As some of you know, I took a long break (about a year or two…) to manage the back end, business side of HB&B. Due to this break, I have not been as actively working with clients during birth.
With my recent return to school(that’s a story for another time), I decided to take my summer vacation to return to birthwork. I was missing the connection and hands on work of being with clients while they met their babies. Returning to birthwork allowed me to step into a primary doula role with a few families and I’m currently awaiting the call to join a family as I write this.
What I’ve learned from my long birth hiatus is that I never lose the passion and drive to wholeheartedly support a family wherever they are. My first birth back after my break left me feeling rusty and out of practice, so I decided to sit down and write down all my thoughts on natural pain management techniques to prove to myself that I still know a thing a two about how to help get babies out! I thought I would share that information with you, so…without further adieu, I present you with: 10 natural pain relief techniques for birth.
We have all heard this word, but what does it mean exactly? Essentially, its the atmosphere or how the room “feels” and the things we do to facilitate achieving that feeling. Things like low lighting (candles, lamps, twinkle lights), a comfortable room temperature, soft places to sink into using blankets and pillows, smells, and who can forget the music?! All of these things can help to promote physical relaxation through relaxing the senses.
These are the “tools” that doulas pack in our proverbial “birth bags” in order to create ambiance and to add to our clients comfort.
Things such as birthing balls, hot rice socks, robozos, birth combs, fans, tennis balls and aromatherapy. These are physical, tangible objects that can be used to attain certain positions, relieve tension, stimulate reflxology points and our engage our limbic system in order to close the pain gate.
This magic tool is one that most doulas prefer to teach to the birthing person’s partner. It requires a lot of force, and can tire one out pretty quickly. If I’m being honest, I save this technique for the transitional phase of labor whenever possible.
So, what is it? Using the heel of one hand, and stacking the other hand on top, pressure is applied directly down onto the sacrum with contractions. This is the area of the back where discomfort is usually the most intense. This technique is ideal for folks who are laboring on hands and knees, or draped over the edge of a bed, countertop, birthing tub, yoga ball……you get the idea. I actually use this technique combined with manual squeezing of the pelvis (see the picture for a double-hip squeeze) as a super effective way to counter discomfort!
Yes. Simply breathing can alleviate discomfort. Lamaze is a technique that uses special breathing patterns and sounds to cope with labor. Others find that yoga breathing; long, slow, deep abdominal breaths are more effective at helping to keep you calm, Breathing can be used to reduce fear and anxiety allowing one to be more relaxed and focused. Its a proven fact that when we increase the amount of oxygen in our blood, our muscles receive that oxygen, and are able to more effectively contract and release as needed- no tension in our muscles means less discomfort and pain.
Some birth workers call warm tubs of water “aquadurals” because the amount of tension released through buoyancy and heat is comparable to medical pain relief. Immersing in warm water whether through a bath, shower or warm compress has shown to be a natural and effective pain reliever.
Its common knowledge in the birth world that the pelvic floor and the diaphragm operate in very similar ways. Relaxing the diaphragm also relaxes the pelvic floor. Have a wide open loose jaw also allows for the vaginal opening to open and loose so a baby can pass through. When we encourage a person to use low moaning tones, we give them the ability to respond to the pain while still staying relaxed.
Often confused with a focal point, this technique allows one to fill their minds with positive images that allow them to relax. This can vary from memories of a past vacation vista to a shower or bubble of different colored lights surrounding the birthing person.
Occasionally the visualization techniques listed above can double as a way to put oneself into a state of self-hypnosis. Using key words and thoughts are hypnosis techniques used to remove tension and fear, which allows for complete emotional, mental, and physical relaxation. Hypnobabies and Hypnobirthing are popular childbirth education courses that teach these techniques.
Changing positions frequently helps to allow your body remain relaxed and open, minimizing discomfort. Position changes also help to encourage the baby to work with gravity to maneuver through the pelvis for a smooth birth. The Miles Circuit and Spinning Babies techniques are great for learning how to employ effective position changes.
Never underestimate the comfort of a familiar face and trusted touch. When you are surrounded by those you love, a trusted partner, friend or family member- your oxytocin increases. Oxytocin is the primary hormone of labor. The more you have flowing the more consistent and effective your contractions are.
All of these techniques or tools can be used to help one achieve an unmedicated birth if that is what they want. However, using these does not guarantee that your birth will go as planned, or that you won’t experience any discomfort. They are really just fantastic ways to simulate an ideal birthing environment. I sincerely hope this list helps you have the birth you choose!