Have you started writing your plan yet? I’m guessing you have, or you’re getting round to it soon.
You’re aiming for a natural birth, right? And, you know it’s gonna be painful, but you’d prefer to avoid having an epidural.
But niggling doubts are starting to creep in.
“Will I cope with the pain?”
“Is my pain tolerance as high as I think?”
“I’ve never been in severe pain; I’m scared.”
What you need right now is to learn how to cope with your labor pain.
As a midwife, I can’t sum it up better than advice by birth guru Penny Simkins. When you feel tense and anxious, labor is much more painful. The three ways you can cope with the consistent pain are with:
- Relaxation. Reducing the stress of labor.
- Ritual. Doing the same routine with each contraction
- Rhythm. Doing something in a familiar and repetitive pattern
I want to let you know my favorite labor tools to help you use these 3 coping techniques in labor. You see, when you’re coping, you’re less likely to need further pain relief.
You might find a midwife or doula can provide most of these. If not you should pack your own ‘coping bag’ and put it in your hospital bag.
Let’s look at each tool and how it will help you.
PIN FOR LATER
10 Natural Labor Coping Tools
1. Tennis Balls
Ok, I’m sure you know what a tennis ball is. But why would you want to use one in labor?
Well, a tennis ball is perfect for creating counter pressure. That means you get pain relief when your push back against your contractions.
The best way to use a tennis ball is to apply steady, firm pressure on your lower back or hips. Your partner, midwife or doula can so this during your contraction.
You can even make a DIY massage tool with the tennis balls. Put two or three in a sock (a clean man’s sock is usually long enough) and tie the end. The sock can then be used to rhythmically run up and down your back during contractions.
Tennis balls are ideal to use as they are inexpensive and the right firmness. You can also use one of the massage balls with spikes, like these ones. They are good for targeting specific pressure points.
2. Massage Oil
Aromatherapy oils are great for use in labor. I mean who doesn’t love a good massage.
They help to promote relaxation. Plus I love that oils encourage a sense of touch during labor. Whether that’s from your partner, midwife or doula. Touch is a great way to release your oxytocin hormone. That’s what’s gonna stop your labor from stalling.
Did you know that frankincense and myrrh are two oils recommended for labor pains? Yep, three wise midwives would have known to bring them before the baby was born!
I think the most effective oils to use are lavender for relaxation, lemon for a pick me up and preventing nausea and the mighy clary sage that’s like Pitocin in a bottle, helping to strengthen your contractions.
3. Hot Therapy Pack
You know when you get those dull crampy period pains? What’s one thing that makes it better for you? That’s right a nice hot water bottle.
A lot of hospitals won’t let you have a hot water bottle due to the risk of scalding. A hot therapy pack is much safer to use.
I can’t count how many times women have asked me if we have these available to use in labor. Seriously they’re pretty inexpensive, get one in your hospital bag.
Once the pack is heated, you can apply it to your lower back, tummy or hips during contractions. Plus a warm pack on the perineum can help it stretch up and prevent tears.
By the way that’s why I’d recommend using a gel pack over a rice pad. Labor is messy yo! At least a gel pack can be washed down after. Then you can use it for postpartum stiffness or muscle pains.
4. Squatty Potty
I’m gonna tell you something you’ll do during labor. How do I know? Because all women love doing it. So what is it?
You’ll love sitting on a toilet.
Why? Because it helps to open up your hips and gets you into a supported squatted position.
If the thought of spending most of your labor on a toilet seems unhygienic, you have other options. A birth stool has the same effect as a toilet. The CUB chair is a great modern option, but it’s pricey for a one-off.
My secret sauce to getting the same effect is using a squatty potty. Seriously, you’ll get one for under $30.
When you’re sitting upright with wide open hips, you give your baby room to move. Plus the squatted position tones your pelvic floor, which helps your baby move into a good position.
Oh and don’t forget that it will also make it a lot easier for your first postpartum poop. Seriously, you won’t feel like you’re passing shards of glass.
5. Birth Ball
I’m crazy about big balls. You know those big exercise balls.
Now if you don’t have one already,get one now. They are comfortable and help you prepare for labor. Use it daily by sitting on it instead of your sofa.
Birthing balls are perfect in labor for:
- taking intense pressure off your spine
- applying counter pressure to your perineum
- opening your hips
- keeping you upright
All these benefits help you to cope better with your contractions. And when you’re coping, you’re less likely to reach for further pain relief.
