Pain management for labour
When most people think of labour and birth, they think of pain. The media has portrayed labouring women screaming in agony and fearfully resisting the next contraction. Often this is our only glimpse into what labour must be like. In many other cultures and at different times in history, women had the opportunity to witness the miracle of birth first hand, often being present at a sister, aunt, or neighbour giving birth. However, our current culture has become so isolated and independent that it is a rare occasion to witness someone else's birth. Perhaps you have had the opportunity to watch an animal give birth. There is some obvious discomfort but generally it is a quiet, gentle, loving event. Why as humans are we so different from animals in nature and how do we become more like them, gently surrendering to the miracle of life without pain?
The importance of Qi
One of the foundations on which traditional Chinese Medicine is based on is the free flowing Qi or vital energy. Everything starts from Qi. Qi flows through everything breathing life into anything it touches. Although it cannot be seen, it affects everything in the universe, in nature, and in our body. This vital energy is the electricity of the body. Just as electricity can become light, heat and movement, Qi in the body can become digestion, thought, emotions etc., depending on the organ it is flowing through. The energy flows through 20 channels keeping a person's spiritual, mental, and physical health in balance. When this balance is disrupted then illness, disease, and/or pain will follow.
In essence, the Chinese believe that any kind of pain represents an obstruction in the normal flow of Qi - this includes the pain felt during the birthing process. Pain during labour can be reduced or eliminated if we restore the flow of Qi. We can manage the pain of labour through emotions, proper nourishment, breathing, and acupressure.
Most women experience some anxiety, fear, or excitement when they think about labor and of motherhood. However, if any of these emotions are excessive - ie. consuming your every thought, or affecting your physical well being, manifesting as heart palpation, insomnia, digestive disturbances etc. - the emotion must be identified and addressed. Excessive emotions cause the body to tighten, preventing labor from moving forward, causing pain and discomfort.
Food and Nourishment
The Qi must be flowing, but you must have Qi in order for it to flow. Food is the main source of your energy; if you don't eat and drink during labor, you will feel tired and weak. This deficiency of energy will result in stagnation causing pain. Be sure to think of foods that are easy to digest and enjoyable to eat during labour. Eat regularly and eat often.
Breathing is the best way to keep your Qi flowing. When we are scared and nervous, we breathe shallowly and often hold our breath. The first sign that we are not breathing deeply is the neck and shoulders are up around our ears. This is where partners and support people can gently remind you to drop your shoulders and breathe into your belly. Allow your belly to rise and fall at a natural and regular pace.
Acupressure is the application of direct pressure to acupoints that stimulate the flow of energy. It is a safe and effective birthing tool to help manage pain. It has been studied by the medical community, and results show that there is less anxiety with less pain during labor. It is most effective if the support people use it from the onset of labour and hold each point with firm pressure during each contraction. There are a number of effective points for pain management, as labor changes the points will change as well. Acupressure is easy and fun to learn. Find a qualified acupuncturist who focuses on pregnancy care to teach you these effective techniques.
Raeghan Siemens, B.Sc. DTCM, R.Ac. After receiving her B.Sc from the University of Alberta, Raeghan studied Chinese Medicine and Oriental Medicine. Compelled by Chinese medicine’s 2,000-year-old history of treating woman’s reproductive disorders, Raeghan treats all stages of women’s reproductive wellness, from enhancing fertility, through pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Raeghan practices at Acubalance Wellness Centre, and by working collaboratively with other health caregivers such as physicians, midwives and doulas. Raeghan is able to provide the most comprehensive and effective care for her clients. Visit www.acubalance.ca or call 604-678-8600 for more information.