This post is all about natural labor pain management.
17 Natural Labor Pain Management Tips & Tools
Pain during labor is inevitable. Once you begin to feel it…that’s not the best time to start looking for pain management methods. You want to be prepared beforehand and have a variety of techniques, tips, and tools at hand that can help you reduce the pain.
Whether you’d like to have an unmedicated birth altogether or not, you’ll benefit from natural labor pain management tips.
You don’t know how intense the pain will be for you, when labor will start and how long you’ll be in labor. Whether you’re planning a home or hospital birth, you’ll most likely go into labor at home or wherever you’ll find yourself. Long before it will be “go time”, before any assistance of medical staff, doctors, or a dula will be by your side, you’ll need coping techniques to help you go through contractions.
Luckily there is a variety of things you can do to ease labor pain naturally. Every woman is different and might respond differently to certain pain relief methods. One thing will totally help one woman and only annoy another.
When I started having contractions at home and knowing that I wanted to go to the hospital last minute, I laid out all the things I knew could help me ease the pain before it got intense. So then when the pain started to intensify I had a bunch of things I could try. Various essential oils to choose from, music, meditations, birthing ball, heating pad, etc. Some of the things I thought I would use, didn’t feel good during labor at all. Smelling the essential oil helped me tremendously, which actually surprised me and what is more there was only one scent that I really liked at that moment.
Related: 6 Mindsets that will make you look forward to labor
Yes, you know yourself best and if there are certain things you like or gravitate towards, they will most likely help you during labor. However, that is not a given. You don’t want to end up with one type of playlist, or one essential oil, thinking that will help you. What you’ll want and need might be the complete opposite, so be prepared. If one thing won’t work you won’t freak out because you’ll have a bunch of other things to try.
Okay, without any further ado, here are 17 natural labor pain management tips and tools.
Natural Labor Pain Management Tips & Tools
You can certainly use visualization to help you with anxiety, fear, and pain during labor and delivery.
One example quite often mentioned is visualizing ocean waves during contractions and calling them waves instead as well. You feel the wave coming, the energy builds up, the waves hit a wall of a cave or the shore and it all quiets down for a moment again. And with every wave (contractions) your cervix opens a bit more.
Another popular image is that of a flower opening.
It is up to you to come up with a visual representation of contractions. One that resonates with you, that puts you at ease. Obviously, it’s good to think of several scenarios/visualizations before going into labor, so once you feel the pain you can simply pull one out of your toolbox, see if that works at that moment or not, and either stick to it if it does or try something else if it doesn’t.
Meditation can be very helpful to some women, especially if that’s usually their preferred method of relaxation, stress, and anxiety relief.
Letting your body do its thing, staying calm, and focusing on your breath can definitely ease labor pain and transform the entire experience into a more positive one.
- Listening to music
Prepare various playlists, one with calm, relaxing music, and one with upbeat songs. You don’t know what mood you will be in or how your body will feel. You might want to be quiet and try to relax or you might want to feel a little distracted, have something fun to move to, and focus on.
Sound has enormous power. Besides being a great distraction, it has been shown that music actually changes hormone levels during labor ( it increases oxytocin and decreases catecholamines). It obviously influences our emotions and mood, and it can help you with breathing.
- Essential oils
Focusing on pleasant smells can be a great distraction from the pain, it can reduce anxiety and stress. Essential oils can help with nausea and also help you slow down your breathing.
I keep talking about “distracting” yourself and that is because it’s said that our brain can basically either focus on pleasure or on pain and so we want to almost “trick” our brain into focusing on pleasure and by doing so reducing our perception of pain.
Popular ones recommended for labor and birth are inter alia lavender, peppermint, orange, clary sage, and jasmine.
When I started having contractions (at home) I went to get the essential oils that I’d already packed into my hospital bag, just in case, I’d labor there for quite some time. Anyway, I did have lavender, clary sage, and peppermint, but to my surprise, all of them smelled really bad to me during my contractions. The one that did work for me, and it worked extremely well, was lemongrass. I haven’t read about this one in connection to labor prior, but I did have it at home and I’m so glad I did. I had regular contractions at home for 8h before going to the hospital and during that time I constantly went back to my lemongrass essential oil and it brought me a lot of relief.
- Holding a comb
Yes, you’ve read it right.
“Holding a comb with the teeth pointing just below where your fingers meet your palm can help provide a distraction during labor, helping take away the pain. The comb and the sensation of it on your hand can act as a focal point during labor and is something to concentrate on.” – Wexner Medical Center
Another distraction, another sensation to focus on other than the pain. Moreover, heat can help your muscles relax, and especially if you feel a lot of pain in your back (like I did) it can really be a lifesaver!
I remember being on my living room floor, on all fours (well on my knees and my elbows) with my back turned towards a big window. The sun was shining like crazy through it and feeling the warmth on my lower back was just incredible and so helpful! I didn’t have to use a heating pad at that moment or anything like that, I could focus on my breathing and just be in whatever position was most comfortable.
Your partner, dula, or midwife can massage you, which can help you relax, reduce pain, feel less alone, and help you connect with your partner and focus on that.
“Massage may ease pain and reduce anxiety in the first stage of labor. It may help you to cope with your contractions by making them feel less intense and more manageable.” – Baby Centre
Applying pressure to the area where you feel most pressure “from within” will help with pain tremendously. That’s especially true for lower back pain and if you’re experiencing “back labor”.
I don’t think I read about it before going into labor, it was just something I naturally (absolutely!) needed. My lower back hurt so bad, the pressure I felt was excruciating, so it was my natural instinct to press my hands into my lower back. And later on, that day when my partner was finally with me I kept asking him to do so and that was obviously even more effective. He continued to do that even while I was giving birth and I’m not sure how I would have managed without that and being completely unmedicated.
