Coping with labor pain may seem daunting, but here are several ways to ease the process via massage, counter pressure, aromatherapy, and more!
While baby clothes are certainly cute, and you’ll definitely need the best car seat for your infant, amazing tips and tricks for playing with a newborn, and all the baby must haves, what you’ll really want as you get closer to delivery are the best tips for coping with labor pain!
Whether you’re excited, nervous, or scared for your special day, I can assure you there are some really great techniques you can use during labor to set your mind (and body) at ease.
I’m sharing 14 amazing methods for pain management and pain relief during labor that can make a considerable difference in your birthing experience.
Before I get into labor pain management techniques, I do want to recommend taking a birthing class to help you really learn how to manage pain during labor. There are a few great ones online, such as Birth It Up – Natural Birth and Birth It Up – Epidural Birth (because either kind of birth is OK!). By the way, you can use the code MOMFRIEND to get 10% off each course!
And of course, if you plan on trying any of the techniques below, discuss them with your doctor and nurse in advance so you get the ‘go-ahead’ from them.
Coping With Labor Pain
1. Touch and Massage
This approach has been proven to be extremely helpful in lessening pain sensations throughout labor. Touch can be as simple as your partner holding your hand or gently stroking your arms, legs, or abdomen.
While in labor, your body tends to naturally release endorphins that are “morphine-like.” With touch and massage, it is likely that more endorphins will be released as long as you stay as relaxed as possible. Stress and tension tend to cancel out these endorphins with hormones known as catecholamines.
I know it may be difficult to relax while in labor, but you want as many natural pain-reducing chemicals as possible. So try some touch and massage in order to relax and get those endorphins flowing!
This was an absolute life saver for me. I mean just think of those times when you’ve had a migraine and you applied pressure to your temples, massaging your head in a circular motion, and it made your head feel better! Applying pressure to certain areas has been proven to reduce pain and tension and can work wonders for coping with labor pain, too.
If you experience back labor, your contractions will be felt in the small of your back. Have your support person apply counter-pressure on your lower back to help significantly decrease your discomfort.
The pressure can be applied with a closed fist, the heel of their hand, or massage balls. Once in labor, you will be able to tell your support person exactly where to apply pressure and how hard to push.
Your nurse or midwife can also help with counter pressure. They are the true pros!
3. Changing Positions
Laboring women should try to move regularly and change positions frequently. Staying in one position can escalate tension. And boy does it get extremely uncomfortable sitting in a bed for hours.
Many women, myself included, find it more comfortable to be upright or up and walking around while in labor. It might seem like an impossible task to get out of that hospital bed, but activities such as rocking, swaying, walking, standing and leaning against your partner allow your body to take advantage of movement and gravity to encourage baby’s descent.
You can also try more movements like squatting and rocking on a birthing ball, resting on all fours, and resting on your knees leaning against the head of the bed (head of bed will need to be raised).
Each of these movements can help your labor progress more rapidly and smoothly.
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4. Cleansing Breath
Take a deep breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth, at the start and end of each contraction. This deep breath will not only give your baby and you an additional boost of oxygen, but it will also signal to your body to relax and focus.
This deep, cleansing breath, can also cue your support person that a contraction has begun, letting them know to begin applying counter pressure.
Your nurse or midwife can coach you with breathing until you get the hang of it.
5. Rhythmical Breathing Techniques
In addition to cleansing breaths, you can try other relaxation and breathing techniques in between contractions and with your contractions, as there is no right or wrong way. You may prefer breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Or in and out of your nose, or in and out of your mouth.
The most important part is to have your breathing feel natural and even, which should help with relaxation. Make sure to keep a comfortable pace to avoid shortness of breath and lightheadedness.
You can learn all about the different breathing techniques at a Lamaze class. Though, your nurse will be able to guide you through some techniques as well.
RELATED: Birth It Up – Natural Birth Course Series (use the code MOMFRIEND to get 10% off)
6. Warm Water
Warmth can be highly effective in lessening pain and establishing relaxation. If your water has not yet broken, your nurse/doctor may allow you to take a warm shower or bath.
If a shower or bath is not an option, a warm compress or a heating pad applied to your lower back can be effective in lessening pain and creating relaxation – but always check with your nurse before applying heat!
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7. Birthing Ball
This was another life saver for me! A birthing ball can help you labor more effectively as it allows for different upright positions. A birthing ball may be used to rock and sway in rhythm with your contractions, possibly helping lessen the contraction pain.
There are several different ways a birthing ball may be used.
- Sitting astride the ball and rocking your pelvis back and forth, side to side, or in a circle.
- Leaning over your ball from a standing position, with the ball sitting on the bed, chair, etc.
- Leaning on your birthing ball from a kneeling position. This can be done on your bed.
