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Childbirth Cubby

How did you perceive the pain you had during childbirth?
~ A Message Board Archive

From Kathleen ~ When I was pregnant with my first child, one of my biggest fears was the pain of childbirth; I had no idea what to expect. Share with us your honest answers on how you perceived the pain of childbirth. Was it easier than you anticipated? Was it worse?

From Julie 3 1/2 ~ I had one childbirth with an epidural and one without. And in all honesty I won't ask for the epidural again because the pain is just not that bad, and I don't like the after effects of the epidural. (Although -- to those who want to use it, more power to you!! There's nothing wrong with going for the drugs in my opinion.)

From Book_Work ~ I've had two births without any form of pain relief, and will be planning any further children the same way.

My first labour was back labour, which I found completely different from "normal" labour in that there is no break from the pain. It was certainly the worst back pain I've experienced, but it was not unbearable. I found it was manageable with my husband putting counter-pressure on my tail-bone and hips, while on hands and knees (my son was posterior, which was causing the back labour. Being on hands and knees facilitated his turning to an anterior position as well as relieving some of the pain in my back).

My second labour was intense, and there was a period of about 10 minutes which I would call extremely painful (transition), but good support from my husband and my doula enabled me to get through that labour without pain anywhere near as bad as with my first labour.

Basically - my view is that labour is the hardest work I have ever done. It is uncomfortable, even painful at times, but it is do-able. Knowledge is power, so I did a lot of research on how the body works, how the muscles work to get the baby out. I surrounded myself with people who believed in natural birth, who I knew would support my decision to have natural labour.

I prepared myself for pain a LOT worse than I experienced. Compared to a migraine - labour is a breeze!

From JulieD ~ I had one 34+ hour labor in which I had an epidural at 30 hours - I was exhausted from the lack of sleep and effort that it was taxing me, so for me, the epidural helped us have a vaginal birth at that time. BUT it had lasting affects on my son's nursing and behavior for the first few months (literally) and I would not do it again unless under dire circumstances. Faced with the same situation I would get in water to ease the pain or figure out some other active way to relax without medicating myself. Fatigue and not eating were the culprits in this situation.

For the second labor, I had figured out how to really let my bottom relax and get out of the way of the contraction so labor was WAY do-able... if I wasn't having a contraction there was no way to really tell that I was in labor.

Transition was not comfortable but it was still do-able (after 34 hours I felt like anything was do-able!) as long as I had my husband nearby for support.

Pushing is supposed to be a relief but it was not for me... that was the hardest part for me. It only lasted maybe a total of 15 minutes and once I got on my hands and knees, he was born within 2 minutes of finally figuring out how to push. When his head crowned, I didn't think that it was painful but rather I couldn't stretch a cm more... the hard part was pushing his hand-chin-shoulders out because he had both hands under his chin.

Reading Birthing From Within helped to prepare me emotionally for the second birth as I had educated myself about labor/birth the first time but bypassed the emotional preparation. A lot of the body's ability comes from believing that you CAN do it, that it IS normal and that you are MADE to do this. I think that the emotional preparation the second time made me able.

I would do it again in a moment. I'd do the 34 hour labor again in a little more than a moment - but without hesitation. It has been the single most powerful moments of my entire life. After labor, I know I can do anything and have amazing respect for what the body is capable.

Biggest lesson in labor - for the first stage of labor, stay out of the way and relax, relax, relax. For the second stage, work really hard and pay attention to your body's cues (and don't push before you feel the urge). If you follow those, the pain associated with labor is do-able totally. Fear can make anything more painful so recognizing and freeing yourself of any fear of birth or parenting can be a big deal (as can having the right professional attending your birth, the members of your family that you want there (or not there) - making your labor and birth area a place of peace and security will allow you to relax and let your body do what it is made to do - and is well worth the time and effort to accomplish.

From Blue Eyes ~ With my first labour, I was induced and had major back labour. Pitocin is nasty and very painful but it gets the job done quickly (8 hours). I had an epidural for the pain at about 6cm but they turned it off when it was time to push which, in my opinion, is when you need it the most pain-wise. I pushed for over 2 hours but it was the best pain in the world and for me it was true that the minute you have the baby, the pain stops and you think that wasn't so bad.

For my second labour, it was a different story. My labour was longer, more intense, and with pitocin again. I again opted for an epidural at about 6cm but only enjoyed it for 30 minutes and it was time to push. I pushed for over 2 hours and my daughter was as stuck as can be and I was going into shock and hemorrhaging so she was pulled out of me. By far this was the worst pain I ever felt in my life but so worth it. Afterwards I was in a lot of pain because I tend to tear quite badly (fourth degree with my son and second degree with my daughter) so healing takes a while for me but I should add that I am a small gal and tend to carry BIG babies.

