Natural Pain Management Options for Labour
Pain is a normal part of labour and birth but it is possible to manage the intensity of your contractions naturally, without drugs, if you choose to do so.
If you’ve read up on your options for medical pain relief in labour (here, here and here) but would like to explore the natural pain relief alternatives, here are some of the drug-free options that many birthing people find beneficial for coping with the intensity of labour.
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine
A small device with pads that you place on your back which stimulates the release of endorphins to manage pain. The TENS is most effective when used from the early stages of labour. They are available for hire online.
ABOVE TENS Machine from tenshire.co.nz
Getting into warm water that is deep enough to have your belly submerged has proven therapeutic benefits during labour. It may help you to relax, reduce pressure on your back and pelvis, and lessen the intensity and pain of contractions. Many maternity units have birthing pools available for use in labour, or if you’re planning a home birth you can hire one.
Hypnobirthing is a technique that combines visualisation with relaxation and deep breathing. The aim is to achieve a state of relaxation in the body and calm in the mind. Various providers offer hypnobirthing courses online and in person. Alternatively, you can search for free guided hypnobirthing tracks on YouTube and read up on the practice yourself.
Endorphins are your body’s natural pain relief hormone! Anything that raises your endorphins will help you relax and feel better during labour, māmā. Get those good feelings flowing!
Conscious deep breathing can help you focus on something other than the intensity of your contractions and also provides your body with more oxygen to labour efficiently. When the contraction begins, slowly draw your breath in through your nose, as deeply into your lungs and belly as possible. Then, breathe slowly out of your mouth – imagine you are blowing away the pain as you exhale.
Mind over matter. Meditation is not only beneficial for putting you in a calm mindset during labour but can have a positive effect when practised during pregnancy as well. Repeating affirmations can help to eliminate fear and encourage you to relax and trust your body’s natural capability to birth your pēpi. There are many guided meditation apps which you may find beneficial.
Certain essential oils have therapeutic benefits on the mind and the body, improving your mood. You can use them in a diffuser, add a few drops to a warm bath, or diluted with a carrier oil for a massage. By setting the scene with smells that feel soothing and relieve stress, you’ll feel more comfortable in your environment and in the right ‘zone’ to welcome your baby. Some of the most common essential oils used in labour are lavender, peppermint, clary sage, frankincense, and Roman chamomile. Hospitals and birthing units won’t allow you to bring in anything flammable, such as an oil burner, however, you may be permitted to bring a diffuser into the birthing suite if you would like to.
There’s power in touch. Having your partner or birth support person give you a massage during labour can relieve tension, reduce pain, and encourage relaxation. Most birthing people find having their lower back or shoulders massaged to be most enjoyable. A good tip is to practise massage techniques while you’re pregnant so you know which areas feel best and how much pressure you prefer. If it doesn’t feel pleasant on the day or you need them to adjust their technique, let them know – being massaged should be a help, not a hindrance.
Acupuncture and acupressure
Just as there are certain points in the body to encourage labour to begin, there are points in the body that can help ease discomfort, reduce pain, and encourage the efficiency of labour. Some people find seeing an acupuncturist during pre or early labour to be beneficial for helping them to relax, especially if they aren’t progressing as steadily as they’d hoped. Likewise, acupressure can also assist in providing effective pain relief. It’s important to make sure you only receive acupuncture by a trained professional.
Remember how we said earlier that endorphins are your body’s natural form of pain relief? Kissing and affection release plenty of feel-good hormones, including endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. All of these contribute to you feeling happy, relaxed and supported which is essential for a positive birthing experience.