- Hug your ball from a hands-and-knees position. Then lift your bottom up from the kneeling position and rock your pelvis from side to side.
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Aromatherapy is a non-invasive, safe, and natural treatment to help soothe the mind and body. It’s a gentle, yet efficient way to relax, calm anxiety, and lessen pain. Have your support person use oils for massage and as they work to apply counter pressure.
If you’re not sure what oils to use, you can utilize this list of the best essential oils to use for labor. (Tip: they recommend Peppermint, Red Mandarin (citrus reticulata), Bergamot, Clary Sage, and Lavender.)
You can also talk with your doctor, doula, or midwife about what essential oils are the most effective during labor.
Benefits of aromatherapy during labor include:
- Helping to expedite labor that is progressing slowly.
- Strengthening, energizing and enabling a more tranquil approach to labor.
- Lessoning fatigue and boosting mood.
- Boosting the activity of the uterus, making contractions increasingly effective.
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9. Dim the Lights and Play Music
Don’t be afraid to change the lighting or mood in your hospital room. It is your birthing experience and you can do whatever you need to feel more relaxed and at ease.
Think about how you feel when you’re at the dentist with bright lights in your face compared to when you’re at a fancy restaurant with the lights slightly dimmed.
You’d most likely prefer the dimmed, relaxed restaurant setting over the brightly lit dentist office. You an create that same, more relaxed feel in your hospital room, too.
Playing some calming music may also help you to relax. If you want music in the delivery, try to plan ahead and have your playlist created beforehand. It will be hard to concentrate on music selection when those contractions set in!
10. Double Hip Squeeze
During labor the pressure of the baby’s head stretches mama’s pelvis. The double hip squeeze is a type of pressure that is applied to the hips in order to alleviate lower back pain. This squeeze pushes the pelvis back into a more relaxed position, alleviating the pressure that comes from that stretching.
Have your support person place their hands on your hip bones, then slide their hands upward. Keep the hands on the bone with the thumbs pointing towards the spine, creating a “W.” Your support person should then push the hip bones up and in.
This technique is probably easiest with the laboring mom leaning over the bed or a birthing ball.
11. Focus and Distraction
Before the contractions really start to kick in, you can pass some time and distract yourself by playing a card game, watching TV, reading a book, writing a letter to your baby to give to them later on, etc.
Once you’re in the thick of it, focusing your attention on one thing allows distracting thoughts to pass by quicker and can help ease tension and pain. When you feel those contractions coming on, focus all of your attention onto your chosen object.
Any point of focus can work, whether it is the small hand on the clock, a photograph of your older children, a meaningful object, a sound, a saying (“Each Contraction Brings Me Closer To Meeting My Baby”), the monitor, a spot on the wall, wiggling your fingers or toes.
It can literally be whatever you choose!
The rebozo can help a baby rotate during labor more easily, help the laboring mother relax along with relaxing her abdominal muscles and uterine ligaments, and apply counter pressure by squeezing your hips.
After baby is born, you an use it as a breastfeeding shawl, a blanket for tummy time, etc.
Hypnobirthing is a technique used during labor for pain management. It includes using a combination of breathing techniques, visualisation, and relaxation.
Hypnobirthing is a somewhat controversial method for coping with labor pain, but many swear by the results. Some women are even able to shorten the first stage of labor with these techniques.
I am no expert on this method, but the hypnobirthing website is a great source for information, success stories, upcoming hypnobirthing events, and how to find a hypnobirthing educator.
14. TENS Machine
The machine sends pulses of electric current through your skin and into your muscles and tissues. The sensations feel sort of like a buzzing or tingling. Depending on the setting you choose, the sensations can be stronger or weaker.
These electrical pulses can block the pain signals from contractions from reaching your brain and trigger your body to release endorphins.
The TENS is best for coping with labor pain in the early stages when you begin to experience regular contractions. Always check with your doctor before using any equipment during birth. DO NOT place the pads on your stomach, only on your back! And of course, no using the TENS in the shower, bath, etc.
The Babycentre has a great article covering all topics of a TENS machine if you’re looking into using one for labor, including the pros and cons, when you should and shouldn’t use a TENS, along with how it works and it’s effectiveness.
Labor can seem intimidating and even downright scary for the first time mom, but I hope learning these techniques has helped you feel more prepared and capable of handling whatever comes your way.
Just remember, the pain won’t last forever! And every contraction is only bringing you closer to meeting your precious baby!
If you’ve tried any of the techniques for coping with labor pain listed above, I would love to hear all about your results. Or if there is something that worked wonders for you, but didn’t make this list, let us know in the comments!
You May Also Enjoy:
- The Discomforts of Pregnancy and How to Relieve Them
- The Ultimate Third Trimester to do Checklist
- Postpartum Care Essentials
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