When thinking about your impending labor in the latter months of the third trimester, one of the many pregnancy fears at the forefront of your mind is likely to be be how you will cope with the pain. If you’ve never had a child before, how do you know if you’ll be able to cope? You may be hoping for a natural drug-free birth, and may have even written a birth plan where you have stated you want to avoid having an epidural or other drugs which may pose side effects. Whilst you may find your wishes change during labor (there is absolutely no shame in looking into a variety of pain relief options), there are a number of ways to help manage your pain during labor without drugs.
Having a natural labor with my first child, here are some of the natural labor techniques that I found helped me give birth without drugs:
- Active labor – keep moving! When you are in a lot of pain during contractions, it can be tempting to lie on your back and do as little as possible, however remaining active during labor and moving can actually help you cope better with the pain of strong contractions. Walking around the room, bouncing on a ball or leaning against a wall whilst you partner rubs your back can really help, with the added benefit of providing an element of distraction from the task in hand!
- Labor breathing techniques – one thing I was guilty of in the early stages of labor is forgetting to breathe properly, taking short sharp breaths meaning I didn’t properly fill my lungs. Using some of the techniques from yoga can really help, taking long breaths in (to the count of four) and longer breaths out (to the count of 8). These longer breaths can help oxygenate your blood and relax your muscles, helping labor to feel more instinctive and easier to manage.
- Music – It’s amazing what impact a bit of music during labor can have on your mood, and when things get difficult, an uplifting energetic track or calming Ibiza chill out song can really help you zone out, focusing on the beat of the base track or melody of a song. Many hospitals will allow you to take along your own labor tracklist, so why not prepare one in advance with all your favorite songs?
- Water – Having a water birth is a great way to manage the contractions, with the warm soothing flow of the water having a hugely positive impact. Not only is the warm water calming and relaxing, but it can help you create the feeling of weightlessness, making moving around and adapting your position during labor far easier.
- Tens machine – if you don’t have access to a birthing pool or don’t feel comfortable in the water, tens machines can be really helpful. Worn on your back, a tens machine sends small safe pulses of electric current to your muscles, creating a tingling / buzzing sensation that diverts the attention of your brain, helping it to ignore the pain signals from contractions. I found the tens machine particularly helpful in the very early stages of labor where I wanted to be able to move around and continue with my day.
- Massage and stretches – your birthing partner can have a really important role in the labor process, and part of that is about keeping you calm, talking to you and helping provide reassuring touch and support. If your back is painful during contractions, having your partner gently massage or rub your back can really help. Done well, labor massage can increase endorphins and the release of oxytocin creating a calmer and more controlled experience.
- Laughter – they say laughter is the best form of medicine, and in the case of labor this is definitely true – laughter can not only be a great distraction, but is another natural source of oxytocin. My advice however, leave it to the professionals – your partner ‘joking’ about how they could cope much better with the pain probably won’t be funny whilst you are trying to work your way through a strong contraction!
All the best in getting the natural labor you desire, but remember, birth plans can change, and ultimately the safety of you and your baby is what matters most.