How To Manage Labor Pain Naturally – 11 Natural options for pain relief during labour
There is definitely a time and a place for Western/mainstream medicine during labor, and this article is not meant to replace the advice of your healthcare professional. However, you might want to consider trying some of these natural pain management techniques as your first option during labor. This is because they have little, if any, negative side-effects on mother and baby.
Mainstream pain relief options usually consist of regional analgesia: epidural, injectables such as opioids, and nitrous oxide (happy gas). Although most of these pain relief options are effective, they can have negative side effects for both the baby and the mother.
Epidural Analgesia can increase the risk of tearing, can slow down the progress of labor and can increase the risk of assisted delivery.
Drugs such as Pethadine can cross through the placenta freely and can have detrimental respiratory effects on the baby. Not only this but it can remain in an infant’s system for over 20 hours!
This is not meant to scare you or discourage you from using these medicines at all, but it’s definitely something you should consider when deciding your pain relief options during labor.
Your healthcare team may not have discussed how to manage labor pain naturally, so you may not be aware of these methods. I certainly wasn’t before I took my Calmbirth course.
So without further ado, here’s 11 ways to manage labour pain naturally!
Psychological or mind-body interventions are focused on the influence of the mind on the experience of pain.
1. Psychoprophylactic methods
Psychoprophylatic birth -it sounds complicated and scary! But actually, it just refers to a method of preparing for labor and delivery through the use of education, psychological and physical conditioning, and breathing exercises.
Such methods include Grantly Dick-Read’s fear-tension-pain cycle, the lamaze method, and Bradley’s method (click the links to find classes in your area). These methods are all centered around empowering women with knowledge about the process of birth, as well as psychological and physical techniques that will help to work through the pain.
They also focus on the importance of a good relationship between the patient and the care giving team.
Studies show that mothers who practice the Lamaze method during birth report lower pain scores than those who don’t!
Another technique that might sound a bit left-field is Hypnosis. Not the kind with a swinging clock! Hypnosis during birth is a method of deep relaxation and concentration. During which time you’ll be more open to suggestion, which can diminish awareness of pain.
Research has shown the effectiveness of hypnosis during labor and birth. Davidson and colleagues showed that 59% of mothers under hypnosis required no analgesia compared to 1.7% of mothers who were not under hypnosis.
Alternative Medical Practices
Acupressure is a derivative of acupuncture, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2000 years. It is thought to balance the flow of energy in the body and may even have a neuro-chemical effect on the brain.
Many women report reduced pain during labor through the use of pressure on certain acupressure points. Specifically point L14 (The flesh between your thumb and pointer finger) and point BL67 (the outer side of your pinky toe).
Research by Chung and colleagues showed that women who had these acupressure points stimulated reported significantly less pain during the first stage of labor than those who didn’t!
4. Therapeutic Touch
The use of caring touch during labor can relieve anxiety, decrease stress and reduce feelings of pain! Some women find that pressure on their lower back can help them cope with contractions. And loving touch from a relative or partner can release oxytocin, the ‘love’ hormone, which can actually decrease the perception of pain.
One study showed that a huge 77% of women reported less pain if they were touched during labor, and 40% reported less need for pain medication.
Hugs all round!
5. Massage Therapy
Carrying on from therapeutic touch, massage therapy can be a very effective way to manage labour pain naturally. Massage can be gentle, or firm, and can be done on many different areas of the body – the upper or lower back, the neck and the abdomen for example.
Women who received abdominal and shoulder/back massages during labor report significantly less pain during all three stages (latent, active, and transitional) than those who don’t receive massage therapy.
So get the baby oil out and put your partner to work!
6. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, involves the administration of low voltage electrical stimuli through flat electrodes applied to the skin.
The electrodes are placed on the lower back, and the electrical stimuli helps to block pain signals. The benefit of using a TENS machine is that you are able to move around freely during labor!
Women have reported that TENS is especially good for labor pains felt in the back. Of 147 women, 44% reported the pain relief provided by a TENS machine to be good or very good!
7. Sterile Water Blocks
A highly effective way to manage labor pain naturally is through the use of sterile water blocks. During this procedure, papules of sterile water are injected into the skin of the lower back. This helps to block the pain felt by the uterus through a process called ‘counter-irritation’. This process is also thought to occur during epidural analgesia.
The research into sterile water blocks is very promising. A study conducted in Sweden found instant and complete relief from pain during the first stage of labor in 83 women. Another study found that women who received sterile water blocks during labor reported significantly less pain than those who did not!
Hydrotherapy, or the use of water for pain relief, is becoming more and more popular worldwide as an alternative method of pain relief during labor!
Hydrotherapy can be administered by standing in the shower, running water on your lower back or stomach, or by complete immersion. Hydrotherapy is thought to relieve feelings of pain and increase relaxation.
Full immersion is usually not recommended during the first two stages of labor as it may slow down the progression of cervical dilation. However, research has shown that women who labor in a pool or bath require significantly less pain relief, and clinicians report shorter labor times and less pain.
Not only is hydrotherapy great for pain relief during labor, but women who use immersion during labor report higher levels of satisfaction with their experience as well as higher self-esteem.
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils extracted from plants to treat physiological and psychological conditions. Aromatherapy can be administered through inhalation or massage, and can help with both relaxation and pain relief during labor.
For example, lavender is a natural analgesic and can help to relieve feelings of pain and discomfort.
The environment around you can have a huge effect on your perception of pain. If your environment is tense, stressful or very unfamiliar, you may be made to feel more anxious or stressed, which can cause your perception of pain to heighten.
Take control of your birth environent by making it a positive space. Perhaps play some gentle music, keep the lighting dim and use an aromatherapy diffuser to help you feel calm and relaxed.
Controlling your birth environment will not only help you to feel relaxed, but it will also help you to feel more in control of the situation. Feelings of loss of control during a birth is a huge contributing factor to a traumatic birth. You can read more about that here.
Finally, using a doula can help you have a positive birthing experience. A Doula is someone who will be aware of your preferred methods of pain relief and can encourage and support you through the process.
They will be there to communicate with your healthcare team on your behalf, which is something you may struggle to do during labor.
There are so many effective ways to manage labor pain naturally and using these techniques will help you to have the birth experience you want!
If you want to read more about preparing for your birth, you can click here to read about why you might want to create a birth plan. Plus you can download a free printable birth plan template!