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Can You Sleep Through Labor? The Answer Might Surprise You

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If you've ever been in labor, then it's hard to imagine anyone sleeping through the contractions. For most, the intensity of labor pains is way too intense to even think about pressing the snooze button. But is it possible? Can you sleep through labor?

As it turns out, the answer depends on a variety of factors, including which phase of labor a woman is experiencing at the time.

"It is possible to sleep through labor, most commonly early labor," Catherine Sewell, M.D., Chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Joseph Medical Center tells Romper. However, most women who are able to sleep through their early labor do so with pain intervention medication.

"During active labor, if you have an epidural for pain control, you are also able to sleep," Dr. Sewell explains, adding that laboring patients are sometimes given IV medications for "therapeutic rest" (including Stadol, morphine, and Dilaudid).

However, women who labor naturally may find it very difficult (or impossible) to sleep through their contractions. Dr. Kameelah Phillips, M.D., an OB/GYN in New York City, tells Romper that "most women do not sleep through labor if they have no pain management."

As a mom who labored and delivered without pain intervention, I can say from personal experience that for me, the labor pains were far too strong to sleep through (unfortunately). If you're looking for a more relaxing labor experience, though, be sure to talk to your doctor about pain management medications to see what's right for you.

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When it comes to sleeping through the delivery period, however, experts say that wouldn't be the best idea.

"In the distant past, until the middle of this century, women were often given anesthetics for the birth," Dr. Sewell says, "and most had an operative vaginal delivery, using forceps, as they were unable to push." This strategy could cause risk to the baby, which is why it went out of style.

At least there are options that make resting during labor safe for both mom and baby. On the contrary, as Dr. Phillips says, labor is "one of the most physically taxing experiences a woman can have," so resting before having to push can help her recharge and be ready for delivery. Dr. Sewell agrees: "It is not bad or dangerous to sleep through labor. In fact, if your labor is long, rest periods throughout are beneficial."

If you're hoping to relax through the discomfort of labor, Dr. Sewell suggests doing things like "taking a warm shower, eating light-carbohydrate meals, dimming the lights, listening to soothing music." Some women are able to sleep through their early labor because they begin laboring in the evening.

When I went into labor with my son, I remember waking up early in the morning with feelings of discomfort and a sensation of cramping. While taking a long, warm shower helped, the pain continued to intensify and eventually I went to the hospital. My son was born two hours later. While I wasn't able to sleep through my labor, you might have the option. Be sure to talk to your doctor or doula so you can create the best birth plan for you.

Experts:

Catherine Sewell, M.D., Chief of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Joseph Medical Center

Dr. Kameelah Phillips, M.D., OB/GYN in New York City