If you’re preparing to give birth for the first time—or are pregnant again—the weird and wonderful world of labour can seem strange and downright scary! The movies paint an often unrealistic picture of labour and birth.
Check out our video about 11 great methods to manage pain during labour!
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The panicked rush to the hospital. The woman laying on her back, screaming for an epidural. It’s enough to put anybody off.
In reality, particularly for first-time mums, labour can be a slow process. You can spend hours–sometimes days–in early labour before your beautiful baby makes his or her grand arrival. It’s certainly not easy giving birth, but it doesn’t have to be as excruciating as some of those horror stories you’re bombarded with from family, friends and strangers make it out to be. There are lots of pain relief options that don’t involve drugs, being strapped to a monitor and laying immobile on your back.
Here are a few natural pain relief techniques you may wish to try during labour:
If you’ve ever had a massage, you’ll know how wonderfully relaxing it is and how it can help alleviate sore points on your body. Massage during labour is no exception. Firm pressure applied to the lower back during contractions releases endorphins, or “feel-good” hormones, making each contraction much more bearable. This is a particularly effective pain reliever if your baby is in a posterior position, or back-to-back1.
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine is a small, portable device that sends out pulses of electrical energy via sticky pads attached to specific points on your back. The great thing about TENS is that you’re in control of the strength and frequency of the electrical pulses so you can turn up the dial during the strongest part of a contraction2>. Note that if you’re planning to use a birthing pool or shower, you can not use the device while in the water.
Meditation & Visualisation
When I was pregnant with my son, I attended a weekly yoga class right up until the end of the pregnancy. Part of the class involved learning to breathe deeply and visualise each contraction as a wave washing over us. To be honest, I was convinced it wouldn’t work, but it did! During the transition phase of labour, the contractions were strong and long so focusing all my energy on breathing through the pain instead of fighting it really helped lessen the intensity.
Taking a warm bath or shower can help ease tense muscles, and the feeling of buoyancy while submerged in the water may provide much-needed relaxation between contractions. Many hospitals are now set up to allow you to have a water birth, which is great news if being in water is your idea of bliss.
(Read more about the benefits of water birthing here)
For many women, one of the worst positions you can be in during labour is on your back. The lack of mobility and staying in one position slows progress and can intensify the pain. To help ease the pressure on your lower back, keep moving into various upright positions and even onto all fours. This will not only make you much more comfortable during the stronger contractions but may also get bub into the optimum position and help speed things along.
Positive Birthing Partner
Having a good support person during labour is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress and have a positive birth experience. This person could be your partner, mother, sister, friend, a doula3, 4, or even the midwife. The labour process can be frightening, but the more tense and scared you are, the worse the pain becomes. Someone who you trust and will be there for you during the moments when you feel like giving up will provide the best environment for you to relax and not fight the natural process.
So there you have it. Six ways to manage your pain naturally during labour. Try one, or a combination of techniques. See what works best for you, both physically and mentally. It really is possible to enjoy the birthing process if you keep an open mind and feel confident in the fact that your body is doing what it’s designed to do. The important thing to remember is that you have choices. Giving birth should be a positive experience and it is your decision whether or not to use pain relief in the form of drugs, natural techniques, or nothing at all. It’s up to you.