Strategies for getting through labor

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No one will tell you that labor is going to be easy. Labor means work, after all. But, there is plenty you can do ahead of time to prepare for labor.

One of the best ways to prepare is to take a childbirth class to learn what to expect in labor. You will also learn how to breathe, visualize, and use your labor coach to help you. Having a plan and knowing ways to manage pain will help you feel more relaxed and in control when the day arrives.

Here are a few ideas that may be helpful.

At Home

When labor first begins, contact your health care provider. Start out by staying home as long as you can. 

  • You can use the time to take a shower or warm bath and pack your bag if you haven’t packed yet.
  • Walk around the house, or sit in your baby’s room until it is time to go to the hospital.

At the Hospital

Make it a peaceful place for giving birth.

  • It may be soothing to dim the lights in your room.
  • Listen to music that comforts you.
  • Keep pictures or comfort items close by where you can see or touch them.
  • Ask your nurse for extra pillows or blankets to stay comfortable.

Keep your mind busy.

  • Bring books, photo albums, games, or other things that will help distract you during early labor. You can also watch TV to keep your mind busy.
  • Visualize, or see things in your mind the way you would like them to be. You can visualize that your pain goes away. Or you can visualize your baby in your arms to help you stay focused on your goal.
  • Meditate or pray.

Get as comfortable as you can.

  • Move around, changing positions often. Sitting, squatting, rocking, leaning on the wall, or walking up and down the hallway can help.
  • Take warm baths or showers in your hospital room.
  • If heat doesn’t feel good, place cool washcloths on your forehead and lower back.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse for a birthing ball -- a big ball you can sit on that will roll under your legs and hips for gentle movement.
  • Don't be afraid to make noise. It is okay to moan, groan, or cry out. Some studies suggest that using your voice goes a long way in helping you deal with pain.
  • Use your labor coach. Tell your partner what they can do to help you go through labor. Your coach can give you back massages, keep you distracted, or just cheer you on.
  • Some women try “hynpobirthing” -- being under hypnosis while giving birth. Ask your doctor or nurse for more details about hynpobirthing.

Remember, you’re in charge! 

Speak up. Talk to your partner, your doctor, and nurses. Tell them how they can help you get through your labor. 

It’s okay to change your mind about pain management if your plans before labor were different. Some women find that they need more help with managing their pain when labor arrives. Remember that you have the option to get pain medicine or a pain block if you need it. 


Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/23/2012
  • Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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