If you're determined to have a natural birth, we have a few tricks up our sleeves to help you make it as comfortable as possible...(or at least as comfortable as one can be when pushing a human out of their body.) Even if you don't plan on a natural birth, these tips are also excellent for the first stages of labor when you might still be in some serious discomfort.
Gentle massage/light strokes:
Get your partner to lightly massage your tense back and shoulders relax your body. If you're not in the mood, or being massaged while in labor sounds like it might stress you out, have someone gently touch muscles that you might unknowingly be tensing. The light stroke will be enough to remind you to relax so as not to strain the body. You know, until all the pushing. ;)
This is best started at 34-35 weeks pregnant, and done for 10 minutes a day until delivery day. The idea behind perineal massage is that by slowly loosening, stretching, and strengthening the perineum over time, your chances of tearing the perineum or having to have an episiotomy during birth are decreased. (Which would mean less pain during labor, right?) Not sure how to start? Learn how here.
Take a warm shower or bath
There's a reason water birth is so popular in the home/natural birth world. Women who labor in water tend to need less medical intervention and it's safe for mom and baby!
If you're not comfortable with a water birth, try simply soaking in a warm bath or taking a warm shower in the first and second stages of labor to ease back and core pain.
For more information read: Is it safe to take hot baths while pregnant?Changing position/movements:
Arguably one of the most uncomfortable things you can do is to remain still and flat on your back as you labor. Staying upright, walking, squatting, rocking, swaying, and changing your position often can help with the discomfort.
A little less traditional than some of these other methods, but acupuncture has been used in Eastern medicine for hundreds of years to relieve pain associated with all kinds of situations. Some acupuncturists even use to help women have a shorter labor! Just make sure you find a licensed, experienced professional to help if you decide to use this labor pain reliever.
Hyponbirthing is the use of self-hypnosis and self-relaxation techniques for a more gentle birth. These techniques are designed to help you perceive your labor contractions as less painful through the use of more positive language and breathing techniques.
There's an essential oil for every type of ailment (or so it seems!) including labor pains. Frankincense, lavender, myrrh, and peppermint oil are some of the most common, and can be massaged into the skin when diluted with an oil like coconut or grapeseed, or you can throw a few drops in the bathtub or the diffuser. Just be sure if you pick another oil that it is safe for you and baby!
Deep, rhythmic breathing:
Just like you have to focus on your breathing when running or lifting weights, you have to pay attention and make conscious, rhythmic breathing during labor, too.
A deep inhale and a slow, conscious exhale with the right timing can help you find your way through the contraction in less pain. Plus, focusing on something other than the pain and discomfort is help in itself.
They don't call it labor for nothing - this is likely the hardest, longest workout you've ever done. Staying well hydrated is important, just like it's important during any other workout! If you're hydrated, it can help you increase your energy output and maybe even help you prolong time without an IV. Make sure you begin drinking clear fluids and plenty of water throughout your entire pregnancy - you never know when baby will decide he or she would like to enter the world and you want to be ready!
Cold and hot compresses
Heat and cold can both be used as effective labor pain relievers. Cold compresses can decrease the sensation be reducing blood flow and can help cool you when you're potentially very hot! Hot compresses can relax the muscles and nerves and are especially helpful on the back if you're experiencing back labor. You can even combine the two for different sensations and levels of effectiveness.
A pregnant/laboring woman's best friend is her birthing ball. Use it to sit on during early labor, or do circles with your hips to help start labor or turn your breech baby. During active labor, the ball can be used to support your upper body if you find that laying on your back isn't comfortable for you.
Birthing balls are also an efficient exercise to Prepare for a VBAC
Screaming puts pressure on your entire body and especially in the abdomen. Your body is going through enough stress with the contractions and pushing, so help it out by resisting the urge to scream as loud as you can. We know, easier said than done, but going into the experience with this knowledge in mind may help you in the moment.
Practice at least two of the labor pain reducing methods in this article before you go into labor. You will be prepared and are most comfortable with so that you can relax as you bring your child into the world.