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There are a number of benefits to a labour and birth free of medical interventions. For many women, it’s the simple liberty of feeling “in control” or “in touch” with your body and baby – a fortuity that can be lost to varying degrees, depending on the type of intervention.

Rather than simply blocking pain, as medicated pain relievers do, there are a number of natural pain relief options during labour which focus on reducing anxiety, promoting “calm” and the release of endorphins – then enhancing the effects of this amazing pain relief hormone to your benefit. At a very basic level it’s about helping your body help itself.

Here are 10 drug-free alternatives to try throughout the course of your labour:

Doula

A doula is a non-medical person who provides continuous support before, during and after childbirth. I personally found my doula to be a massive help in navigating the entire process and interpreting the signals my body and baby were sending me. It’s not always easy to “go with the flow”, particularly with a room full of (well-meaning) strangers. Selecting your doula in advance allows you time to establish a rapport and level of trust, not to mention the fact they are by your side before you even get to hospital.

Water

I spent loads of time in the bath and shower during both my labours and would encourage everyone to give it a try. There is something very comforting about warm water flowing over your body. Some of the noted benefits of labouring in water include; feeling more relaxed, calm and “in control”, your cervix may dilate faster, lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of tearing or need for an episiotomy.

TENS Machine

A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machine is a great tool because there are no adverse effects on mum or baby; it is portable, non-invasive and easy to use. It gives out electrical pulses that prevent the pain signals from your uterus reaching your brain. It also stimulates the body to release its own natural painkillers, called endorphins. Two long sticky strips are placed on either side of the lower part of your spine and connected to a control that adjusts the intensity and length of the signal. You can hire them from a specialist physio or potentially your hospital.

Massage

You are either going to want to be touched or not – and this may change as your labour progresses. Either way, it is likely that some form of massage is going to help relax you and ease the pain of the contractions. Get your support person to try different positions and pressure, until you find something that feels good.

Warm or Cool Compress

A heat pack can be quite effective in easing back pain, especially in the early phase of your labour. You can also try a towel soaked in warm water together with a few drops of essential oil to ease the pain. A cold compress can be quite soothing on your perineum, to help mimimise swelling and potentially avoid haemorrhoids that can result from a particularly long pushing phase.

Aromatherapy

Essential oils can be applied directly through massage or with a warm compress or inhaled from a burner. Like all alternative therapies however, it’s important to consult an aromatherapist for advice before stocking up your hospital bag. Certain essential oils can help calm and relax you and some are effective in relieving muscle spasms.

Breathing Techniques

During labour it is really important to try and shift your thought process from being tense and breathing erratically to a calm and focused breathing response.

When we are frightened, anxious or in pain, the stress hormone adrenaline is released which can lead to rapid breathing, dizziness, a sense of being out of control and exhaustion. It can also slow your labour as it blocks the release of oxytocin, which is required to stimulate contractions.

Change Position

Sometimes simply moving into a different position can help make you feel more comfortable.  Try kneeling or crouching over the back of your bed or a chair, kneeling on all fours, squatting with your partner supporting you from behind or lying on your side.

Exercise During Your Pregnancy

Moderate exercise during pregnancy can help manage back pain and strain as your belly grows, increase energy and promote good quality sleep. More importantly, it prepares your body for the demands of labour and birth and has even been shown to decrease labour duration and intensity! If you haven’t been previously active it’s not too late. Get the OK from your doctor first then start with something simple like walking.

Antenatal Classes

Depending on which state (or country) you live in, the hospital where you will have your baby is often the most cost-effective option, with some public hospitals not charging at all. There are loads of private antenatal class options – either in a group or one-on-one format but these tend to be more expensive, usually upwards of $300.

If you are looking for something you can watch in the comfort of your own home, you may want to consider an online antenatal class video. Traditional classes, while obviously “personal” can be overwhelming as there is so much information to remember. The peace of mind that comes with being able to replay a video when you want, where you want is well worth it.

image of “hospital” from Shutterstock
  • The only way to completely stop the pain of child birth is to be knocked out. Nothing worked for me, it was agony

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  • Interesting! Really interesting article! Thanks for sharing this!

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  • it is amazing how massage can really help to alleviate the pain or at least distracts you during the contraction.

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  • My labour was so quick I did not have time for anything. But these are great tips

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  • I had my little one 4 days ago, my total labour time was only 2 hours 40 minutes I just had the gas and I think that made me high lol I was offering the annathesic $10,000 to hurry up and give me an epidural but in the end I didn’t have it as my labour was too quickly progressing! In the end I’m glad I had a nataural birth but if I was to go into labor again I want an epidural lol!!

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  • I personally went all natural no pain relief what so ever but each to their own I think

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  • Good to see there are a number of options. I was all prepared, no drugs for me…… but heck, after 4 days of labour, being induced, baby being turned (internally!), & hubby hogging the cold cloth I was exhausted and just wanted it over.

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  • Thank you very much for sharing

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  • nice written read. i thought my option were very limited. its thought provoking. thanks.

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  • If you can afford a doula it makes a lot of sense having someone coaching and supporting you through the birth process. The other natural methods also sound helpful and depend on where you give birth. Most people who attend a public hospital don’t get a lot of individual choices though.

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  • Its good to know the natural options but at the end of the day we all want a healthy baby no matter what!

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  • Natural is best! Great read. Thank you

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  • Some good ideas there. Something to think about!

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  • i had all 4 of mine drug free only a bath with the first but great read :)

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  • I think water really helps, I’d love to have a water birth! Just wish my hospital did them. I didn’t go fully drug free with my 1st two I had some gas and air ( which in my opinion doesn’t take the pain away at all lol )

    Reply

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