From davismommy ~ I have had two births without pain medication and although there was no denying there was pain, I think my expectations were that it would be worse than it was. I also tend to have relatively short labors which I think helps. With #1 I was in labor for six hours. It was very intense and if I had labored for longer I think I might have opted for pain relief but when we got to the hospital I was already dilated to 9. With #2 my water broke at 36 weeks and they ended up inducing. That labor was only 3 hours. For the most part it wasn't too bad. There was one pitocin induced double contraction that was just incredibly painful though. It ended up sending the baby into distress so they took me off the pit from that point on. Baby was born about 16 minutes later.

From KimberlyAnn ~ I will preface this by saying I will never have an epidural or hospital birth ever again! I had my son in the hospital, I got "stuck" at 9 1/2 cm and was forced into an epidural that I did not want. I had the urge to push but they kept telling me not to because there was still a slight lip of the cervix over his head. I ended up pushing for 2 1/2 hours, tearing, having an episiotomy, and a broken tail bone which hurt for 6 months after he was born.

With my daughter, I decided to go with a home water birth. I had back labor and I couldn't push through the pain. Once she got down far enough I only pushed for a few minutes... mainly because I could feel the pain which is a big motivation to push the baby out.

I know in my head that both labors were really tough but it's true that you forget all the pain and can't wait to do it all over again!

From melake66 ~ As it happened, I arrived at the hospital already dilated to 9+ centimeters! It was really only the last hour that had gotten almost unbearably painful. When it came time to push I have to say... it hurt big time. I ended up with a spinal block as it turned into an emergency c-section, and that spinal was sweet relief!

Will I use pain medication on the second birth? I don't know. I plan to use the same philosophy I used this time, which is just to see how it goes and not commit myself. I will not assume I need pain relief but I won't deny myself if there comes a time when I cannot take it any more.

In any case, it was painful - but totally worth the end result! That gorgeous baby girl.

From hedra ~ With my first, I did Bradley relaxation techniques - and they worked pretty well. If I was relaxed (FULLY relaxed), contractions felt like really working a muscle on a workout - effort, that kind of stretchy-tired ache, but not pain. I also had some back labor, which made the upper edge of my pelvis (all the way around) feel really HOT, in a definitely burning-like painful feeling. When I wasn't 100% relaxed, though, contractions definitely hurt. Like a cramped muscle when you try to stretch it back out hurt, but more muscles involved - you know those middle-of-the-night calf cramps? Like that, though not quite as intense - no clutching and groaning or panting (the way I do with calf cramps). Still, thank heavens I could stay relaxed most of the time! But over all, even extremely exhausted after a very long early labor, gas pains were way way worse than contractions. Gas pains had me begging for meds. Labor pains... well, no, I didn't need meds for those, thanks. (I ended up with an epidural so I could SLEEP, after 66 hours of labor, though.)

With my second, I used hypnobirthing. Again, as long as I was using the method, they didn't hurt. In fact, they weren't even as uncomfortable as a hard workout, they felt entirely like movement and pressure, nothing else at all. Crowning burned, still, but contractions were just waves of movement inside my body, more like the general sensation when your intestines are shifting in a normal way during digestion - no pain, but a sensation of shifting or movement. Hmm, also a bit more powerful in sensation (bigger muscle, more concentrated movement), but not at all uncomfortable... still INTENSE at times (took some work to stay with them, even then!), but not painful at all. But I did have people accidentally pull me out of hypnosis a few times, and then OUCH! I can't even describe it, but it hurt like crazy. (I had pitocin, too, so that may also explain the intensity of the pain when I was pulled out of hypnosis.)

Given both experiences, I am a MAJOR proponent of relaxation and hypnotherapy for labor! If the 'non-relaxed' and 'non-hypnosis' versions are what women 'usually' get, well, I'm not all that interested in having those, thanks! In neither case were they beyond my ability to cope, even then, but they just were not all that appealing by comparison!

I've also miscarried twice at 7.5 weeks, and I can tell you that those hurt, too. Worse, because I couldn't NOT fight them - there was no way for me to release, relax, and let go of a pregnancy I did not want to end that way! So I felt every blessed contraction, and they hurt pretty fiercely. Not beyond my ability to cope, again, but enough to make me sweat just from the pain, at times.

