Giving Birth Hurts! Try These 6 Comfort Techniques for Labor

comfort techniques labor
Image adapted from iStock

Whatever your method, the act of labor hurts. A lot.

Your body’s method of shimmying the baby into position causes contractions that would make a grown man cry. And delivery, vaginal or otherwise, ain’t no walk in the park. Women are insanely tough, but regardless, that business HURTS.

In many cases, you may endure the early stages of labor from the comfort of your own home. Even if you opt for pain management therapies at a hospital or birthing center, you will most likely experience pain before those interventions are administered.

We all experience pain differently, so determining a means to dull or eliminate it varies from person to person. Distraction may work for some, while others require a little brain trickery and/or relaxation assistance. Explore the following methods with your partner, doula, or birthing coach. Try them out prior to going into labor and discover what methods work best for you.

Light pilates exercises help ease discomfort for pregnant women
Image via iStock

The Birthing Ball – The pressure on your body seems to build by the minute in your third trimester.  Purchase a birthing ball (basic yoga ball) to help you achieve comfort when even the couch begins to feel like steel.  Sitting on a birthing ball can be a dream during pregnancy, but even more so once your contractions begin.  Sit with your pelvis open and allow the ball to absorb some of the pressure from the contractions.  You may feel better by rocking back and forth or circling your hips. 

If you are experiencing pressure in your back, you may opt to position yourself on all fours – knees on the ground and resting your upper body on the ball.  Gravity will pull things toward the front of your belly giving your back a much needed reprieve. 

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Image via iStock

Massage – Our bodies naturally release endorphins when we are in labor.  These endorphins are nature’s pain fighter, however, when we fail to relax, they are stifled.  By calming our minds and bodies, we can facilitate the release of these powerful chemicals.  One of the best ways to relax is through massage.  Research massage techniques with your partner prior to going into labor, so you can establish your preferred touch patterns in advance.  The day your contractions begin is not the day to experiment with clumsy, albeit well-intentioned, massage efforts.

Don’t allow your partner to feel overwhelmed.  You won’t be able to recreate a day at the spa, so instead focus on small, concentrated areas.  Perhaps a basic hand massage or a pressurized massage on your hips?  Maybe you like to have your temples rubbed or your calves kneaded?  You don’t need an expert massage therapist on call (although, how great would that be?!?!), but you do need someone familiar with your preferences.  Tip:  Have massage oil available and make sure to toss it in your hospital bag before the big event!

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Image via iStock

Meditation – By calming your mind, you are minimizing the feelings of labor pains in two ways – distraction and endorphin release.  If you are like me, meditation is difficult.  If you aren’t a pro, try this technique.  Simply count to 50 (aloud is fine if that helps).  Once you reach 50, count backwards to one.  Do this slowly.  Close your eyes.  Breathe deeply.  You should feel your body start to relax before you are done.  If not, repeat your count again.

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Image via Flickr/CINNAMON VOGUE

Aromatherapy – Essential oils are commonly used to evoke emotions.  During labor, lavender or eucalyptus may be especially helpful to aid with your relaxation.  Lemon and orange may provide you with a boost of energy to help you endure a long labor.  The aromas stimulate your nose and send a message to the part of your brain that controls your emotions.  Essential oils may be found in lotions, massage oils, and candles; however, many hospitals and birthing centers may not allow the burning of candles in their facilities.  One quick and easy way to pack essential oils is to put a few drops of the oil(s) of your choice on a cotton ball.  Place your cotton ball in a zip-sealed baggie.  Voila.  Now anytime you need a little aromatherapy, you can open your bag and take a deep breath.  Pack multiple baggies with multiple scents if that suits you.  You never know what you may need when the time comes.

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Image via Flickr/tonystl

Music – We all know music affects our moods.  It can make us cry, get us in the mood, or make us wanna party.  Additionally, it can provide a calming (or energizing) effect that helps us endure the stages of labor.  You can use music to “dance”.  Wrap your arms around your partner, allowing him or her to balance much of your weight.  Spread your feet wide and sway back and forth – nearly squatting – as to open your pelvis and allow the baby to settle into the birthing position.  Relax, close your eyes, and allow the music to distract you from your pain.

Much like athletes use music to prepare themselves for a game, you can also use music to get across the finish line.  Find songs with inspiration or perhaps pick songs you use when you exercise or clean the house (we all have a playlist for that, right?).  Whatever song you select, make sure you are okay with forever associating it with the pain and joy of the arrival of your baby.

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Image via Flickr/rosmary

Warm Water – During early labor, taking a warm shower or bath can be very helpful to reduce pain.  Many hospitals or birthing centers now have showers and/or birthing tubs for patients to use during the early stage of labor.  You may also try a hot water bottle, heating pad, or rice sock to target specific areas of pain such as your lower back or sore muscles.

