Top 10 natural pain relief methods
It's really important to say that the way each one of us experiences labour is very individual and there are so many factors which influence how birth feels.
Pain during labour can really vary depending on the environment you're giving birth in, the support you have around you, whether or not you've had a baby before and the position your baby is in.
But, it might surprise you to know that there are lots of natural pain relief methods for you to try. The great thing about natural pain relief is that these methods are completely safe for both you and your baby, with no lasting side effects.
So whether or not you're keen to avoid medical pain relief altogether or just want to have as many tools at your disposal, I've got you covered in this blog.
Here you'll find the top 10 natural pain relief methods for labour.
Natural Pain Relief Method #1 - A birthing comb
My number one natural pain relief method is a birthing comb - yes you read that right, a comb! Have I gone mad? Have I lost the plot? Well, no. This method of pain relief is actually based on the pain gate theory, which states that your brain can only focus on a few sensations at any one time.
You simply grip the comb in your hand, with the teeth pointing into your palm and gently squeeze, alternating between each hand. This pressure activates your ‘laogong’ acupressure point and can be used to alleviate pain, promote relaxation and distract you from any pain you may feel during a contraction.
It's not advised to use a plastic comb as it may snap, so do make sure you use a sturdy wooden one.
Natural Pain Relief Method #2 - Water
Using water during labour can help create a feeling of weightlessness, reduce pain and give you freedom of movement to take positions which feel most comfortable for you.
But, when we think about using water for pain relief, this isn't just about using a birthing pool - you can also use a bath or a shower if a pool isn't available.
You may want to rock or sway under a running shower, point the shower head directly on your lower back or fully submerge your body in a pool if there is one available.
You might find it comforting to have water poured on your back and your birthing partner can provide you with lots of support from the edge of a birthing pool.
A birthing pool is also a great way to achieve a very ‘hands off’ birth and midwifes even have waterproof equipment they can use to monitor baby.
It’s also very safe for your baby to be born in water and babies born in this way are usually born much more calmly.
It’s important to be aware that if you are wanting to use a birthing pool and give birth in a hospital or MLU (Midwifery led unit) that you know beforehand how many pools are available.
Put simply: the more birthing pools a unit has, the greater chance you have of achieving a waterbirth.
The only way to guarantee a water birth is to have a homebirth!
Natural Pain Relief Method #3 - Hypnobirthing
Seriously though, Hypnobirthing is super powerful stuff.
One of the main things we focus on during a Hypnobirthing course is working on alleviating any fears you have around birth.
We know that when we feel more fear, we hold more tension and when we hold more tension in our bodies, we feel more pain.
One of the aims in Hypnobirthing is to break this cycle by helping you to remove any fears or worries you have about birth. Studies have also shown that Hypnobirthing works to effectively reduce your pain levels too.
70% of people using Hypnobirthing described labour as a pleasant experience - statistic from the Royal Wolverhampton NHS trust
Natural Pain Relief Method #4 - TENS Machine
TENS machines work by placing 4 electrode pads onto your lower back and using mild electrical pulses to distract you from the pain of a contraction. The pads are attached to a control device so that you can increase or decrease the intensity of the pulses as you wish.
Note: you can’t use a TENS machine in water...for obvious reasons!
Natural Pain Relief Method #5 - Breathing Techniques
Breathing techniques are such an overlooked tool for labour and birth. They work by triggering your parasympathetic nervous system to relax. This is effective at helping you to stay calm and also helps to lowers your blood pressure and heart rate.
Practising slow, deep breathing sends signals to your brain that you are safe.
When we feel safe during birth, our body can relax and contract more easily & comfortably. Feeling safe also helps to boost our Oxytocin levels which is the hormone needed for starting labour & keeping it going.
When you feel calm and relaxed, so does your baby.
Breathing techniques don't have to be complicated either; simply make your exhales longer than your inhales.
Try it now and see how you feel.
It's important to remember that breathing techniques should feel effortless and easy.
Natural Pain Relief Method #6 - Aromatherapy
Recent studies have shown that using aromatherapy and essential oils during labour can help to reduce pain.
You could get an aromatherapy roller ball, pop some oil in a diffuser or even use a few drops in the bath.
It’s really important that you consult a trained professional before using any essential oils as they're really potent - Clary Sage especially should be avoided before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
If in doubt, contact a professional.
Natural Pain Relief Method #7 - Freedom of Movement
Being free to move in labour really allows you to follow your body and listen to your instincts, finding birth positions that feel comfortable for you.
You might want to rock, sway, squat, circle your hips, dance, pace up and down, kneel, stand, lay down…whatever your body tells you to do, listen to it and do that!
Moving instinctively can really help you to feel more in control and can greatly reduce your discomfort.
Natural Pain Relief Method #8 Massage/touch
Touch can be an incredibly powerful tool for birth.
You might want a full back massage, counter pressure on your hips or simply a firm hand rubbing your shoulder.
Massage & touch can greatly increase your feelings of relaxation, love and get that all important oxytocin flowing.
Natural Pain Relief Method #9 Hot water bottle
The unsung hero of the natural pain relief world.
A hot water bottle can provide lots of great pain relief, particularly in early labour.
Think about period pains and how soothing a hot water bottle is then – it’s the same in labour. You could try popping it on your lower back or even in between your thighs to give you comfort when you need a rest.
Natural Pain Relief Method #10 Relaxation
Being relaxed during labour greatly reduces your pain levels. Relaxing our bodies reduces our tension which reduces our pain.
But relaxation is not something you can simply turn on like a light switch. Relaxation is a real skill that we need to practice during pregnancy.
Relaxation could be
listening to a Hypnobirthing MP3
playing some calming music
your birth partner reading a script
practising calm breathing techniques
creating a relaxing environment (think low light levels, nice smells etc)
a comforting massage
using aromatherapy or another familiar smell
In a nutshell...
There's no right or wrong when it comes to which pain relief options you choose to use during labour. You might even plan to use one thing and then on the day it just doesn’t work for you and that’s okay.
The most important thing is that you feel well informed & confident in your pain relief options and also have heaps of practical tools at your disposal.
Arming yourself with these natural forms of pain relief just makes sense - even if you know you want medical pain relief at some point, these methods can really help you to stay calm & relaxed during birth.
Looking to step into your birth feeling confident, excited and armed with some really practical relaxation tools? Check out my upcoming Hypnobirthing courses.