Natural Pain Relief Options in Labour

Posted by on 28th Feb 2021

Natural Pain Relief Options in Labour

I’m hoping that women take this little blog info on board and utilise what they feel comfortable and compatible with, because I’m certain it will be of benefit to any labouring woman, who would prefer to limit or refrain from using pharmaceutical pain relief offered at the maternity hospital.

Most women who have laboured would say that labour was the most painful, exhausting experience they have ever encountered. I would need to agree with this. Even though my labours weren’t that long and straight forward.... goodness me, i felt like i was hit by a bus especially the following day. I couldn’t even stand straight, breathing was hard, my muscles were all kaput.(Maybe if i was actually more fit, i may have not felt so bad, but who knows.) Labour of love i guess.. its like running a marathon coupled with a pump class x 2.

Most hospitals offer various pharmaceutical pain relief. I do need to say, they are not without risks. Its worth looking into it and informing yourself before deciding on it i guess. The gold question here would be... Are there any contraindications, for me or baby etc? Maybe i can leave this for a later post. Although in saying this, we do need to be kind to ourselves and do what we need to do right, it’s just good to be informed.

The following pain relief strategies are natural, simple and they work. They do not get rid of the pain or sensation of labour, they do however help you cope and manage the labouring sensations, you are owning your birth! All ladies need to remember that every contraction or surge as some may call it, bring you closer to your baby!

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

A TENS is a simple and non invasive method of pain relief. When turned on during a contraction, it actually blocks the pain signals to the brain via what is called the Gate Control Theory. The TENS It is a small machine (as in the photo) that is powered by batteries. Electro pads and wires connect into the machine, while the electro pads stick on your lower / mid back region. When a contraction commences, the on button is pressed as fast as humanly possible, reducing the sensation of the contraction. I used a TENS during both of my labours, and i can say that it really helped me.. it was a true distraction to the pain. Some women i guess would need to use a TENS earlier in labour than others, all depends on pain thresh-hold. I started using one when the contraction pain turned a little uncomfortable. There are a few different type of labour TENS machines on the market, The one i used in the picture above is an Obi TENS, however most ladies like to use the Elle TENS, (there are a few different models) and it has extra features to the Obi. You might have some luck seeing if your maternity ward has one to lend you or your Doula, or Obstetrician, or you can hire one here.

Breathing and Birthing Noises.

Breathing is huge when it comes to distraction in labour... you are not only helping relieve tension, you are also helping to dissociate from the contraction pain. Breathing exercises were used back in the 1940’s via the Lamaze method, which uses psychoprophylaxis, a mind over matter technique. Breathing coupled with other forms of natural pain relief works well for many women.

Breathing was a major focus of mine during labour, particularly during the pushing phase, i felt like i needed to take a deep breath at the start of every contraction, and on the exhale, i needed to be vocal... i sang pretty much... this was a major release of contraction tension.

Massage

Massage stimulates skin nerve fibres, so it reduces the perception of labour pain. The massage techniques can range from strong compression, moderate stroking to fingertip touching. But many women prefer firm pressure, particularly on her lower back, near the sacrum and above the buttocks. A few items can be used for massage, a hot or cold pack firmly compressed, a massage ball or massage device, and of course, a knuckle or a hand. In saying this, some women cannot stand to be touched during labour, while other women constantly need to be touched. So just see what you like and what works well for you.

Movement & The Birth Dance.

Movement activates nerve receptors in the joints which help reduce pain. Movement also helps to progress labour by helping further dilation; it helps get baby into position; it stretches ligaments opening up the pelvis. So pretty much movement is your best friend in labour. Ask your partner to help with the moving by holding hands, walking forwards and backwards together while eye-gazing, rock your pelvis from side to side, front to back, rotate your pelvis in a figure eight or draw an infinity sign or write your name rotating your pelvis. This can be done on an exercise ball too. Stomp your feet, do a jiggle this all helps! During my labour, i found that dancing and wiggling and jiggling my body reduced my labour pain a lot, and i feel it even reduced labour time.

