Giving birth

Giving birth, a very special and unique moment. Many women will always remember their birth, but it is also a very intense moment. How can you deal with the pain of contractions during childbirth?

Pain by giving birth

We can’t ignore it, giving birth hurts. Of course it differs per person how you experience this and there are ways to better deal with the contractions when you are giving birth. During contractions, the uterus contracts, the uterus is a muscle, and this contraction causes the baby’s head to press on the cervix. This pressure on the cervix causes the cervix to open. Ultimately, you want the cervix to open completely, then you are 10 centimeters dilated. Both the contraction of the uterus and the pressure on the cervix are what are painful during childbirth. For most women, it feels like severe menstrual cramps.

Relaxation helps to produce natural painkillers (endorphins) during childbirth, it also promotes the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that causes contractions. So if you manage to relax properly, you will hopefully continue to have regular contractions that provide more dilation and help the endorphins to make it more bearable.


One of the things that helps to relax is warmth and freedom of movement. These two things come together in a birthpool. In a birthpool, the dilation takes on average half an hour less, because of the weightlessness you can easily adopt a different position. Changing positions regularly also has a positive effect on the course of the delivery. The heat softens the perineum and you have a slightly less chance of tearing.

Breathing by giving birth

There are of course other ways to relax. It’s good to do breathing exercises and it really doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to take an extensive course for all different breathing techniques. The main thing is that you focus on breathing to stay calm. It doesn’t matter whether you really want to puff or just breathe slowly. The midwife can also support you in this. It can still be nice to prepare for breathing during childbirth. This way you are more familiar with focusing on this and it will go more naturally once you have contractions.


It can also be nice to be massaged by your (birth) partner. This ensures relaxation. By giving counter pressure you also relieve the pain of the contractions during childbirth. Another option is a TENS, which gives electrical stimuli to your back via stickers. In some hospitals there is a TENS available, otherwise you can also rent or buy it yourself.

Pain relief

It is also possible to get medicated pain relief during labour. You can choose this yourself and in some cases we can also give you advice. In Utrecht you can opt for laughing gas, epidural or remifentanyl during childbirth. As obstetricians, we can give laughing gas before an epidural or remifentanyl is transferred to the gynaecologist.

As midwives, we can give laughing gas and it is only possible in the hospital. You administer laughing gas yourself by inhaling it, it gives a somewhat stoned or drunk feeling. It makes you more relaxed and allows you to better deal with the contractions.

An epidural usually takes away all or most of the pain from contractions. You can usually get an epidural up to about 7 centimeters dilated. Because an epidural is so well anesthetized, it also ensures that you no longer have much strength in your legs. Because of this you have to stay in bed, you can of course still change position in bed. An epidural also has some risks, but it is a good form of pain relief for during childbirth. Read more about the risks of an epidural here (

Remifentanyl is a type of morphine-like substance that you receive through an IV. It takes the tops of the pain off the contraction, so you still feel the contraction. It gives a stoned or drunk feeling, similar to laughing gas but a bit stronger. Because you can get dizzy, you also have to stay in bed and you can no longer walk around.

More questions? Feel free to discuss the above methods with us during the consultation hour or call us during the telephone consultation hour.

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