9 Natural Ways to Ease Pain During Labor
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly heard all kinds of horror stories about how excruciatingly painful childbirth is. An epidural can take away the pain, but not without risks to both you and your baby. Fortunately, there are a number of natural ways to manage the pain of childbirth, including:
- Heat – When you’re in pain, it’s natural to tense up, but this only makes it more painful. A hot pad or hot water bottle on your back, belly, or wherever you find yourself tensing up can help relax the muscles.
- Warm Water – A recent study found that women who were able to labor in a birth pool experienced less pain and were less likely to need an epidural or other pain medication. Birthing in water is also thought to help support the perineum and reduce tearing.
- Breathing/Relaxation – Tension and fear can lead to shallow breathing, which lowers blood oxygen levels. This can cause you to feel light headed and eventually cause your fingers and toes to feel numb. It will also sap your energy at a time when you need it the most.
- Focal Point – Having a focal point gives you something other than the pain to focus on. Your focal point can be anything from a spot on the wall to a picture you take with you for just that purpose. If your contractions are very regular, a clock with a second hand is a nice focal point, as you can predict when the next contraction will start and how long it will last. Knowing just how long it will last before you get a break helps, though this may not be particularly helpful if your contractions are back to back.
- Changing Positions – On TV, women in labor seem to always be on their backs, but that’s actually the worst position you can be in (except maybe standing on your head!). This is because lying on your back narrows the birth canal and forces you to work against gravity to get baby past your tailbone. Squatting or walking are both good ways to help baby move down. If you find yourself experiencing back labor, getting on hands and knees can take the pressure off your back. When you get tired, lying on your side can give you a chance to rest without hindering the process. An experienced midwife or doula can help you find other positions that can help you stay comfortable.
- Massage – Whether it’s counter-pressure during a contraction or just having your shoulders rubbed to help you relax between contractions, massage with firm pressure and slow strokes will help your body release endorphins, making the pain easier to bear.
- Hydration – Dehydration can make cramping worse. Hospital policy may restrict your intake of fluids, but if you can, staying hydrated can help.
- Self Hypnosis – In many women, hypnosis can change the way the body and mind experience and respond to the process of labor, leading to less need for medication and, in some cases, less need for intervention.
- Essential Oils – Lavender and other essential oils can help you relax.
- Support – Labor can be scary. The body takes over and, for women in the hospital, strange people may be doing things that aren’t necessarily comfortable. Fear can increase pain, but a supportive presence can ease the fear.
The best part of these pain relief methods is that they are safe and any or all of them can be used together with no worry about interactions or side effects.
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