 { MORE: (DIY instructions here) }

It is important to remember the brain processes both feelings of pleasure and feelings of pain; however, the feelings of pleasure travel up your spine and to the brain faster than feelings of pain.  Using comfort techniques will fill your brain with “feel good” sensations, thus masking sensations of pain.  If you have questions or concerns about comfort techniques, please consult your healthcare provider.

{ MORE:  Oh Poop! The Scoop on Poop During Labor  }

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Giving Birth Hurts! Try These 6 Comfort Techniques for Labor

Jennifer Bruno is a credentialed trainer by day and a freelance writer and aspiring photographer by night. Raised in rural Kansas, Jen moved to sunny Florida after college where she met her husband, who married her despite hearing her sing Dixie Chicks karaoke. Shortly after saying “I do”, they moved to New York City to fulfill their dream of living amongst the bright lights and skyscrapers. They currently share their cramped apartment with two modelesque miniature dachshunds named Millie an ... More

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23 comments

  1. Miranda says:

    My natural instincts drove me to take a warm shower before I was induced (while in labor) with my first son. I will definitely be trying the essential oils if I can find a way to buy them locally. I brought music with me during my first labor/birth but did not use it, in fact I’ve no idea where my MP3 player went after that because I never saw it again. lol. I did not take or use a birthing ball but have recently been dying to blow up my exercise ball to help alleviate back pain so I planned to use it this time around prior to reading this article. Meditation I’ve heard of but didn’t believe it worked as I have a hard time clearing my mind, but I will be trying it this time around. Massage would be a good one if you have someone there, but not everyone does. These are some great ideas and I’m excited to try them.

  2. joyce says:

    I will try these techniques the warm shower sounds great.

  3. Marina says:

    Definitely will try these techniques.

  4. Phammom says:

    Excited to try these.

  5. i used the birthin ball with my 4th & it worked great it felt good too & will use it for my 5th child who is due in july

  6. Shana says:

    I always wanted to try the warm pool to give birth. I think it would feel good. I don’t know why I didn’t. Didn’t use any pain meds though! Too late for me now because I have three kids and I am done having kids!

  7. jessieccvc89 says:

    I think the yoga ball and music will be what I will try first.

  8. mommabear says:

    Please stop perpetuating the myth that labor HURTS. It is intense, but it doesn’t have to hurt. Just because you experienced labor as painful, doesn’t mean that everyone will.

  9. Aimee says:

    Great ideas. Not so sure about using the yoga ball. I’d be afraid of falling off.

  10. Justine says:

    Hot bath & breathing techniques worked for me, allowed me to dilate to 9 cm before asking for any pain meds!

  11. Ashley2marie says:

    Good to know. First time mom so im scared of everything!

  12. LucyS says:

    My mom was that way with one of my siblings, under 30 min! Doctor didn’t even have time to get to hospital

  13. LucyS says:

    Music will def be one I try, and water. Warm shower is already a pretty strong go to relaxer for me. Thanks for the varied techniques!

  14. D3mokey135 says:

    I’m going to have to try some of these… I’m dilated to a 3 and my cramping is becoming more consistent… I can finally say for the first time in my pregnancy I cannot get comfortable and the cramping is just the beginning… Hope it works!!! 🙂

  15. lexy says:

    I’m going to try this hopefully it works. I’m so scared.

  16. MAMASEXXY says:

    I LIKE IT QUITE BUT I WILL PLAY SOFT MUSIC FOR MY BABY BOY, LIKE I DID FOR MY DAUGHTER.

  17. MAMASEXXY says:

    AT THIS POINT IN MY PREGNANCY I DON’T WANT TO SPELL ANYTHING. LOL

  18. MAMASEXXY says:

    I HAVE TO MEDITATE A LOT WITH MY DAUGHTER GIVING ME THE BLUES, I THINK SHE DOES IIT ON PURPOSE. LOL

  19. MAMASEXXY says:

    WOW!!! I WISH!!!

  20. MAMASEXXY says:

    I WANT ONE OF THESE SO BAD.

  21. Lisa says:

    Of course unless you’re like a friend of mine who said it felt only slightly worse than period cramps and delivered in 10 mins flat! She didn’t even push, she kept saying "the baby’s coming, I can feel the head coming out" the nurse went to check her and sure enough the baby was crowning. The nurse took off to get the Dr and my friend’s mother ended up delivering and was cleaning out the baby’s mouth and nose when the Dr came in.

  22. MAMASEXXY says:

    I’M GOING TO TRY THIS, I HOPE IT MAKES THINGS BETTER THIS.

  23. MAMASEXXY says:

    YEAH AIN’T THIS THE TRUTH!!!!!!!!

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