The miracle of life. When we are born, it can be a harrowing start. During childbirth, your body will experience some of the most painful moments of your life. And sadly, you could die. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

For most of human history, pregnancy and childbirth had been risky for mothers and their babies. Estimates say that in the 19th century, for every 100,000 births, up to 1,000 women died. And although healthcare has improved considerably since then, in 2015, more than 300,000 women died worldwide from birth-related causes. That’s about 830 women every day. Sadly, 66% of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. They were mainly due to a lack of adequate medical care.

And even if you have access to good healthcare, when the time to give birth arrives, your body will experience some extreme changes, many of them very painful. Should you listen to pregnancy cravings?

How can you reduce the pain of childbirth? Does all that pain have a purpose?

Step 1: Team Up

The process begins. You are having contractions, and your water has broken. The uterus muscles will begin to contract, and the cervix will dilate from six to 10 cm (2.3-4 in). Now, you need to go to the hospital or a birthing center. If you’re going to give birth at home, call the midwife who will assist you.

The contractions will cause severe pain in your abdomen, groin, and back. Your pelvic bones will even separate from each other. Although each woman experiences labor in a unique way, the consensus is that it is one of the most severe pains you can experience. So, team up with your medical staff to find the best way to cope with pain. There are several safe and effective methods available to help you.

Step 2: Hit The Gym

The severe contractions and muscle cramps can last for up to eight hours in some women. They will help you position your body so your baby can be born. But it won’t be a polite request. And bringing your baby into the world could mean hours of pushing with tremendous effort.

Being physically prepared could help you deal better with the pain and tiredness, and it may even reduce the chance of complications. Surprisingly, fitness experts like Brooke Cates say that there aren’t many exercises that should be removed from your regular fitness regime, even if you’re a gym beast. And women who practice yoga report having less pain during childbirth. But remember, you always need to have your doc’s clearance.

Step 3: Play some tunes

A study analyzed about 400 new moms who gave birth. Half of them had regular care during the birth, and the other half had a musical intervention during the labor. The music-assisted group showed significant improvement in coping with pain and managing their anxiety. So gather your favorite tunes, and get prepared with an upbeat playlist. You may want to have a lot of tunes ready, since you never know how long it’ll take to give birth.

Step 4: Don’t always trust your cravings

Many people think that pregnancy cravings are due to hormone changes, or they’re a way that the body demands the nutrients it needs to keep both the mom and the baby healthy. But some studies have analyzed the nutrients in the most commonly craved foods. They found that those foods are not good sources of nutrition, and they may lead to excessive weight gain. That can increase the chance of further complications.

Other studies have found that when women gain excess weight during pregnancy, there might be an emotional reason for their cravings. They could be a way for other people to show that they understand the challenges of pregnancy and they’re there to help and support you. So, let them spoil you a bit, but not too much.

Step 5: Respect the Baby Blues

The physical and emotional changes after childbirth sometimes cause postpartum depression. A dramatic drop in hormones, combined with too little sleep and extreme tiredness, can trigger depression and anxiety. In severe cases, they may even lead to suicide. Sadly, since 2006, maternal suicides have increased from 0.2 to 0.6% in the U.S. So, if you have symptoms of depression, don’t underestimate them. Consult your doc.

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