It's no surprise that desperate women in labor will go to great lengths to try to relieve their pain. Beyond epidurals, medicine, and breathing, there's so many more options to explore. Even if you want those pain options - and we don't blame you - you might want to combine them with other methods. Hell, if one woman said that she'd gotten relief from her contractions by doing a jig during them, well... maybe we wouldn't try it. But someone out there would think it's the perfect idea and bring jig music to their labor room. Some of the methods on this list might seem equally crazy right now, but you never know what might appeal to you during that crazy, intense time that is labor. Besides, you might be surprised when your sure-fire method of pain relief seems absolutely awful in the moment. We've heard of mothers who didn't want to be touched, decided that they hated the water, or suddenly vomited at the smell of their lavender massage oil. It's a good idea to have some back-ups.
On the other hand, some of these methods might seem more natural to you than crazy. You might even wonder how some of these massage methods methods or calming environment options missed your attention before. So much of pain relief during labor is about keeping calm, but you probably haven't considered asking people to whisper in the labor room. But someone should tell you about this idea, because getting rid of overwhelming noise could be just what you need to focus and relax! Have you ever considered sterile water injections for back pain? How about sexual pleasure for stalled labor? From the latest scientific advancements, to the oldest cultural practices, we have 15 pain relief options that just might do the trick for you-- you never know.
This traditional Mexican garment and labor tool has become wildly popular for mothers in the United States and abroad. This four or five feet long shawl is used both throughout pregnancy and during labor. One option is to take the long soft fabric and wrap the center of it around your belly, while kneeling on the ground and supporting your arms against an exercise ball or a bed. Your partner or your doula/midwife can stand behind you, pick up the side of the scarf, and gently lift.
This way they take the weight of your womb off you. It's especially good for back pain and for helping a woman to relax and allow labor to progress. There are several other cool positions that you can try as well. You don't want to use just any Rebozo though, as some are meant to be fine garments and can't withstand heavy use. Make sure you select a thick, durable fabric. As a bonus, the Rebozo can also be used to carry your little one after they're born!
It's not surprising that women in the deep pain of labor would turn to hypnotism, as it promises a not-quite-conscious but not-unconscious state where you're very open to suggestions like "you can do this" and "its not pain its pressure". But does hypnotism work?
According to the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis it does. They also dispel a few myths, arguing that hypnosis is something their clients do for themselves, with or without the help of a hypnotherapist. The client remains under their own control and can't be forced into anything, and the vast majority of people remember everything that occurs during hypnosis.
So what benefit does it offer? Hypnobabies makes the case that hypotism helps mothers confront and resolve their fears about labor beforehand, helps them keep a positive and calm mindset, and faster labors where the relaxed muscles of the mother do their thing without her tensing or unconsciously holding back.
13 Swearing and Soft Words
When the contractions get intense, the first word out of your mouth is liable to be a swear word. Turns out, swearing isn't just our natural reaction to pain, it also helps us to deal with pain! A study found that people who swore could tolerate pain for forty seconds longer than those who did not.
One psychologist, Richard Stevens, involved in the study told Scientific American. "I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear". So there you go ladies, permission to swear officially granted to you by pain researchers. Although, if swearing tends to get you riled up and tense, it could be counter-effective. If you feel the need to swear but know that it won't be helpful in the long-term for you, you can use a short and soft word like "house" or "shell" to mutter instead. The soft sound will help keep you calm and hopefully bring to mind images of you and your newborn safe at home, or a calming ocean-scape.
12 Moaning Versus Screaming
You're going to make a lot of noise during contractions, and that can be helpful to relieve your pain. On the other hand, high pitched screams and wails can be indications that you're not calm enough and your mood can quickly escalate from there to feelings of giving up. Giving up is the last thing you want to have happen while giving birth.
It's important for your labor assistants to keep you calm and focused, so that you always keep in mind that you can make it through this contraction and the whole labor. One of the ways to help you stay calm is it tap into deep, guttural kinds of moaning that still express and relieve pain, but which allow you to remain calmer. Or be sure to set the mood. Make sure the environment is calm, dim down the lights, put on some music and having a loving partner by your side can make all the difference.
