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Dealing With Pain During Childbirth

If you're like most women, the pain of labor and delivery is one of the things that worries you about having a baby. This is certainly understandable, because for most women, labor is painful.

Even though it is possible to have labor with relatively little pain, your best bet is to prepare yourself for the idea of pain during labor and delivery and to plan some strategies for coping with it. Alleviating your anxiety about pain is one of the best ways to ensure that you'll be able to deal with it when the time comes.

Pain During Labor and Delivery
Pain during labor is caused primarily by uterine muscle contractions and somewhat by pressure on the cervix. This pain manifests itself as cramping in the abdomen, groin, and back, as well as a tired, achy feeling all over. Some women experience pain in their sides or thighs as well.

Other causes of pain during labor include pressure on the bladder and bowels by the baby's head and the stretching of the birth canal and vagina.

Although labor is often thought of as one of the more painful events in human experience, it ranges widely from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. Women experience labor pain differently - for some, it resembles menstrual cramps; for others, severe pressure; and for others, extremely strong waves that feel like diarrheal cramps. In addition, first-time mothers are more likely to give their pain a higher rating than women who've had babies before.

The intensity of labor pain isn't always the determining factor that drives women to seek pain management - often it's the repetitive nature and length of time the pain persists with each contraction.

Preparing for Pain
There are a variety of ways to reduce pain during labor, some of which you can start doing before or during your pregnancy.

Regular and reasonable exercise (unless your health care provider recommends against it) can help strengthen your muscles and prepare your body for the stress of labor. Exercise can also increase your endurance, which will come in handy if you have a long labor. The important thing to remember with any exercise is not to overdo it - and this is especially true if you're pregnant. Talk to your health care provider about what he or she considers to be a safe regimen, given your pre-pregnancy fitness level and the history of your pregnancy.
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