I actually really enjoyed labor with the hypnotherapy, and I find that when I have a 'loud' braxton-hicks contraction now with this pregnancy, I have to remind myself not to welcome it (and more) with too much enthusiasm... I don't want to have the babies early, but I am definitely looking FORWARD to labor, not just to have the babies, but because it was genuinely cool to feel what my body was doing, but have no pain in the process. Really really cool.

From acorn ~ I found that the pain in labor was both less painful than I expected and also felt completely different than I expected. I had thought that the contractions would be like period cramps, but much worse. However, it felt completely different. I was surprised that all the pain was very low rather than my whole uterus and mostly was unpleasant rectal pressure. I was also amazed at how I felt completely fine between contractions, giving me a chance to regroup. I went into labor hoping to avoid pain medication. I fully expected that at some point I'd really want something and had asked my support people to try and find an alternative for 20-30 minutes before I gave in. But, I never found the pain that unmanageable and never reached the point of asking for any pain medication. For me the hardest part was pushing. Earlier in labor, I felt fine between contractions. Especially towards the end of pushing, between the urges to push I still had incredible pressure from the baby's head which felt very unpleasant (but wasn't exactly pain). I came out of the whole experience feeling like it hadn't been anything like what I expected from the type of pain to the level of pain to how I dealt with the pain.

From mama2boys ~ Both of my labors have been very fast and unmedicated. The first was 3.5 hours and the second was 30 minutes. I experienced back labor with both which isn't fun. Once I did manage to flip the baby (on my hands and knees) my life was much better. I will say that the pain associated with both labors was not nearly as bad as I had expected. Before I went into labor the first time I tried to mentally prepare myself by trying to imagine the worst pain I could think of. I guess I have a great imagination because labor was nowhere near what I thought it would be.

From djk42 ~ Each of my labors was very different in regards to pain. The first was more of a pain due to fear than severe physical pain, but having done my homework regarding after effects of medications, I was committed to a drug-free birth. The second was very painful (back labor) in which I was forced to stay flat on my back. My back hurt worse than anything else, and the only relief was when I could shift or sit up a bit while the nurses were not looking. The third labor I had was not painful at all with the exception of the last ten minutes of pushing the baby out when her head created the "ring of fire" pain.

I broke my ankle shortly after my third child was born, and it gave me a point of reference. The first and third labor (regular labors, one lasting less than four hours and one taking five days) were less painful than my broken ankle, but the (second birth) back labor was more painful. All three births were medication-free, so the pain was not dulled by drugs. For a normal birth, even a drawn out birth, I think that the pain was not as severe as most of the horror stories I have heard. I wish that more of my friends would attempt a drug free birth, because I think that they would see the pain is not as bad as they think it is; if you plan to take drugs, then you are putting the cart before the horse and trying to avoid pain without even being sure that there will be pain.

Having my wisdom teeth pulled (drug-free except for novocaine as I was nursing a newborn) was more painful than any of my births, and the pain lasted longer. I think that if I had known more about labor and birthing before my first child that even the pain I did have would be lessened. I hope other women educate themselves about the process and trust their own bodies enough to evaluate the actual pain in labor before requesting drugs instead of believing they will need them. Hopefully my comparisons will give them that courage.

From elizwill ~ I went into labor thinking there was no way I would need or ask for an epidural. I made it in hard labor from 10pm-11am with contractions every two minutes and although it was painful, I could do it. Then at 11am they broke my water and it all changed. I thought I was going to die from the pain and begged for an epidural. Well I had to get fluid, blood work, etc so I got an epidural about an hour later. I truly will never give birth again without an epidural and I will have one before they break my water next time. My hat is off to all the ladies that can do it without one but I won't even consider it.

From Isis ~ It was harder than I expected. I think sometimes women protect each other from how difficult it can be and at first I resented that no one was honest with me. But it was also by far the easiest pain to forget.

From Em's Mamma ~ Both of my births were unmedicated. The first was 3 hours long and the second was 7 hours long.

I was surprised at where I felt the pressure/discomfort. My contractions were felt in and around the lower part of my uterus, not at the top and not around to my back. I also was amazed at the pressure felt in the rectal area... even at 7-8 cm. I was aware that the pressure of needing to take a bowel movement may come when I could start pushing... but not 60-30 minutes before the pushing would start.

With my second birth, I was also overwhelmed with the idea that I wanted to push before I really felt the urge. I'm not sure what this was all about; I think maybe I wanted to just get it over with but my half powered attempts at pushing weren't doing anything but making me feel like I wasn't making progress. So I finally breathed through a few more contractions until I was 10cm and then the feeling of having a bowel movement right there on the table was one I had hoped not to be so aware of, but I was very aware. So many people had told me that you barely notice (I do know it's common, but was happy to be oblivious if I had done it). I was more than aware, and in mid pushing (which was the hardest work of all) I attempted to make a joke about how someone needed to crack a window .

