Natural Means of Pain Relief in Labor

Maybe you want a natural childbirth, but you’re not really into masochism. Great! There are lots of means of natural pain relief for labor. Granted, they won’t make you numb like an epidural would, but for many women, these coping methods might help alleviate some of the strong sensations that labor brings.

  • Breathing: Sometimes breathing is all you need to focus through a contraction. Breathing helps to soothe your body and can counter anxiety. Your breath might start as gentle inhales and exhales, but could move into stronger, faster patterns as the contractions become more intense. Each woman’s breathing patterns might be different, but the best thing is to breathe in whatever fashion is most calming to you.
  • Moving: Sometimes labor pains might be magnified if the mom or baby is in less than optimal positioning. For example, if you’e experiencing back labor, moving onto your hands and knees can drop the baby off of your tailbone and relieve some of the pressure in your lower back. Pain is your guide in this case. What is most comfortable for you is probably also most comfortable for the baby. Movement of the hips can help to shift the baby to a different position, as well as to continue to move the baby down the birth canal. This can be done by methods such as walking, slow dancing, or maybe using a birth ball. Finally, sometimes movement can help you to relax and cope through contractions, as it keeps you from tensing up your body.
  • Water: Being immersed in water can relieve a lot of pressure from contractions. Because the water bears your weight, it also allows you to move more freely and try different positions that might be less comfortable on land (such as squatting). A hot or cold shower can also serve as an excellent massage during labor.
  • Massage or Pressure: Some moms love a nice back or foot rub to relax during labor. Others prefer pressure on certain areas during a contraction. Firm counter pressure on the lower back can be wonderful for back labor, and I knew one mom who really wanted a strong hug through each of her contractions.
  • Hot or Cold Presses: Heat can be applied to different areas that need relaxation or pain relief during labor. A mom who is overheated might prefer a cool washcloth on her neck or forehead to make her more comfortable.
  • Relaxation Techniques: These can include any or all of the above. Some moms might also like to try visualizing a calm and peaceful scene to relax through labor. Other moms might find it helpful to imagine their contractions as waves of the sea, or to visualize each contraction as moving their baby down just a little further. Whatever relaxes you- be it breathing, bathing, singing, or whatever else- do it. It truly helps to keep you from tensing up during each contraction.
  • Vocalization: If you feel the urge to vocalize, feel free to do so. Some women like to hum or moan through contractions, and some like to grunt or use a low, grounded bellow through pushing. Sometimes a little vocalization makes it feel like you’re throwing the pain away from you and giving yourself the extra energy needed to make it through a push.
  • Mind Over Matter Techniques: It really does help to think positively about labor. The more frightened you are, the more tense you will be. The tenser you are, the harder your body has to work. The harder your body works, the more it hurts, and the more it hurts, the more scared you are, and on and on and on (Dr. Grantly Dick-Read’s Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle)… Try to remain calm by using some of the various methods mentioned here. Try to think about the pain in  other ways than, “AGGGHHH, MAKE IT STOP!” For example, Hypnobabies students rename contractions as “pressure waves,” and I think that probably contributes towards the mother feeling more at ease. Remember that each contraction is doing productive work to help you meet your baby. Perhaps even thinking of labor as a beautiful process rather than a harrowing emergency can help ease you through it gently.  
  • Emotional Support: Sometimes just having someone there telling you you’re doing great and to keep at it is enough to give you the strength to carry on and the peace of mind to continue calmly. This is where having a supportive partner, family member, or doula who is focused solely on you can really give you a wonderful boost during labor. Conversely, having someone there who is discouraging or rude can create enough anger and tension to make the physical experience considerably worse.
  • Creating a Comfortable Birthing Environment: It may sound silly, but creating a comfortable environment can also help you relax during the process. Some women enjoy candles, a darkened room, lots of pillows, pictures of loved ones, or some of their favorite music. Some might like sunlight through the window, or others might like to have a TV on to provide some distraction and background noise. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable is what you should use to create a pleasant birthing environment.

Here are a few short articles that have their own suggestions on how to ease labor pains through natural means:

Natural Labor Pain Management

Baby Centre- Natural Pain Relief in Labour

Natural Pain Relief Options for Labour

Pain in Childbirth (From Birthing Naturally, one of my favorite resource sites.)

And finally, for fun:

Any other suggestions, anyone?


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dac on February 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Those of us who are older wish we had had access to much of your information many years ago. :-]


  2. Love the video and all the ideas! 🙂


  3. I think mind over matter is key… I don’t like the word contraction… It make me think of something closing or getting smaller, like your pupils in response to light, it’s the opposite of dilate. I prefer wave or opening. I mean what sound better “shhh, she’s having a contraction right now” or “shhh, she’s opening right now”


    • So true! The word “contraction” itself never bothered me, but the way I thought about the sensation really made a difference. It was much better to think, “Here comes a good one!” than, “Oh man, that really hurts.” If I smiled and purposefully remembered to relax my face, open my hips, and breathe evenly, it made a BIG difference. Next time I think I’ll try “wave”- it does seem much more pleasant!


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