11 TENS Machine
A TENS Machine is a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation machine, or simply a machine that gives your nerve endings a small electrical shock which is hoped to control pain. Laboring women get their helpers to attach the one or more electrodes to painful spots on their lower back and then get the machine to give out varying levels of shock. Sorry, but this method has been proven not to work for women in labor.
A report released by scientists in 1997 summarized studies that looked at TENS effectiveness. It concluded that TENS could be useful for chronic pain after repeated use, but not for labor pain or post-operative pain (like C-Section pain). There controversy and debate around the usage of this device, but there is no demonstrated harmful effects from TENS machines, so go ahead and give it a shot if you want to, just don't have big expectations for it.
10 Warm Water
Even if you don't want to give birth in water, there are plenty of good uses for some warm water in the early stages of labor. Getting into a warm pool and doing some exercises will be an appealing choice for women who find walking around mitigates their pain. You'll have even freer movement in water and you won't tire easily, as the weight of your body is minimal in water. Many women find greater relief in a warm Jacuzzi.
This can't be set too hot, as high temperatures can harm your baby, but it can still be delightfully warm. The jets can do a lot of massaging on your back and hips while you sit, and most people find the sound of bubbling water to be calming. If you can't stand the feeling of being fully submerged while you labor, get one of those short hot water tubs that are meant to massage and relax your feet.
There are so many forms of massage and counter pressure that might relieve your pain during labor. Some women, especially those who are struggling with back labor, like direct counter pressure. Simply, your labor helper pushes against where you feel the pain, like on your back or hips. One mother I know swears by counter-pressure directly on her butt cheeks, so get creative with where your getting your partner to massage.
Saccral pressure is another area that's know to relive women's pain. To do this your partner gently pushes in on your tailbone area. Make sure that they increase pressure here slowly, tailbones can be sensitive. Then there's perineal massage. The perineum is the skin beneath your vaginal opening that's liable to tear during birth. Getting these massages ahead of time might help the skin stretch during birth, as will gentle pressure on it during pushing. However, it can be quite relaxing to receive this massage during early labor as well.
8 Massage Implements
Your partner especially may get tired of giving hour long massages, their hands will wear out. So you'll need to pick up a few massage tools to help them. It doesn't have to be expensive, you can use tennis balls, or rolling pins as cheap alternatives to expensive massage tools, or you can splurge and get some really fancy implements that vibrate or use temperature. Using oils will also help keep their hands strong, and will make the massage feel better.
Kaily Noseworthy, a Doula, swears by a mixture of clary sage and/or frankincense mixed with olive oil to give massages to her laboring clients. When not in labor, clary sage should be avoided as it is said to promote contractions and could contribute to an early labor. Noseworthy also warns that clary sage may negatively effect those with epilepsy and she cautions you to do research to see how a herb might effect you before you use it.
Other kinds of herbs could be useful to you, especially ones known for their scent like lavender, mint, rosemary, or jasmine. The scent can be a way to engage your senses beyond touch and help you forget about the pain. We suggest that you go to a store that sells essential oils ahead of time and choose some that smell the most calming to you. It's best if you have a strong comforting image in your head when you catch the smell, like a field of wild flowers for lavender, or a tropical waterfall for jasmine.
Whatever you envision, go with your instincts. If someone warns you away from frankincense or mint, be sure to ask which study they're basing their recommendation on. There's no peer reviewed evidence that we could find suggesting frankincense will have any negative effect on the womb. In fact, a good study that we could find demonstrates that about thirty per cent of Iranian women use frankincense in their pregnancy, so its very unlikely to stimulate an early labor, as the myth goes. There are plenty of myths surrounding scents, so be sure to do research and go with your doctor's recommendation when you're not sure.
As shocking as it is to everyone, including the mother herself, some women have orgasms while their baby is crowning. While women tend to describe this experience as more intense than pleasurable, it might be this experience that has led many to consider sexual pleasure earlier in the labor process to relieve pain.