Also, the afterbirth both times was still work for me. I had to push to help, and was glad to be done.

Both of my births felt more like a baby exploding (for lack of a better word) out of me, not like a baby slowly sliding out of me as I had anticipated. It was this feeling of "too fast" that made me feel so overwhelmed at the moment.

Ah yes, and then the after pains. I wasn't aware that after birth when your uterus is shrinking back down to its usual size, it contracts (more in subsequent births, and during breastfeeding) and these contractions can feel similar to bad period cramping and can last for days.

That being said, both of my births were very empowering experiences, and I have no regrets, thankfully.

From InsomniaMom ~ I had back labour with Daniel after being induced, and I was actually taken by surprise by the kind of pain I experienced. I was totally unprepared for what it actually felt like; for me, like my back and thighs were on fire. I remember feeling the first few contractions and thinking "this is it?" It wasn't so much painful as extremely uncomfortable, a feeling that made me want to crawl out of my own body to avoid.

I had an epidural out of fear (I started having contractions three minutes apart before I even started to dilate) and because the whole labour experience was so different than I had expected. The epidural only gave me partial relief on one side of my body, so I felt every contraction down my left leg and into the small of my back. If my abdomen hurt, I don't remember it. My right side (on which I was forced to lie to keep Daniel's heart rate steady) was numb.

I weaned myself off of the epidural to push, but ended up having a spinal in order to have a forceps delivery.

I won't have the epidural this time. I know more about the pain and how to deal with it than I did with Daniel, and I'm also more welcoming of it, if that seems believable. I also know I've experienced worse pain in my life and that I'm capable and strong and that I don't have to be as afraid as I was last time. I think your attitude toward pain goes a long way to determining how you deal with it.

From Lindaloo ~ My labour was lovely. Up to 5cm or so I breathed through the contractions, which were "intense", but manageable. Then I opted for an epidural, which was amazing. I watched the contractions on the screen but felt nothing more than a little pressure until the pushing stage. I could still move my legs and never felt over-anaesthetised. When the time to push came the pressure was incredibly strong, but not exactly painful. Each contraction was short enough for 2-3 pushes and therefore not hard to deal with.

I think the support you have during labour and the preparation with childbirth classes is invaluable for managing pain. The contractions (up to 5 cm) I was most relaxed during were perfectly manageable, whereas those I wasn't concentrating through were pretty tough.

I had done a lot of research into the possible side-effects of medication, and an epidural was definitely the safest route as it doesn't cross the placenta, unlike IV meds.

From Laurisa ~ WIth my first, the pain wasn't any worse than anything I had experienced before. I had an epidural because I had no sleep for over 24 hours. The pain wasn't awful but too much to allow me to sleep. I didn't like the epidural and I think I reacted badly. Months later my husband told me I went into shock after my son was born. Because of that I was determined to go med free with my daughter. Frankly I would do it again in a heart beat. It wasn't anymore pain than my worst period and unlike my period, I was only in pain for a few hours. Being able to birth instinctively, I was in less pain post partum and well worth any discomfort in childbirth.

From m ~ With my first I took the Bradley method and prepared for a natural childbirth. My labor was incredibly difficult and prolonged. My labor started on a Sunday night and my son wasn't born until Wednesday afternoon. When I say it started, I mean real honest-to-goodness contractions. I was unable to sleep through them and the longest break I got was about 20 minutes between contractions Monday morning. I checked into the hospital at 6 cm on Tuesday evening and by Wednesday morning I was 8 cm and delirious.

The pain was unimaginable and inescapable and I will never forget it. It was definitely way more than I could handle. I was imagining things and literally wanting to die. I'm sure lack of sleep over 3 days contributed to that. I received the epidural at 7 that morning and my son was finally born at 2 pm. No regrets getting the epidural considering the level of pain that I was in.

My second birth I planned on going without drugs and I did. The pain was nowhere near what I felt with my first. At the worst of contractions, I could still tolerate them, although I would definitely describe it as painful. I kept my facial muscles as relaxed as possible and did low pitched moaning and it worked like a charm. I found that when I kept my face relaxed, everything else relaxed too. It helped that it was a waterbirth too. There's nothing like water to help. It definitely took concentration, but the breaks between contractions gave me a chance to regroup. I don't remember pushing being painful at all. It was more of a relief. Each birth can be so different and the pain with each labor can be so different.

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