- Birthing ball
Rocking back and forth or moving your hips in a circular motion can offer comfort, reduce pressure and pain.
- Bath or shower
Water immersion has been shown to reduce anxiety and provide pain relief.
If taking a bath during labor doesn’t sound good to you and you haven’t really enjoyed taking baths while pregnant either, taking a shower instead might be the right choice for you.
Taking a shower during labor can feel great and be very helpful due to gravity helping you progress, the heat and the pressure of the water providing comfort and reducing pain.
Walking will help with cervical dilation and can help you cope with the pain better.
When I got to the hospital, I was 10cm dilated! I think walking from the hospital’s parking lot all the way to the delivery room definitely played a part in that. At this point I was in too much pain to think straight, I kept stopping and pressing my hand into my lower back, and my partner didn’t realize it was actually gonna be “go time” soon, so he thought they gonna send us back home and didn’t even think about getting me a wheelchair. Walking definitely intensified my contractions and pain level, but at the same time, I’m sure it helped with labor progression. Of course, it’s up to you and we can’t predict how our bodies will react, but if it’s an option I’d rather go for a painful walk and then be ready to push than labor in a hospital room even longer than maybe necessary.
If that’s something that helped you before, it can also help you during labor. Acupuncture can reduce the intensity of labor pain and provide some comfort.
- Breathing Techniques
This is a HUGE one and a must for any pregnant woman, whether you’re hoping for an unmedicated birth or not.
Practicing special breathing techniques before going into labor is crucial. There are certain recommended breathing techniques for each stage of labor.
Focusing on your breath will help you reduce pain and anxiety. It will not only distract you from the pain but also relax your body and mind and obviously ensure you and your baby are getting enough oxygen.
Deep belly breaths are a lifesaver during early labor and will help you go through contractions.
It’s basically a form of self-hypnosis, a combination of meditation, affirmation, visualization, and focusing on your breathing. It’s meant to help you with relaxation and even turn pain into pleasure.
There are special courses you can take or simply inform yourself through youtube videos and through books.
- Ice chips, frozen fruit, cold water
It’s not unlikely to feel very hot and thirsty during labor. Sucking on ice chips or frozen fruit can help with hydration, and the cooling sensation can feel very comforting.
If that doesn’t sound good to you, you can just stick to drinking water, juice, or another beverage of your choice, of course, if approved by your doctor. Make sure you stay hydrated. You don’t want to feel extra exhausted, have a dry mouth and chapped lips, on top of labor pain, due to not drinking enough.
Have a snack. (I even had a donut…)
Talk to your health care provider beforehand and find out what they recommend. I know food and even drinks were recommended during labor for quite a while, but from what I’ve experienced and have heard from other women, it’s not only “allowed” these days but oftentimes even recommended. Staying hydrated and having the energy to go through labor simply makes sense. But whatever you do, listen to your body. If you don’t feel like it, you might be better off without it. But if you’re crazy thirsty and don’t feel like drinking water, I believe a few sips of a cold juice will do you good!
- Affirmations, a mantra, or simply a phrase that will help you keep going
When you feel pain and have some anxiety it’s easy for your mind to make it even harder on you by producing negative thoughts. Having some affirmations or a mantra ready that you can focus on and repeat to yourself will help you block out the negativity, reduce stress and simply help you keep going. Some examples could be:
I trust my body
This is natural and I can do this
I am about to meet my baby
The one phrase that really saved me during my 8h of laboring at home was One contraction at a time.
It sounds so simple and I didn’t think I would use that one when I was reading about it while still pregnant. When my contractions started they were painful but definitely manageable. However, they started to intensive pretty fast, and soon it came to the point where my mind started to tell me “Oh no, not another one already, / oh no, I can’t do this anymore/ How much longer?/ That’s only the beginning, how will I ever making it to active labor, there is no way, this is too painful” and so on. I knew right away that I need to tell myself something else asap and that’s when I remembered the advice “take it one contraction at a time” and I did. With every contraction I told myself “one contraction at a time” and soon I was able to focus my mind so much and be so in the present moment that I felt like I only had to go through one contraction. As opposed to going through one but already imagining and freaking out about the 20 next ones.
- Creating a soothing environment
This is a rather general tip, but still an important one. Creating a soothing environment goes both for your home and for the hospital room (if you’re planning a hospital birth). It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. And if you did plan a whole setup but went into labor sooner than expected, don’t freak out either. Even a few things can make a big difference.
You want to feel as safe and as comfortable during labor as possible. Think dim lights, maybe a battery-operated candle, and comfy clothes. And of course, all the other things mentioned in this post above that sound comforting to you, such as music or aromatherapy.
You got this!!
That’s it for the 17 Natural Labor Pain Management Tips & Tools.
Remember, every woman is different, what might help reduce pain and offer comfort to one woman, might only annoy another. |
Never judge how someone else chooses to deal with their labor pain, for goodness sake she’s going to push out a human being, let her eat ice chips, or squeeze a comb if that helps her. I find it so unnecessary when I hear people ridiculing some of those natural pain management methods.
My gynecologist told me to think about what I enjoyed and what offered me comfort during pregnancy. She said that’s most likely what will feel best during labor as well. She said there are many benefits of water immersion and of course, it’s worth trying for anyone if you want to, but If you didn’t enjoy taking baths throughout your pregnancy, chances are you won’t feel like it during labor either.
I found those seemingly simple tips very helpful when I was preparing for and going through labor, so I hope this post helps you as well.
17 Natural Labor Pain Management Tips & Tools