You can bounce up and down, but circling your hips is better. Another great position is to lean over the ball as you kneel. I love that one for a posterior labor as it relieves the intense back pain and helps your baby turn the right way.
Using the right size of birthing ball is important. Otherwise, you won’t get the best results. Check the brand sizing guide before you buy. The 65cm is the most common size unless you’re smaller, then go for the 55cm size.
6. Peanut Ball
Meet the exercise balls weird shaped little sister. The peanut ball. It gets its name because, well, it looks like a peanut shell.
The idea behind a peanut ball is to help you ‘rest smart.’ You probably know that lying on your back is terrible for labor. Well, a peanut ball helps you to lie down, but with your hips open to help your labor. That means it keeps your body in a great position as you rest.
Peanut balls are great if your movement is restricted during labor. For example, you’re on a CTG, have IV drips, or you’re simply exhausted.
Your peanut ball will reduce your risk of a longer and more painful back labor. Plus if you do get an epidural, the peanut ball can be used to stop your labor slowing down.
As with an exercise ball, check the sizing guide. If it’s too big, you’ll find it uncomfortable to use.
7. A comb
Have you ever been in pain and squeezed your fist? You know, so tight that your fingernails were digging in your palms? I bet it helped, right?
That’s known as a counter-irritant. It means you’re doing something annoying or uncomfortable to distract yourself from the pain. It helps you cope by giving you control. You know you can stop it at any time.
A great way to do this in labor is by squeezing a hair comb in your hand. Hold it, so the spikes dig into the crease where your fingers meet your palm. You can even use one for each hand.
Also, the spikes will hit lots of acupressure points to trigger your body’s natural painkillers.
Seems simple, but it works.
You can use a regular plastic comb, but make sure it won’t cut you if you squeeze too tight. Trust me; you’ll harness a death grip when you’re in labor.
8. Tens Machine
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It’s a little machine that attaches to your skin with sticky pads and gives you a small electric pulse. It feels kinda tingly or like a buzzing sensation. There is a control panel where you can adjust how strong the pulses are.
A tens machine works by disrupting the pain signals so they don’t have a ‘full’ effect. Plus, it’s a great distraction technique.
To be honest, it’s something you’ll love or hate the sensation of. I find women who do use them require much less pain relief in labor.
For best results start using in early labor. Put the pads on your middle or lower back. Don’t put the pads on your tummy. Remember, you control the intensity, so switch it up as the contractions ramp up.
You shouldn’t use a TENS if you have epilepsy or a heart condition. As it’s electrical, you can’t use it in water. You’ll also need to take it off if your baby needs to be monitored on a CTG as it can interfere with the trace.
A rebozo is a traditional Mexican shawl used for birth. It’s another midwife and doula favorite to encourage movement.
A rebozo can be used in many ways during labor. Similar to the massage balls, it can apply counter pressure by squeezing your hips. It can also be used to sift your tummy between contractions. Not only does it help you rest and rest at the same time, but it provides comfort.
I’m no expert in using a rebozo, but I can point you in the right direction. Check out this guide to using a rebozo by Gail at Spinning Babies.
These ones by Del Mex are a great pick, plus they come in a range of beautiful colors. You can even use it for breastfeeding or tummy time once your baby arrives.
10. Birth Pool
Ok, you can’t put this one in your hospital bag. A birth pool is like a large tub or inflatable you can labor and birth in.
Birth pools are used by midwives as they provide relaxation and reduce the need for more pain relief.
Research what’s available in the birth units and hospitals your area. Home birth may be an option to consider if there are no birth pools in your area.
I’m gonna hold my hands up and say I was always skeptical of water birth. I thought it wasn’t normal to give birth in water. That’s until my midwife persuaded me to labor in the pool with my third baby.
Having had two babies ‘on land,’ the sense of relief the water gives is fantastic. It makes you feel weightless. Unlike my previous births, it helped me through labor with only gas and air. And yes, my baby was born in the water.
If you can’t access a birth pool try using a bath or shower through your labor.
You can buy your own birth pool to use at home. This one is recommended by home birth mamas, and it’s not too expensive. Hiring a professional birth pool will cost you between $200 and $600.
So now you know what tools can help you avoid labor, get them in your hospital bag.
Whether they help you relax or prevent a long, back labor you’re sure to find these items useful.
You can do this Mama. Go birth that baby like the queen you are.