Well, really in my opinion there is only one way, and it works like magic. It’s called an epidural. Ok, just kidding (but not really)!! However, if you are looking for drug-free ways to relieve labor pains, there are many techniques out there, and many women have had exhilarating (if not completely pain-free–sorry!) natural births. Lamaze.org offers these 10 tips to staying within your “comfort zone.”
1. Find a Soothing Environment
Your birth setting must feel safe to you. It should have space to walk and bathe, as well as a variety of options to enhance movement, comfort, and pain relief: a soft bed, CD player, rocking chair, birth ball, low stool, and/or squatting bar. It should also have policies that encourage you to try a variety of positions. Access to appropriate medical care is crucial if problems arise.
2. Choose Your Team Carefully
Knowledgeable, caring midwives, doctors, nurses, partners, loved ones and/or doulas create a supportive birth team. When you’re treated with respect and patience, stress and inhibitions decrease, and you can more easily find your best coping mechanisms.
3. Learn About Labor
The more knowledge you have, the fewer surprises you will experience. Find out everything you can about labor from books, magazines, Web sites, videos, classes, a hospital tour and discussions with your health-care provider, doula, family and friends. Familiarize yourself with the procedures and customs at your hospital or birth center. Such discussions are best had before labor.
4. Express Your Fears
Are you worried about pain and labor, needles, medicines or losing control? Speak with a knowledgeable and trusted friend, childbirth educator or doula. Voicing your concerns can bring relief as well as practical solutions to your concerns. Stating your preferences in a birth plan can also help calm fears.
5. Practice Rhythmic Breating
Breathe fully in a slow rhythm during contractions. Release tension with each exhalation and try moaning. Also try taking quick breaths, about one every 2 to 3 seconds (20 to 30 per minute). Your partner or birth coach may be able to help you keep your rhythm with eye contact, rhythmic hand or head movements, or by talking you through contractions.
6. Use Imagery and Visualization
Focusing on something that makes you happy (like your partner’s face, an inspirational picture or favorite object) engages your senses and decreases your awareness of pain. Listen to music, a soothing voice or a recording of ocean waves, and imagine yourself in a relaxing environment.
7. Take a Warm Shower or Bath
A warm shower is soothing, especially if you can sit on a stool and direct a handheld showerhead onto your abdomen or back. Bathing in warm water is relaxing, and it may even speed up labor.
8. Keep Moving
Move around as much as you can. Walk, lean, sway, rock and squat. Some positions will be more comfortable than others.
9. Seek Relief with Warm or Cool Compresses
Place a warm pack on your lower abdomen, groin, lower back or shoulders during labor. A cold pack or latex glove filled with ice chips can soothe painful areas. Cool cloths relieve a sweaty face, chest or neck.
10. Indulge in Gentle Touch or Massage
Have your partner or doula massage you in whatever way provides the most relief for you. Whether it’s someone holding your hand, stroking your cheek or hair, or patting your hand or shoulder, touch conveys reassurance, caring and understanding.