How you will cope with labor

How you will cope with labor

If you've not been in labor before, it can be hard to imagine what you will do to cope with the contractions. Most pregnant people find it best to cope with labor the way they deal with other stress and physical discomfort.

You and your partner should talk about the following:

  • Do you want to be alone or do you want someone near you?
  • Do you want to talk about it or keep it to yourself?
  • Do you like to be still or move around?
  • Do you like it quiet or do you like to make noise?
  • What does your partner do to make you feel better?
  • What does your partner not do?

Ice cube test

You can find out more about your coping style by holding ice. Holding an ice cube does not feel like a contraction. However, the things you do to cope with the discomfort are the things you'll likely do in labor.

Here's how to do the test:

  • Hold an ice cube in your hand for one minute. Keep it in the same hand the whole time.
  • Have your partner time the minute.
  • Your partner should just watch what you do unless you request specific help.
  • Try to hold the ice for the full minute. If you can't, hold it for as long as you can.
  • If the ice doesn't feel uncomfortable, try putting it on the inside of your wrist.
  • You can do anything you want during that minute to help you cope with the discomfort.
  • After the minute is up, put down the ice. You or your partner can warm your hand.
  • Talk about what you did to cope.

Here is what your coping style means:

  • If you started doing specific breathing, you are likely to find that kind of breathing helpful in labor.
  • If you distracted yourself in some other way, focusing your attention works. You may want to bring something special to focus on like a picture or small object. Or, you can use something that is in the room like the curtains or a corner of a cabinet.
  • If you kept moving your arm or hand, moving around in labor is likely to be important. Walking and rocking may be very effective for you.
  • If you started making sounds, you are likely to make sounds in labor. It is important for others to know that making sounds is part of your coping.
  • If you wanted your partner to do something, you are likely to want your partner to be actively engaged during labor.
  • If you wanted your partner to remain silent and not touch you, your partner will be important in protecting the silence and space you need in order to cope.

You can do the ice cube test a few times to try specific techniques. However, you don't have to practice for labor using "ice cube contractions."

When you write your birth plan, you may want to include something about your coping style.

Related resources

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, eighth edition, ob-ah-90026
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/06/2021