With my first pregnancy, I had desired a natural labor and delivery. But I didn’t prepare for natural pain management. In fact, I only read one book my entire pregnancy–Easy Labor. It was the only book on labor I could find at my local library, and it primarily addressed medicated pain relief.
After a long, medication-laced labor with my first, I was determined to find some natural relief for labor pain my second time around. With the help of my doula, some naturally-minded friends, and quite a few books and a couple of videos, I was able to incorporate these natural pain management techniques and achieve the natural birth I desired.
Not everything works for everyone, but here are 8 natural pain management techniques for labor you can try:
Image by sundaykofax
This is basically the same as an exercise ball. My doula suggested I practice bouncing on one regularly while pregnant, and I found it a huge relief during labor. I sat on the birthing ball and rocked back and forth, and I also leaned over the birthing ball while kneeling.
Image by eyeliam
2. Changing Positions
With my first labor, I was flat on my back in a hospital bed for 16 hours. With my second, I changed positions frequently. Both of my babies have been sunny-side up (posterior), which lends itself to a LOT of intense back labor. I found that rocking on all fours really helped take the pressure off my back. There were times during my second labor when my nurse asked me to come to the bed for monitoring. Even in the bed, I was able to rock back and forth from side to side, which my midwife said helped the baby move down the birth canal.
Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to experience a water birth. Even though I was able to move around freely with my second, the hospital where I birthed had no tubs in the room at the time (they do now!). But, I was able to use the shower. My favorite part of labor was sitting on the birthing ball in the shower. I rocked back and forth on the ball, draped my torso across a chair, and let my husband and doula spray hot, hot water over me. The water was the most comforting pain relief technique for me!
Image by sundaykofax
Not only did my husband, doula and midwife attend my second birth, but I was also super spoiled to also have a good friend who is a professional massage therapist as part of my birthing team. I found massage and counter pressure on my back very helpful in pain relief.
With my first, I was only allowed to chew on ice chips. Whew–that wasn’t fun! With my second, my doula kept me well hydrated with water mixed with Emergen C. A dehydrated body will make the cramping much worse. Unless it’s against hospital policy (which, it may be if you are hooked up to machines and medications), I would advise taking in plenty of fluids during labor!
Image by goldberg
6. Deep Breathing
Even though I had a highly medicated labor (pitocin, a catheter, stadol, etc.) with my first, I still managed through with no pain medications my first 8 hours. But I had no idea how to breathe. Instead of taking long, deep breaths, I took short breaths and tensed up. This only increased the pain. With my second, taking deep, deep breaths in and slowly breathing out really helped keep me relaxed and helped keep the pain manageable.
7. Embracing Your Contractions
When you feel the pain of contractions, your first impulse may be to tense up and fight it. Try not to! I found contractions to be like a wave. They would start out slowly, increase and peak in intensity and slowly come down and end before a short rest break. Instead of fighting the pain, try embracing it–knowing that it won’t last forever. As cliche as it may sound, try to ride those waves!
Especially for back labor, hot rice packs, a hot water bottle or even an electric heating pad can help ease the pain.
9. Essential Oils
I did not use these much in my last labor, but my bag is already packed with them for this next one! Lavender, especially, has a very calming/relaxing effect. I plan on having my doula or husband shake a few drops on a washcloth that I can hold up to my nose and inhale. You can also place certain essential oils in your bath, rub them on your feet or if your birthing facility allows, you can even diffuse them in your room. For more information on essential oils during labor, see this article.
What are some of your suggestions for natural pain management techniques during labor?
*For more information on how to achieve a natural birth in a hospital setting, I recommend the eBook, Unbound Birth.*
**I am not a pregnancy or birthing expert. I simply write from personal experience and personal research. Please consult your trusted health professional before making any decisions regarding pregnancy or birthing.
Check out the other posts in this series:
- 5 Simple Tips for Combating Morning Sickness
- Reflections on my First Pregnancy
- 10 Reasons We Opted to Give Birth at a Birth Center
- Easing Leg Pain During Pregnancy
- Pregnancy Posts Around the Web
- A Tale of Two Births: Medicated vs. Natural Hospital Births, part 2
- A Tale of Two Births: Medicated vs. Natural Hospital Births, part 1
- How to Achieve a Natural Birth in a Hospital Setting
- Real Food Pregnancy Cheats/Shortcuts
- OB or Midwife: Finding the Birth Provider Who Works for You
- A Comparison of Birth Settings: Home, Hospital and Birth Center
- Resources for a Natural Pregnancy
- 10 Things Never to Say to Pregnant Women
- What Every Pregnant Woman Wants to Hear
- Hyperemesis Gravidarum: Much More than Severe Morning Sickness
- Pregnancy Posts Around the Web, Take 2
- Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy
- Breastfeeding While Pregnant
- Preparing for a Water Birth
- The Importance of Using a Doula
- A Sample Hospital Birth Plan
- Why We Chose NOT to Induce Labor
- 7 Ways to Naturally Induce Labor
- Maintaining Proper Iron Levels During Pregnancy
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