If you think about what pain is, the true necessity of pain to a human body, it is a signal to the owner of that body. An indication something needs to be done. If you put your hand too close to the stove, you will feel a painful burn telling you to move your hand. If you eat a contaminated food your stomach hurts as a warning to avoid that food again.
Labor pain operates on the same principle. Certain pains can tell you to move, let you know what to do or inform you of progress in the labor. In childbirth, pain that signals you to do something is sometimes called positive pain.
Even without a specific message you can understand, many times the discomfort of childbirth leads a woman to do things that are beneficial to her baby being born. Frequent position changes, keeping the bladder empty, swaying the hips, walking and leaning forward are all common among laboring mothers and can help the baby get into a good position.
You can labor more efficiently if you understand what the pain is telling you to do. Working with your body, instead of against it, helps your body and your baby’s get in proper alignment for the birth. While responding to your body’s cues is no guarantee your labor will be fast, you can be pretty sure you will not be doing something to lengthen labor. Here are some specific examples to help you understand the concept:
If you feel your contractions mostly in your back, this is a signal your baby is facing forward. Although some babies are born “face up,” most tend to rotate before they are born. Your body is telling you to help the baby move through walking and swaying, hip squeeze, lunges and labor dancing or any other activity that will help your baby fit through your pelvis.
Your body will use the same reflex that lets you know you need to have a bowel movement to tell you to “push” to help the uterus expel the baby. This may come as a small pressure or an overwhelming, involuntary urge. Either way, your body is telling you your baby is in position and needs your help to get out.
As your baby’s head emerges, you may feel a burning sensation as your skin stretches to accommodate the baby. This is a signal from your body to stop pushing and let the head ease out. By pushing, you can cause the head to move faster than the skin can stretch and tear the skin.
There are many other signals your body will give you during pregnancy and labor. By learning about the process of giving birth you can begin to understand the signals your body is giving you..