5 Drug-Free Pain Relief Options for Labour and Childbirth
It’s not a secret that giving birth is one of the greatest pains in the world. Going into labour takes a lot of time and preparation, and while there are tons of action plans and advice floating all over the web as well as coming from friends and family, there is no solution that fits all.
At TensCare we are aware there are many women out there that choose not take medications to fight labour pains, be it related to the underlying health conditions or personal beliefs. And so, to provide some assistance we have compiled a list of 5 drug-free pain relief options during labour.
Often to numb out the pain we try to shift our focus somewhere else. This is the foundation of the hypnotherapy approach. In its essence, the practice is self-hypnosis that relies on finding distractions that provide support. In succeeding to do so, tension, pain and fright will be numbed by concentration.
The study behind this drug-free pain relief method is based on a study that proves correlation of fear and muscle tension. Entering labour being frightened will force your body raise adrenaline levels, which will in turn cause tension of the cervix and muscles.
In turn, this will cause lesser production of contraction hormones, forcing the uterus to be stiffer in its function of flexing and tightening. As a result of this, the contractions will be far more painful.
Unlike most drug-free pain relief in labour practices, hypnotheraphy doesn’t rely on outside forces and gives you full control over its effectivity. Common practices to prepare women for childbirth such as breathing and visualisation classes are aimed at usage of hypnotheraphy.
While hypnotheraphy does not guarantee pain-free labour nor perfect birth, it helps to maintain one’s mental state through relaxation. According to the book of Dr Grantly Dick-Read, it is most likely that 95% of women suffer from immense contraction pain due to fear and tension.
Hypnobirthing is being taught as classes, normally undertaken in mid to late pregnancy. The purpose of the said classes is to teach how to breathe or tune-out to get be able to apply hypnotheraphy effectively.
- TENS Machine
TENS translates into Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and is a medically proven drug-free pain relief measure, widely used in different stages of labour. Maternity TENS machine is a small simulator that runs on a battery. It sends barely noticeable electric impulses to your brain through your skin, using self-adhesive pads.
TENS machine for labour is different from muscle pain relief ones. Its impulses focus specifically on endophine production, therefore supplying you with natural painkillers. Labour TENS machine, in its essence, blocks pain signals before they reach the grain.
TENS machines are most effective when used in early labour; not only they encourage contractions but also give you support in maintaining mobility. TENS equipment can be used by virtually anybody, with an exception to those suffering from epilepsy, heart rhythm disorders or using a pacemaker.
Is it worth getting a tens machine for labour? Absolutely! Our Perfect Mama+ maternity TENS machine will be a great help even after the baby is born. Although officially labeled as a stimulator to help with drug-free pain relief, it also does miracles for postpartum recovery and lactation stimulation.
Humans generally find comfort in touch. Think about – how soothing is a hug when you’re dealing with stressful things in life. And, of course, physical contact is just as important in labour. The issue is, you can’t particularly cuddle while giving birth.
However, massage is still an option. How is it a drug-free pain relief, you may ask? A touch of someone dear naturally makes us relax. Muscle tension is what stops production of endorphins, thus making contractions more painful than they should be.
Studies and researches show that women that were massaged during labour had shorter labours and had a lower probability of developing postnatal depression. Additionally, they weren’t as anxious and had experienced less pain. Other findings showed that something as little as handholding or patting does miracles to one’s ability to cope.
This drug-free pain relief method is still fairly new and lacks in research. However, there are women that confirmed massaging being more effective than usual medical pain relief techniques. According to the most, they did not enjoy being touched during the contraction – but once it was gone, a little touch meant the world.
- Water Birth
When it comes to drug-free pain relief in labour, water birth is one of the oldest practices in the book. Our affinity to water begins in the womb, where we spend 9 months in water, and thus babies can swim upon being born – and thus it is genetically ingrained in us to naturally relax when our body is submerged.
Even in labour water is able to help you relax, and thus release more endophins that contribute towards relaxation and taking the edge off pain. Being relaxed means having more control over your pacing and reserving energy for when you actually need it.
Water birth can sometimes be advised against, especially if the baby is more than three weeks early. Additional causes may be history of pregnancy and birth complications, epilepsy or mobility issues. The best course of action is to discuss it with your midwife.
While water birth definitely doesn’t mean overcoming the pain entirely, it has been such an old practice for a reason. Most of the women who gave it a shot claim it has definitely helped to a degree, although some would be combining other drug-free pain relief techniques with it.
The last but not the least on our list of drug-free pain relief methods is reflexology. It is an alternative medicine practice consisting of applying pressure on different spots of one’s feet to stimulate various body parts.
It is usually done by a trained specialist that knows the right spots stimulation of which helps releasing hormones that can speed up labour. The sessions can be either a one-off or continue in timed intervals, contributing towards calmness or notching down the pain. The best part is that with enough practice, even your partner will be able to help out.
Usually, this would be done by a trained practitioner, to help stimulate the pituitary gland in order induce hormones that can ‘speed up’ labour. These sessions can continue into labour in timed intervals, in order to help keep the soon-to-be mum calm, or ease a little bit of pain.
Reflexology is a practice that takes place already during the pregnancy, and not just in labour. It is, however, not recommended to women with a history of miscarriage, risk of pre-eclampsia or other pregnancy complications. Just like with any alternative medicine treatment, check in with your GP or midwife before starting.
While there isn’t much evidence it is effective in terms of it taking the pain away, but it has been reported reflexology contributes towards shortening labour and making it easier. It is also said that when used in labour, the effects kick in after approximately 2 minutes, but the full blown effect takes over around 15 minutes in.
Researchers at Iran’s Ishafan University conducted a few studies that showed in findings that women that used this method were more relaxed and suffered from less intense pain.
They concluded: “Properly using of this technique, reflexology can reduce the labor pain…
“Generally, the results of this study – which include reducing the length of the labor, labor pain intensity, postpartum hemorrhage and improving Apgar score – can play an important role in promoting mothers’ health and their satisfaction.”