The pains will become more regular and last for longer as labour progresses. Between contractions, you will have no pain. So, if you are getting a contraction every seven minutes, lasting 45 seconds, then for over six minutes you will be pain free! The advice for coping with contractions at home is:
Keep active – movement is great for helping with pain and for encouraging labour. Stay upright during the contraction and try swaying and rocking your pelvis as the contraction reaches the peak. Sitting and swaying on an inflated gym ball is also a great way of staying active.
Use of warm water – in the early stages of labour, many women find a warm bath a great way to relax and to cope with the contractions. Standing in a warm shower with the water directed at your lower back is also helpful.
Breathing – there is no magic formula to describe breathing in labour. The advice is to take slow, easy breaths. Some women tend to hold their breath during a contraction while others breathe too fast. It is always better to breathe slowly – in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Music and visualisation – the use of calm, quiet music is great for keeping you relaxed. Imagine holding your new baby and how happy you’ll feel as your baby is placed into your arms for the first time. Try to imagine your baby’s face and the feel of their skin. Visualisation (imagining) is great for reminding you of the end point of this journey.
Endorphins – your body is designed to cope with labour. As your labour starts, your body produces natural pain relievers called endorphins. These morphine-like substances flood through your system and allow your body to cope with the increasing frequency and strength of contractions as your labour progresses.
TENS machine – the ‘transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator’ or TENS machine works by delivering small electrical pulses through the skin via electrodes placed on your back. The TENS machine consists of four pads that are placed on your back and a small hand-held battery-operated device. The electrical pulses are thought to ‘block’ pain messages reaching the brain and stimulate the body’s naturally occurring painkillers – the endorphins mentioned above. Women using TENS often report less pain.
TENS machines work best if used early in labour. TENS machines can be rented prior to labour and can be used at home and left on when coming into hospital. If you are considering hiring a TENS machine, you should contact your local supplier for further information. It is a good idea to become familiar with the instructions for placing the pads on your back and how to work the machine before the big day.