Coping with Labour

by Maxine
Posted August 25 2010 02:34pm
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On this page you will find strategies that may help you cope while going through labour and delivery. The information has been split up with ideas both for the mother-to-be and the father (or partner). Read this alongside The Four Stages of Labour to understand the different stages and how to make them more comfortable for both of you.

What Should We Do in the Early Phase?


  • Have light, easily-digested snacks for energy – you won’t be fed in the hospital.
  • Drink fluids: water, juices, popsicles etc.
  • Take a walk – it helps with comfort; it helps labour progress; it’s a diversion.
  • Other comfort measures, such as shower, massage, rocking, paced breathing
  • Finish packing, make phone calls etc.
  • If labour begins during the night, and you are comfortable, try to sleep or at least rest – there’s a lot ahead!


  • Dad, stay close by.
  • Take Mom for a walk, if she wants.
  • Encourage changing positions.
  • Play a game with her, watch TV together.
  • Use comfort  and coping measures, such as touch, massage, support, reassurance, paced breathing
  • Use a cool or warm cloth – ask her preference – on Mom’s face and forehead.
  • Offer Mom easily-digested food and drinks, ice chips or mouthwash.
  • Put lip balm on her lips.
  • Help Mom take a shower or a bath.
  • Remind Mom to pee often.
  • Time her contractions.

What Should We Do in the Active Phase?


  • Changing positions can help with comfort and with labour progression.
  • Try to stay in a new position for at least two contractions, to give yourself time to adjust. If you’re still uncomfortable, change positions again.
  • Use positions that allow gravity to help the baby descend. e.g.: Lying flat on your back is NOT a good idea because it decreases the blood supply to your baby and it also creates ‘uphill’ work for labour, instead of allowing gravity to help.
  • Squatting or sitting on a toilet can open the pelvic outlet as much as 2 cm. This can make a big difference!
  • Empty your bladder – pee often.
  • Sip fluids.
  • Massage; heat; cold;
  • Start your paced breathing - whichever level feels comfortable.
  • Rest between contractions.
  • Take a bath or a shower –If your membranes have ruptured only showers would be allowed to prevent any possible risk of infection.  Use of water has been linked to decreased pain and increased coping with pain. Stay in water only up to one hour. The positive effects last up to 2 hours, then you can go back in water. Water shouldn’t be > 39°C.

Remember: The baby will come out!  


  • Continue to be supportive. Stay close and be responsive.
  • Encourage her – "You’re doing such a great job with this contraction."
  • Massage.
  • Help Mom to change position.
  • Help her to take a shower or bath.
  • Coach her paced breathing.
  • Offer sips of fluids, ice chips.
  • Remind Mom to empty her bladder.
  • Provide warm or cold packs (ask her preference).
  • DON’T criticize or question – "You just said you didn’t want ice"
  • DON’T personalize anything Mom says or does. She may act differently or be irritable. This is normal.
  • DO stretch tired muscles and rest when you can.
  • DO eat when you can.


Video Alert!
Learn more about coping with labour by watching these videos.
Walk Move & Change Position Have Continuous Support Everyday Miracles: A Celebration of Birth


What Should We Do in Transition?


  • Do what is most comfortable with regard to positions and paced breathing.
  • Try to focus on one contraction at a time.
  • Try to rest in between contractions, if you can.
  • Urge to push. Two ‘schools of thought’ around pushing when you get the urge to push:
      • 1. Listen to your body and start to push with guidance from and your caregivers.
      • 2. Pushing before you’re fully dilated may slow labour by causing swelling of the cervix. Pant, or pant-pant-blow to stall pushing.
  • Urge to push sometimes is absent. Your care providers will provide good coaching as to when it’s time to push.




  • Mom will need your help to focus in order to get through this tough stage. This may mean having her look right into your face.Mom may not feel like talking so use her cues for comfort and coping needs.
  • Encourage her.
  • Provide socks and blankets for warmth, if she’s cold.
  • Remind her re paced breathing and do it with her – i.e. pant-blow.
  • Advocate for her around issues that arise.

What Should We Do in Second Stage?


