Natural pain relief in labour
You can manage the pain of childbirth using a variety of natural methods, without drugs.
Most women are perfectly capable of giving birth with little or no pain relief and lots of women opt for a more natural approach. The advantages of this are that you are not introducing any drugs into you or your baby’s system, and although you will be able to feel the pain, you can manage it with a variety of methods.
Lots of women swear by staying active and keeping on their feet as an effective way of reducing the pain. Most births depicted in films or television show a women lying down on her back. However, staying upright and letting gravity help your baby to move, can make your labour time much faster and contractions easier to deal with. The best option is to go with your instincts during labour. If you feel like walking around, kneeling or rocking, go with it. Alternatively, if you feel like lying down there is nothing wrong with this either as long as you are comfortable.
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and the machine works by sending small electrical impulses into your body with every contraction, to block the pain and encourage your body to release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
The advantages are that it can be used at home or in the hospital, and it has no effect on your baby. Disadvantages are that they have to be hired (some maternity units have them, so make sure you ask beforehand). Tens machines cannot be used in the birthing pool.
Breathing properly can help ease the pain of contractions, because it will help you relax and focus your body on helping your baby to be born. Practise taking slow deep breaths and trying not to think about anything except your breathing. At the beginning of a contraction try to breathe in slowly through your nose, hold for a couple of seconds and breathe slowly out through your mouth. It may help to focus you mind if you count up to five when you breathe in and out. See our breathing techniques video for a more detailed look at how to breathe properly in labour.
Breathing comes into relaxation, but music can also help. Most maternity units have CD players in their birthing suites, so you can listen to whatever music makes you feel calm and in control.
Water can play a big part in having a baby, from swimming when you are pregnant to giving birth in a birthing pool. A warm bath can ease the pain of contractions and relaxes your muscles and any tension you are carrying in your body. A hot water bottle on your back can work in the same way, and might be handy if you are on your way to hospital in a car, and experiencing contractions.
Massage can be a great help, so it may be wise to run through some massage techniques with your birth partner before you go into labour. Kneading your lower back can be effective if you are experiencing backache. Massage can also help your birth partner to feel they are involved and helping in some way.
Hypnotherapy works by causing your sub-conscious brain to take over your conscious brain. From 34 weeks onwards you can attend courses where they teach you to self-hypnosis techniques you can use in labour. This also includes positive visualisation and focusing attention away from the pain. Ask you midwife for recommended pregnancy hypnotherapy courses in your area.
Essential oils are a great way to relieve tension and anxiety during labour. Studies have shown that these natural remedies can help relieve the pain of labour and reduce the likelihood of medical intervention. Jasmine, Clary sage, rose oil and lavender are just some of the oils that can help you to cope with labour in a calm and relaxed way. Check beforehand that all the oils you choose are suitable for pregnancy and birth.