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They don't call it labor for nothing. Having a baby is hard work, and part of that work is getting through the pain. But don't panic. There are more ways than ever to manage that pain, and you don't have to choose just one. "The trick is to have as many tools in your bag as possible," says Kim Hildebrand Cardoso, a certified nurse-midwife in Berkeley, California, and a mother of two. "You don't know what's going to work until you're in it, and what helps a woman at one point can change five minutes later." That's why it's important to keep an open mind and do your research. So take a deep breath (good practice for later) and prepare to enter the wide world of pain management.
"The most important thing you can relax during labor is your mind," says Stacey Rees, a certified nurse-midwife at Clementine Midwifery, in Brooklyn, New York. The idea is simple -- when you fear pain, you tense up, which makes the pain worse, which makes you tense up more. Cardoso had back labor for 21 hours with her first baby and says her saving grace was enjoying the time between contractions. "I tried to stay in the moment and not spend the precious pain-free minutes stressing about the pain I just had and what was to come. The result was ecstasy -- I felt like I was on really good mind-altering drugs."
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