  • Tell caregiver when you have urge to push

Effective Pushing:

  • Ensures maximum amount of oxygen for you and your baby.
  • Allows the tissues of your perineum to gradually stretch.
  • Bend your elbows and grip your legs or the squatting bar with your hands. 
  • Ease your chin towards your chest and open your mouth slightly.
  • Relax your pelvic muscles.
  • Unless there’s a reason to quickly birth the baby, bring the baby down with 3 -5 short pushes per contraction:
    • Gives your tissues a chance to stretch gradually, in order to avoid or minimize tearing.
    • Easier on the baby.
  • Avoid ‘purple pushing’ – avoid holding your breath longer than five seconds.
  • Grunting can be effective as it helps to push the diaphragm against the top of the uterus.– Screaming is not (interferes with pushing).
  • Rest/relax between contractions.


Video Alert!
Get upright and follow your urges to push. This can help the delivery progress and may result in a faster birth.
Watch this video to learn more



  • Mom may need your help to position herself for pushing. 
  • Support Mom
  • Encouragement and feedback as to the progress - ‘Her head is almost out!’
  • Guide her with breathing and pushing.
  • Help to make her comfortable between contractions
  • Advocate where necessary – i.e. warm compresses and perineal massage to avoid/minimize tearing; avoiding  episiotomy.


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Vitamin K

by Guest
Posted August 25 2010 04:20pm
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Soon after birth, your baby will be given a needle with Vitamin K to prevent bleeding problems. This injection is necessary, as newborns are unable to produce vitamin K until 8 days after birth.

The procedure will be done 2 to 6 hours following birth. Although the intramuscular injection is the most effective, it is also invasive and can cause your baby pain.

Vitamin K can also be given to your baby by mouth. This approach is not generally recommended, because it is less effective in preventing your baby from extensive bleeding from cuts, incisions or disease.

Once this procedure is done, comfort your baby by allowing them to suck or nurse at the breast; these help your baby cope with the pain from this injection.

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What are Narcotic Analgesics (Pain Killers)?

by Maxine
Posted August 25 2010 02:55pm
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These are drugs such as Morphine, Demerol, and Fentanyl that are given to you by a needle (injection) in your buttocks or thigh.

It may take about 10-20 minutes before you will feel any effect and the relief lasts about 1-2 hours. These are usually given during the active phase of labour when the neck of the cervix is opening between 4-7 cm.

There are benefits to this type of pain relief measure. The benefits include taking the edge off the pain which allows you to relax between contractions. If you are more relaxed your labour may progress faster.  Any drug or measure along with its benefits may also have some disadvantages. 

The disadvantages of this measure include

For Mom:

  • May cause nausea, vomiting
  • May cause dizziness, or high feeling in mom
  • Can lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • May cause drowsiness
  • Can delay the emptying of food from Mom’s stomach
  • May slow labour

For Baby:

  • Can cause changes in baby’s heart rate
  • May alter baby’s breathing immediately following birth
  • May cause poor sucking following birth 
  • Can relax baby’s muscle tone (hypotonia)-for a short period of time this makes baby look like a rag doll
  • May cause lethargy in baby
  • May lower baby’s APGAR scores.
  • Can cause fluctuations in baby’s temperature 
  • A drug that is a narcotic antagonist (i.e., Narcan, Trexcan) can be given to baby to reverse the side effects.

Talk to your health care provider before you go into labour about the options for pain relief and any concerns that you have about them. 


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Antibiotic Eye Ointment

by Guest
Posted August 25 2010 04:21pm
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As soon as possible after birth, an antibiotic ointment will be placed in your baby’s eyes. This ointment (tetracycline or erythromycin) is used as a precaution against two types of vaginal diseases (chlamydia and gonorrhea), which may be transmitted to your baby’s eyes while passing through the vagina. The eyedrops sometimes change your baby’s vision temporarily, and some babies keep their eyes closed for short periods after the application of this ointment.

While the procedure is usually done right after your baby is born, it can be delayed for up to 2 hours. That way, parents can make eye contact and bond with their babies. In some Canadian institutions, parents may sign a form indicating that they don’t want this procedure done on their child.

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