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The Pregnant Athlete Series: Birth and Pain Management

It is finally time to get your baby out. By the end of the third trimester you are going to be more than ready to have your baby in your arms and not in your belly anymore. I want you to use one mantra above everything else. “As long as my baby and myself are healthy”. This mantra is going to serve you well in the chaos that happens when birthing a baby.

Some women have made birth plans and visualized exactly how they want their birth to go. That is amazing and a wonderful exercise I encourage everyone to do. Just be ok and know that your birth plan is most likely going to be thrown out the window. I did not have a set birth plan, I had events and goals in mind for my birthing process. None of them happened and I ended up in labour for 36 hours and in a 2.5 hour C-section with IV Ab and hemorrhaging. I did have an elective C-section and I know that was hard to come to terms with. I went through months of prep and visualizations. I did all the midwife appointments, pelvic physiotherapist appointments, meditations and epi-no exercises. The result was the last case scenario I wanted. At the end of the day I have a happy thriving little boy, and it didn’t matter how he came into the world. This mentality happened a few months after the traumatic delivery. I will be talking about the 4th trimester in my next blog post, and will give advice about healing on a physical, mental/emotional and spiritual level.

Athletes tend to have a wonderful mentality during labour. The “no pain no gain” mentality really helps to focus and persevere through hours of pushing. Knowing you are going to get through this, and focusing on those deep belly breaths are going to be the key to dilating and pushing through the pain.

We should talk about pain here. There are numerous different pain management types: Getting in the a warm water bath, Pressure on the pelvis, Movement, Deep breathing, Tens Machine, Laughing Gas and an epidural.

Let’s start with getting into a warm bath. This is an option if you water hasn’t broken. The warm water is soothing and helps to relax the intense contractions as you dilate. This is a great place to start your pain management during labour. Walking around will also help you dilate and get out your nervous energy. Dancing has become and internet sensation and has lots of research on it for pain during labour and stimulating labour. Bouncing on a yoga ball is another form of movement that helps you relax and uses gravity to bring the baby downwards. I loved being on the yoga ball and having my husband push with very firm pressure on my pelvis during an active contraction. It seemed to be the best form of pain management in my case.

Deep breathing is always going to be encouraged through an active contraction. It will help you open and stop tensing your body. When you tense your body you are fighting against dilation, and this will prolong your labour. Put on some meditative music and focus on your breath. Just keep telling yourself to open like a flower and visualize it. It does really help.

Tens machine can he attached to your back or belly (wherever you are experiencing labour pains). This will significantly decrease pain. Make sure to bring one with you, or ask your midwife/Obgyn to have one available for you during your birth. I highly recommend this method of pain management. The laughing gas is good. You have to pace yourself and take deep breaths. It will minimize the pain for a little bit, and it will not harm the baby. It is a great additive to your pain management regime. You can use all of these techniques together and progress. You can do multiple at the same time. Just make sure you talk to the people who are helping to deliver your baby and get the comfort that you need.

Some people who can’t relax will be suggested to have an epidural. This is typically a safe option. Keep in mind that an epidural too early can prolong labour by slowing down your dilation. If you want an epidural try and last to about 5-6 cm before you get one. If your body can’t relax and isn’t dilating an epidural maybe a good option. It does allow you to rest and take away the pain before having to push. Don’t rule an epidural out if you feel you need one. You will know if you want one when you go into labour. Remember your birth plan is going to have to be flexible.

Most women will be pushing for an average of 3 hours. So remember you have to save energy to push. No matter what your birth plan is, or your pain management plan, remember healthy baby and healthy mama. Everything in between will become a blur, I promise!

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