When we think of pain relief in labor, an epidural is usually the first thing that comes to mind. But not every laboring mom wants to have an epidural, and even those who do will spend at least part of their time in labor without it. So how can you labor without any medical pain relief? By using these resources, which are available no matter where you are laboring:
The breath is one of your two greatest assets in labor (the other being mobility). When your breathing is slow, long and steady, it helps you stay calm, focused and relaxed. It allows most of your body to relax so that the parts of your body that are needed specifically for labor – such as the uterus – have all the energy they need to do their work. Vocalizing with hummmmmm, or aaahhhhh or ooohhhhh on the exhale vibrates the chest and helps you stay present in your “labor zone,” while also helping the intense energy of the contractions to move through you.
Being able to move around is the second of your two greatest assets (the breath is the other). Moving and changing positions in labor is vital to helping a baby get into a good position for birth. This short video shows women being supported in several positions, including standing, on a birth ball, and on all fours. Other positions include lunging and squatting. Be sure to include mini movements, like rocking, swaying, and making figure eights with your hips. When medication is introduced, such as an epidural or an induction, a laboring woman loses most of her mobility and must stay either on or close to the bed for continuous fetal monitoring.
A hot shower or tub (NOT a spa-type tub – those are much too hot) that’s at around 90-degrees can feel very soothing during labor. Try sitting on a stool in the shower while your labor support person aims the shower head at your lower back during contractions. If you prefer the tub, try getting onto your knees and using the side of the tub for support. In either case, the water has a soothing and calming effect.
Gently stroking a laboring mom’s hair, cheeks, arms or legs can help her focus on those sensations rather than the sensations of her contractions. Acupressure can also provide relief. This New Zealand acupuncturist has directions and videos for where to massage and for how long.
Deep massage during contractions can help the reduce the sensation of pain from the contraction. You can use your hands, knuckles, and elbows, plus tools such as small “knobby” massagers, or even foam pool “noodles” – they can be cut to about 14-inches long and make a great back massager. Hand and foot massaging can also relieve pain.
Sometimes direct heat can ease the pain of contractions. You can use a heating pad, or a pack that can be heated in a microwave. Simply hold them in place with a long scarf, towel or sheet.
Your chances of having a baby without pain medications or any other interventions if you follow the Four Keys to a Natural Birth. Trust that your body can do what it already knows intuitively, and trust that in the unlikely event an intervention is needed, the help is available.