Deal with birthing pains naturally! This post has 9 natural pain management techniques for labor, including a birthing ball, essential oils, and more.
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 9 natural pain management techniques for labor you can try:
1. The Birthing Ball
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.
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 older babies were 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!
Not only did my husband, doula and midwife attend my second birth, but I was also super spoiled to 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!
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 help with preparing for a natural childbirth, check out the #1 bestselling online childbirth course, Mama Natural Birth Course. It will empower you to have the natural birth you want…and you can watch the course in the comfort of your own home! You may also like Mama Natural’s FREE introductory video on 8 Keys to a Natural Childbirth. For more information on how to achieve a natural birth in a hospital setting, I recommend the eBook Unbound Birth.
Disclaimer: 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!
Stacy @Stacy Makes Cents
THANK YOU!!! You sure knew I needed this. 🙂
I thought about you when I was writing this!! 🙂
Anne @ Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy
This is a great post! I did most of them except the essential oils, and they really did help.
Thank you, Anne! I did all of these except the essential oils as well…but I plan/hope to use them this time…that is, if she ever comes! 😉
Good info. I had both my babies at home. The first one was posterior. I didnt know this until labor started. Wow! 37 hrs of WOW. I think the best preparation is being open minded to change. Always remember to breath. I used Hypnobirthing techniques for both births. Its amazing. Its hard when you gets sucked into uncomfortable contractions and focus on our comfort so remember you are bringing a life into the world and each movement is bringing you closer. My first birth was 37 hrs long with 6 hrs of pushing. I was exhausted. I danced, walked, showered, swam, laid in the birth pool, used the birth stool, birth ball, toilet, you name it. My husband, midwife, and doula were amazing. Baby # my water broke, contractions started 18 hrs later and she was born in 4 hrs after 4 pushes. The whole time I focused on Breathing and the waves. When you get scared or tense pain happens so you really must surrender. And remember no two births are ever the same.
Oh wow, Leah! What a crazy first birthing experience–6 hours of pushing?! WOW! You sound like a very strong woman!
I had both babies naturally and #7 worked best for me. I imagined this little “Surfer Bob” who rode the waves of pain on his surfboard. When he got to the top of the wave, I knew it would crest and I would enjoy the release. This worked great except for transition, when nothing worked except getting through it.
I had 3 days of “prodromal” false labor before my first baby’s birth. I knew it wasn’t actual labor and I was pretty good at breathing through contractions and staying relaxed during contractions with three days practice (no sleep!). So I never really noticed when I went into REAL labor, and when I was in transition, I thought THAT was real labor–then I was terrified because I thought it could get worse (it can’t). So it pays to understand what transition is like and to know that part is usually quick.
The symptoms of transition are back to back contractions with plenty of peaks and few valleys. If you’re not getting ANY respite between contractions and they aren’t fully relaxing before the next one, you’re there. Hang on because it’s almost over at that point. Knowing this will help, I promise.
I had to have hospital births because of high risk factors, but in both cases, transition started almost immediately after arriving at the hospital and both babies were born very quickly after getting there (2 hours for the first, 1 for the 2nd).
My other advice is to remain upright as much as possible and let gravity help–don’t lie down until/unless you have to.
Such great advice!! It sounds like you had wonderful hospital births…and it’s so important to remember that once transition hits it’s almost over!!
I really like how you pointed out to embrace contractions. I used a mental picture during mine to help. I would imagine the beginning like a pile of sugar, as the contraction reached is peak the sugar was then pushed into a cube, after the peak the cube is dropped in water and dissolves. As contractions intensified it was as if it took longer for the sugar to press into a cube, and longer to dissolve in the water. I hope that mental image makes sense. It helped me achieve a fully natural labour and delivery with my 3rd baby.
Thats a nice blog!
I can tell that i’ve been doing yoga (real yoga, not the one at the gym) for 10 years and martial arts for a long time. I had broken bones, torn ligaments, and craziest situation in my life. I have never taken any pain medication, not for a moderate dental work, not for a headache, not for a miscarriage pain, or some other aches. I thought I will be fine in labor, though i have anticipated the pain I was never had in life, but I did not expect it to last THAT long. I’ve barely made it …. could not get up from the bad, bagging for pain medications, 14 hours of labor and sleepless night before it… It REALLY hurts and I wish i knew it, so I would go to the hospital when i was really in labor, not just some-kinds-contractions.
I took a Bradley birth class before I had my son and it was such great preparation. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have a natural birth. Water and counter pressure were the best things for me.
Thanks for the tips!
I had the easiest labor and delivery for my son. I slept through my 6 hour labor and within 15 minutes pushed him out. Even as a first time mom I KNEW I was blessed with ease.
This is round two, and even my pregnancy has been a whole new adventure for me!
I wont lie, I’m scared of labor and delivery this time! I’m trying to find natural ways to ease pains and discomforts, and have written these all down. Thank you so much for sharing!
Did you have any medication during your first birth?
Thank you for this post! As a registered nurse working in L&D, it’s so great to read your tips! Not only will I be using them with myself when I am pregnant and delivering, but I plan to assist my patient with them as well. Also, thank you so much for acknowledging that sometimes medical and unnatural interventions needs to take place depending on the birthing center or hospital, but you’ve given people great options for working with and around them. Thanks again!
Great tips! I too had a medicated 1st and a natural second. My daughter almost died when I had an epidural and had to be resuscitated after my emergency c-section. Not the joyous moment I had been looking forward to!