At least two pregnancy books go into detail about the benefits of sexual pleasure during labor: Orgasmic Birth by Elizabeth Davis and Deborah Pascal-Bonaro, and Ina May's Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. Some feel that nothing could be further from their mind than sex is during the experience of labor.
Others swear that sexual pleasure can help move along stalled labor, or simply give great comfort to the laboring woman. Penetration isn't advisable during labor, as the cervix is open to the womb and also may be very sensitive to touch. On the other hand, solo time or other kinds of attention from your partner might be just what you need to relax.
5 Creating A Quiet Environment
For some women, the hospital environment is anything but relaxing. Conversely, if you're having a home birth, you may have loud family members nearby, or other distractions. It may do wonders for your pain tolerance to create a quite environment at the hospital or at home. At both you can request to dim the lights; ask people to whisper (or have the staff have important conversations with your partner or each other outside of the room); and bring in your most comforting home items like blankets, candles, pillows, or sentimental items that remind your of your family and their support.
Sipping warm teas or warm water may help to foster this calm environment. You may want to check with your hospital ahead of time to see which of these requests they can fulfill. For a home birth, you may want to outfit the room and nearby bathroom ahead of time with these items, and let your midwife in on your plans so she can work to make the space quieter while she's working with you.
4 Sterile Water Injections
This method for pain relief is new on the scene, but becoming very popular. Injections of sterile water to the lower back/upper butt area are very effective in helping with a frustrating pain - early labor back pain. One study conducted in 2009 found that women who were injected with sterile water in the lower back felt significant relief, some of this relief even mitigated pain during the crowning!
For the purposes of this study the researchers also injected some laboring women with saline water as a control and these women did not receive pain relief from the injections. Most impressively, this treatment does not have any side effects (other than mild burning during the injection) and does not effect the baby's Apgar score. The researchers also measured whether these injections effect how long a labor lasts and it seems that they don't, which could be a good or a bad thing depending on your outlook about how labor should progress.
You've probably heard that laboring while lying on your back, the norm in hospitals in the United States, is a counter-productive position. It doesn't take advantage of gravity and may make labors slower. However, your labor doesn't have to be a simple choice between back labor and upright labor, many positions in-between can be useful at relieving pain throughout labor. Positions where the woman is on her hands and knees are known for reliving back and leg pain, as well as cramped organs and painful tail bones.
For American women sitting positions are more natural than squatting, while still keeping the benefits of gravity and the ability to widen your knees and open up the pelvis to the baby. Exercise balls are often used for this position in-hospital, but you may also want to consider toilet-sitting, which can help you to relax your abdomen muscles too. Laying on one's left side can be very relaxing for a mother and it has the benefit of increasing blood flow (as the uterus generally leans to the right).
2 Nasal Sprays
There's nothing unusual about the variety of medications that a hospital can provide to you for your labor pain. However, mothers who dread needles may be very excited to learn about a new delivery method for these familiar medications-- nasal sprays. Australian researchers tested a nasal spray of fentanyl for pain relief for women who were being transported to the hospital via ambulance during labor.
They found that the nasal spray was just as effective as pethidine injections, but had fewer side effects! The lead researcher, Dr. Julie Fleet, told the Guardian that a nasal spray also helps a laboring woman feel more in control of her labor and method of pain relief, which we know is sure to help her remain calm. While fentanyl is usually used for epidurals, the nasal spray method does not limit the mother' mobility as an epidural would.
1 Music and Chanting
There are two general possibilities for musical inspiration during birth: calming or motivational. You can get some of your favorite calming songs, or simply calming sounds from nature, and play them in head phones or in the labor room more generally. This can really help boost a quiet environment like we detailed above, especially if you're using tracks that aren't complicated, like just the tide going in and out, or just bird song. On the other hand, many cultures make great use of up-beat motivational songs and chants during labor to encourage and show support for the mother. This can turn the tide for your mood and give you a final boost of strength, especially near the end. Community song can even happen spontaneously like it did in one miraculous birth we detailed in our article: 15 Pregnancy and Birthing Traditions from Aboriginal Cultures.