Are you are looking to have an unmedicated birth experience? Or perhaps your birth plan includes getting that epidural as soon as you get to hospital? No matter what your ideal birth looks like, the majority of women will benefit from some great natural pain relief options and techniques to help them get through labour and birth!
Labour is so aptly named, as it is the purposeful hard work you engage in on the final journey to meet your baby! During labour and birth your body goes through incredible physical, emotional, and hormonal changes. This transformation is often accompanied by a substantial degree of discomfort. Of course labouring women want to mitigate pain, but short of using pharmacological interventions, how do you really reduce pain in birth? It’s optimal to support your body’s own natural pain relieving abilities! Here is the key to natural pain relief: During birth you want to reduce cortisol levels, the hormone produced in response to stress, and catecholamines, the ‘fight or flight’ hormones, produced in response of fear. And you want to increase oxytocin and beta-endorphin levels, to help facilitate labour, provide a sense of euphoria, and alleviate pain. The following seven natural pain relief options for birth help your body balance specific hormones, to naturally ease labour discomfort.
#1 Education: Educating yourself about pregnancy, labor, and birth will help build your knowledge, prepare you emotionally and mentally, and give you the necessary tools and techniques to navigate the modern birth landscape.
Antenatal education serves as an important natural pain relief tool because you are replacing fear of the unknown with information, excitement, and confidence in your abilities to birth your baby. When you know what to expect from the birth process, it becomes much easier to cope with the pain of labour. You can educate yourself by taking a comprehensive childbirth course, read birth stories, and find informational and supportive books about the birth process. Knowing what to expect will help you feel self-assured and proves to be a powerful pain relief tool!
#2 Relaxation: There are several facets to relaxation that you should consider. You want to create a relaxing birth environment and learn to relax, both physically and emotionally. Employing this trifecta will serve as exceptional natural pain relief during labour. First, you want to create a relaxing birth environment. Curating a serene atmosphere with dim lighting, candles, aromatherapy, and calming music can get the oxytocin flowing, and ease tension to help you enjoy birth.
It is also important to relax both physically and emotionally. A recent study suggests engaging in relaxation exercises, through a mindfulness-based practice during pregnancy, can help reduce anxiety and facilitate an easier and more satisfying birth experience. Mindfulness is simply a state of awareness, that arises from paying attention to the present moment. This mindfulness app, specifically created for pregnancy, birth, and parenthood, is a fantastic training tool to help you engage in relaxation wherever you are. There are also several simple, but effective exercises that will teach you how to relax your muscles during times of tension and stress. To benefit most from these physical and emotional relaxation exercises, set aside time once or twice per day during your pregnancy. Relaxation training can truly help you have an amazing birth experience.
#3 Movement: Your baby must navigate down and out through your pelvis to be born. Movement is key in facilitating this and serves as an important pain relief strategy for you. Getting into a more upright position, or even just changing positions regularly can really help you manage even the most intense contractions. Movement can speed up a slow labour, help a posterior baby turn into a more optimal (and less painful!) position, and help you get a little more comfortable. Consider taking a walk, spending time on a birth ball, or use the support of your partner’s body to sway through contractions. Finding rhythm and ritual through movement is a fantastic pain coping mechanism.
#4 Water: Hydrotherapy is a scientifically proven natural, stress reducing and pain relief technique. Labouring in a warm bath can provide an incredible level of pain reduction. Taking a hot shower can be exceptionally relaxing while helping you get upright, which encourages baby to move down and through your pelvis.
#5 Acupressure: Acupressure is based on principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, an ancient and holistically focused wellness practice. Utilising and applying direct pressure to specific points on the body during labour, may provide you with phenomenal pain relief. Acupressure is a wonderfully convenient and cost-effective pain relief tool. You can take advantage of the benefits almost anywhere, and without any special equipment. When direct and appropriate pressure is applied to this area of the back and on the feet, relief from uncomfortable back labour may be alleviated, almost effortlessly.
#6 Massage: The demonstrated pain relief benefits of massage during labor are extensive. There are both physical and emotional advantages to massage therapy during labor and birth. It can relax tense muscles, easing the pain of contractions, shorten labor, facilitate rest, ease anxiety, and promote a sense of serenity. Your partner or birth support person can help you access the amazing pain relief options of massage by following these techniques.
#7 Emotional Support: Having a supportive birth team is one of the most effective natural pain relief tools available! It is crucial to find a provider you trust, who encourages your birth philosophy, educate your birth partner, and hire a birth doula! A doula is a trained maternal support person who provides emotional, physical, and educational assistance to a labouring mother and her birth partner. Evidence overwhelmingly supports having a doula as a powerful natural pain relief option. With dedicated, continuous support, women are more likely to have a satisfying and positive birth experience and require less medical pain management. Doulas can provide comfort with numerous pain-relief techniques that help reduce anxiety and fear, support physical and emotional relaxation, promote an uncomplicated physiologic birth, and facilitate a positive birth environment.
Birth can be a joyous occasion for the entire family. With the right preparation, support, and natural pain relief options, you can absolutely have the best (and perhaps even pain-free) birth experience.