Water was a big help for me too! It also helped to have my husband tell me when I was half way through a contraction. You can do anything for 60 seconds!
All Girl Massage
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If you ever want to avoid back labor or deal with it get the book Back Labor No More! I had 6 hours of back labor with my 7th and forgot what I had read in that book years before. With my 8th I did what was recommended and my whole labor was 1 hour. I lifted my belly during a contraction (as soon as I was where I wanted to be) and next contraction I was pushing.
Also, make sure you’re not low in calcium. That’ll increase the pain. Great article!
Thank you for the tips! I am in the same boat as you, seeing ad my last pregnancy was my first, I WANTED to birth all natural no drugs, but I had no idea what to experience and ended up with Stadol and an epidural, being required to wear oxygen, couldn’t get off my back, and feeling very controlled through my whole labor by others (even though my l&d nurse was AMAZING) I know now more of what to expect, know that it’s okay to ask for things, and request that pain meds not be offered to me, and have been looking into the different techniques to utilize during this birthing experience that I am about to endure within the next 6 weeks!
Another thing that is great for back labor and completely non-narcotic is a tens machine. You shouldnt use it on your stomach but you can use it on your back or even legs if they are bothering you. Its great!
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NIce read, thank you. I am planning to have my 5th naturally. My 4th was my first natural birth, and I was unprepared though it was planned that way in the beginning. I am glad it was a short 5 hour, 2 push delivery. I was lucky. I really wish I had prepared better, I kinda freaked out in the end I was scared how bad it would hurt pushing. That won’t happen this time 😉 It ended up being so much better than my 3 epidural births, which I suspect messed up my back and prolonged my healing time…
I think #7 is important, but with such intense amount of pain and being a number person, my husband calming & slowly counted to 20 in my que of the start of each contraction. This got me to the peak of the pain and when he started the second count to 20 I knew I was on the down slope of the contraction.
Where I didn’t make it thru was in between the contractions. Throwing up and severe uncontrollable body shakes. If I can get a smell of a fresh alcohol pad just at the right time, I can control the nausea from coming all the way up.
Any suggestions for body shakes?
Love this article! I had a natural birth, also with a sunny side up baby. Thankfully, no back labor for me! I did have contractions for a few days though. Water=amazing. I did not have a water birth, but the hospital had a whirlpool tub for pain management. I actually fell asleep for a bit in there. (Laying against my husband). I couldn’t stand being the hospital bed, it was so uncomfortable! I was on the birth ball and a rocking chair most of the time. My husband was my birth coach, he was amazing. He would remind me to breeeeeeath! Ha ha! Slow, deep breaths help helped so much! I drank a ton of water and ate when I could keep something down. This article is spot on!
I can control the nausea from coming all the way up and get thru contractions. But not body shakes.
28 weeks pregnant now.
Anybody have suggestions for uncontrollable body shakes?
Are you able to eat any during labor? That helps me–or getting in the bath–a nice, warm bath. Congrats!!
Thanks! We are happy. This is number 4!
Eating/drinking didn’t work out well. My body ejected it one way or another. :/
My beginning labor to deliveries have been 5.5- 6.5 hrs. total. Very fast. Very intense.
I will definitely try a bath this time. I actually haven’t tried that before!
Oh wow!! That is awesome!! That does sound fast and intense! My fastest was my 3rd (and youngest)–3.5 hours from the first contraction. My body was soooo sore!!! I found the bath super helpful!! Congrats again!!
This article is really helpful thank you. I had my first child 13 years ago, wanted a natural birth but had no real idea what I was doing, i panicked with the pain and opted for pethidine, which was so helpful but ran out by the time I was ready to give birth! I felt totally traumatized.
I am now having my second child in a Caribbean country which doesn’t give pain relief freely, I was so scared (still am) Me and the hubby are attending natural birthing classes and im trying to embrace it and forget my previous experience.
Reading other peoples stories and your article is giving me a new peace.
Congrats on baby #2!!
I really enjoyed this piece! My first was born almost a year ago (sigh, *tear*) and I was able to successfully have a natural childbirth. Changing positions helped me immensely! I couldn’t imagine having to lay in bed my entire labor. Toward the end, I was changing positions between every contraction-it was the only thing that helped! My hospital did have a birthing tub, and I really really wanted my son to be born in the water. When it came to pushing though, I got so incredibly claustrophobic that I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The water just seemed too warm! Maybe next time, haha. These really were some awesome tips, thanks for sharing! <3
I’m glad you found this helpful, Savannah! My second and third births were a lot better than my first because I finally knew some of these tips! Congrats on your baby…those first years go so, so fast! My girls are now 7 1/2, 5, and 3 1/2! They are growing up before my eyes! I still call all of them my babies!
Great info . Thanks for sharing valuable informative article…
Great article, thank you! 🙂 I wish I had an extra trick or two from my experience on making birth less painful, but I really feel I muddled thru a very painful first home birth labor. (Hoping my second one in a few weeks from now will go a lot better!) I guess one thing you didn’t mention that I feel helped me personally was drumming. My husband played my hoop drum rhythmically at certain times when I asked him to and that was really a relief, I think the sound helped me just get out of my head and drop into my body and the rhythms of the process. So find some music that helps you achieve this, getting out of your head and relaxing into your body.
Evening primrose oil takes care of my labor pains…