On the subject of movement, there is something called Dancing for Birth, it is a mix of light, simple safe movements of belly dancing, Latin dancing and African dancing, mixed in with some functional movement is perfect for supporting a quicker and easier labour, as well as being a pretty awesome distraction. You may find a local Dancing for Birth class near you to undertake during your pregnancy. Movement during labour, open up the pelvis, and helps baby get into a favourable position, however this topic i will save for another blog post. 

Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a technique used to simply alter your conscious awareness. It can alter your perceptions of labour and birth rendering each contraction positive. Your thoughts and feelings are positive during labour, allowing for a positive experience. Hypnosis allows for a significant reduction in labour time, reduces interventions and increases the rate of spontaneous birth Even though my birth were straightforward, i do wish i had invested time into a Hypnobirthing course, because I’m certain it would have made my birthing experience easier by being more relaxed and more focused on breathing. Hypnobirthing Australia is a renowned preparation course. They offer face to face classes, group classes, one one one, and online classes. You can find your local Hypnobirthing instructor online at https://hypnobirthingaustralia.com.au/find-a-practitioner/

Visualisation/Affirmation

Visualising your perfect birth, visualising your baby travelling through the pelvis and out of your vagina for example, does actually help to relax you, helps to release any fear or negative emotions that could potentially hinder your labour. Affirmations are a reminder that your body was made for this, you and your baby working together. You remind yourself to be positive about birth and about its natural beautiful process. You can draw up your own affirmation posters or cards, or you can purchase downloadable versions, or pretty cards and posters on a thicker gsm. You can find a few different types here.

Water Injections

Sterile water is injected into the lower back or groin area by the caregiver to override pain sensations. This works on the same theory as the gateway theory, like the TENS would, or similar and they generally reduce pain for up to two hours. All maternity hospitals should offer this version of pain relief. 

Water

Spending time in water not only relaxes you, it reduces your pain level because you are relaxed. The buoyancy takes the pressure off your body, making contractions easier to deal with. Most maternity hospitals have baths or birthing pools. Make are you ask for the room with the bath or birthing pool when you check into the hospital. A warm shower with the water pressure aiming on your lower back is also satisfying, as it soothes tired muscles and relieves any tension. Spending time in water, also allows for some me time in labour. Relaxation in water, without talking, noise or disruption especially in a dimly lit room can assist the progression of labour, however i will leave this topic for another blog post. 

Acupuncture & Acupressure

Acupuncture and Acupressure are both effective natural methods for pain relief in labour. They are both similar however the Acupuncture is more effective. With acupuncture, you would need to find a professional who is experienced at treating pregnant women, and who can be on call for you to treat you while you are in labour. With this method, women are less likely to use medical forms of pain relief. Flat ear pressed needles can be taped on, so there is no limitation to how active you choose to be in labour, or if making the most of the shower or bath.  

Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, where certain points are pressed, using your fingers. It is great because your support person or midwife can administer it. Ink marks can also be placed on the specific points so your support person knows where to press.  

Aromatherapy

Essential oils can support your labour by helping to calm you, and to increase oxytocin. Essential oils are mainly used in oil diffusers mixed with water, and the aroma is diffused in the room you are in.The best oils to use during labour is Lavender, because it calms and relaxes, and Clary Sage because it helps to increase oxytocin, stimulating contractions.Both of these oils are mild analgesics too. Peppermint oil has been used to reduce the feeling of nausea during labour too. Most maternity hospitals allow you bring your own essential oil diffuser, just check with them first  though. You can also purchase a small portable diffuser and the organic essential oils here.

Music

Music can be a lovely relaxing distraction and it can have a calming and motivating influence on you. It supports rhythmic breathing, your visualisations and it can assist you with hypnosis. I had a playlist on the ready for both of my labours. I downloaded meditative music from iTunes, my favourite album was Time for Miracle: Pregnancy Music. The tracks were flowy and beautiful. In the search bar, if you searched music for labour and birth, a heap of options would appear for you. The idea is to listen to whatever music you love, increasing your happy hormones beneficial for birth. 

Your options are almost endless, and they are all an effective way to help you through your labour sensations. Above all, the power of the mind by way of accepting and giving into the process your body is going through during labour is most important. When you believe in your ability to birth, you are already half way there.

Love to you.

Sources used:

Price. C, Robinson. S (2010) Birth, Conceiving, Nurturing and Giving Birth to Your Baby, Macmillan Publishing.