How to manage pain during childbirth?

MotherStories takes you behind the scenes of birth at the Clinique Générale-Beaulieu. Throughout the year, you will discover our interviews highlighting the different professionals involved in childbirth and the role of each one before, during, and after the birth. Today, discover more about the role of a nurse assistant, Maëva Griot. This role is often forgotten about however it is essential in the day-to-day of a maternity ward.

Blandine, can you introduce yourself in a few words?
I am 37 years old and come from the south of France. I have been working as a midwife for 15 years. I joined the team at the Clinique Générale-Beaulieu in 2012 and was appointed head of the maternity ward 4 years ago. I have an 8-year-old child called Apollin.

What is the main thing that mothers-to-be fear about giving birth?
Pain! Faced with the unknown of childbirth, they want to know how to manage labor and contractions.

How should one prepare the fear of the big day during pregnancy?
By taking part in childbirth preparation classes, which generally take place 6 to 8 weeks before the due date. The Clinique Générale-Beaulieu offers classic birth preparation, in the swimming pool and in hypnosis. We also offer visits of the maternity ward and a prenatal interview to future mothers with the aim of informing, reassuring, and breaking down the perception that many have of childbirth.

Is it useful to make a birth plan?
The birth plan is a very useful and precious document that expresses the wishes of the future parents in writing which they give us when they arrive at the maternity unit. We do our utmost to respect these wishes, within the limits of safety and feasibility.

Download the MotherStories template to fill in quietly with your partner before discussing it with your midwife or the team at your chosen birthplace.

What causes pain during childbirth?
It is caused by contractions of the uterus, but also by pressure on the cervix, the abdomen and the back. The pain tolerance threshold is different from one woman to another and varies according to the context and environment, such as the time of day or night, whether or not the water has broken, the feeling of the contractions, etc.

How would you define a contraction?
First of all, it is important to know that a contraction lasts a maximum of 1 minute and that it is not a continuous pain like, for example, like a toothache. In hypnosis, we compare the contraction to a wave that comes and goes. The contraction/wave goes up, we ride the top of the wave and the contraction/wave goes down. What you have to learn to manage is the peak of the pain which lasts between 10 and 15 seconds.

What techniques are available to expectant mothers to manage pain during labour and delivery?
In the maternity ward, we do not really talk about “techniques” for managing pain but rather about providing the patient with overall psychological and physical support. During labour, we first of all welcome the couple and their requests and we adapt ourselves. We create a calm and warm atmosphere with music and dimmed lighting.

We offer them free mobilisation for more comfort, the balloon to find a comfortable position and the warm bath which has a very relaxing and vasodilatory effect. Acupressure points and massages can help. This is often done by the partner. They actively help the mother-to-be with her breathing and reassure her. Their support is invaluable.

At a certain stage of the birth, we can also offer the use of MEOPA, the inhalation of nitrous oxide, a relaxing gas just at the moment of the contraction when it is strongest. At any time, the patient can have an epidural if she wishes.

What about hypnosis?
Yes of course! The aim of hypnosis is to create a state of hypno-relaxation in the patient and to enable her, through positive suggestions and visualisations, to turn her mind away from the pain. We listen to the patient’s needs and wishes in order to create a tailor-made “toolbox” that will serve as a guide and reference.

If the mother-to-be chooses hypnosis as a birth method, she will attend three 1-hour classes during her pregnancy. These sessions can be recorded so that she can learn the technique and manage herself, in self-hypnosis, on the D-day.

What are the visualisations used during childbirth?
There are many! The mother-to-be can, for example, imagine a contraction bag that empties as the birth progresses: “and one less contraction that brings me even closer to my love baby” or visualise the descent of the baby into her pelvis like a slide. If it is a caesarean section, she can imagine a Lotus flower opening to welcome her baby. If the pain is very strong, I ask the patient to move all the pain of the contraction into her hand by dissociating it from her uterus. Depending on each situation and each person, the visualisations will be different but it is important to be prepared beforehand.

Can you tell us about the epidural?
It remains the most widely used pain relief technique and is very effective, particularly during the cervical dilation phase. We have anaesthetists on call 24 hours a day, ready to assist at any time. It is always the patient who is the actor of her delivery. She is the one who formulates her wish to have one or not and this at any moment of the delivery, almost until complete dilation (depending on the medical and psychological context). The midwife is always there to accompany, inform and guide the patient in the progress of labour. It is important to know that the epidural is more effective if it is applied before the end of dilation.

Do you have memory of a birth that you would like to share?
I accompanied a patient in hypnosis in preparation for birth who was very, very afraid of childbirth. Hypnosis not only allowed her to have a natural and rapid birth but also to free herself from certain beliefs/blocks as a woman and mother. It was very moving.

If you would like to discover the maternity ward of the Clinique Générale-Beaulieu and meet their wonderful team, book a visit by calling directly +41 22 839 57 07.

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