Over the past couple of months, we’ve been receiving inquiry calls from people who never thought they wanted to have an unmedicated birth. This is unusual for us, of course – most of our clients seek out our services because they planned to have a home birth from the start, and are ready for the fact that pain medication is not available. For people who are rethinking their plans in the last weeks of pregnancy due to COVID-19, the idea of not having an epidural available can give one pause.
As such, one of the first questions people in this situation ask us is, “What do we do about the pain?” Here, we will share a few of the tools available in our “bag of tricks”:
This is the big one. Immersion in water has been shown to be very effective for reducing the sensation of pain in labor, and the need to ask for pain relief. Evidence Based Birth has a great article about water immersion for pain relief here: https://evidencebasedbirth.com/water-immersion-during-labor-for-pain-relief/ We think the labor pool works so well that we almost consider it a necessity, at least for first babies. We have seen it make the difference for people time and again. Using the labor pool does not mean that you need to birth in it – the pain relief benefits in the first stage of labor make all of the difference, even if you get out to push.
More water – water is so great. We love to use the shower for pain relief in early labor, when the pool may actually be a little too relaxing (we still want the uterine muscle to do its best work, and if we get in the pool too soon, sometimes things slow down a little). The shower is a great option for this period, or for changing things up later in labor, too. Directing the stream of hot water onto your lower back and belly can bring immense relief, and being upright is great for progress.
hot (or cold) packs
Many people find great relief in the use of a hot rice or corn bag on the lower back, belly or hips in labor. Some people prefer to use cold packs on their backs – or maybe alternate between the two.
change in position
Movement is key in managing labor. We will often suggest ways to move your body to relieve discomfort, or to shift baby into a different position. Walking, dancing, rocking, squatting, hands and knees – listen to your body, and move in ways that make you feel good.
There are many touch techniques that can help in labor, including counter pressure to the lower back, massage of the hips, or sometimes just lateral pressure to relieve anxiety. Touch is something that can be welcome or unwelcome depending on the person and where they are at in their labor journey, so your birth team should be open to receiving direction from you about touch.
There is a lot more out there in the world on natural pain relief for labor – these are just a few! We suggest doing some reading about natural birth, and a natural birth class can be very helpful. We offer a childbirth class as part of our home birth package, and there are many other great options in the area and online.