pressure!

Labor and give birth in a place where you are uninhibited.
Remove anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or disturbs you. If disturbed, your body will produce adrenaline which is known to slow down or even halt labor. Contractions will be more painful and less productive.

Maximize your body's production of endorphins (nature's painkillers):
Laboring in water works wonders! Give birth in a place where you feel safe and loved. Do anything that will calm you and inspire positive thoughts. Light a candle, fill the room or water with scented oils (lavender), listen to music, slow dance with your husband; swaying with the contractions, dim the lights, walk, or do whatever makes you feel comfortable, relaxed, and happy. Many women find visualization helpful.

Counterpressure, massage, birthballs:
Every woman is different. Some like to be massaged or stroked, some find that counterpressure on the lower back helps (I did). Some like using birthballs during labor, some like hot or cold pads on their back or belly. The Birth Book by by William, M.D. Sears, and Martha Sears and Easing Labor Pain by Adrienne Lieberman offer several ideas for easing pain during labor and birth.

Herbs, vitamins, and minerals for easing pain:
Red raspberry leaf tea, lobelia, blue cohosh, calcium, and B-vitamin complex have been helpful in easing labor pain in many women. Use strong herbs such as blue cohosh and lobelia with caution.

At the end of labor keep in mind that your baby is coming soon. The work you are doing in labor and birth will prepare you to meet him or her. Your body is producing numerous hormones to ensure a beautiful first meeting. This is a moment you will remember forever.

Maya Richardson is the mother of two and the owner and author of Ecomother.com where you may find more of her writings. She is a talented artist, and her work appears as the illustration on this page.