HMN Advisory Board Member

by Peggy O’Mara, Editor and Publisher of Longtime natural living advocate, award-winning writer, and independent thinker. She is the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please check out her email newsletter with free tips on parenting, activism, and healthy living.

There are a number of highly effective, natural pain relief techniques that may be useful during your labor and delivery. Many of them involve relaxation. Relaxation reduces the sensation of pain by raising endorphin levels and reducing stressful messages you give yourself about what pain means. Practice these ahead of time and purchase any materials you may need:

  • Bathing or showering in warm water is an amazing labor tool for pain relief that has been well studied. Choose a temperature that feels comfortable and soothing, but not too hot. If you are having a home birth it is possible to rent large hot tubs that can be set up in your home. You can use your bathtub as well, but a larger tub will give you more room and allow your partner to come in and help you. Many birthing centers and hospitals now have tubs available. Just being in the warm water seems to soothe and help labor to progress. The force of gravity is relieved when you are in the water, offering further relief. You need to check with your health care provider before adding anything to the water, such as oils or bubble bath. Showers can help, as well. You may want to find a low, stable stool that you can put into the tub so that you don’t have to stand the whole time.
  • Effleurage is a light, rhythmic stroking of the abdomen, back or thighs, done on bare skin. This is usually done with the tips of the fingers. You can do this yourself, or, better, have a partner or doula do it for you. You can ask your partner to practice it now and learn, together, what feels right to you. Hold your fingers in an out-stretched, but relaxed posture. Run the tips of the fingers lightly over the chosen area. The abdomen, lower back, and the forehead are good areas, but touching any part of the body can help you to relax. Try different motions, circular, or up and down, for example. Experiment with different amounts of pressure. Maybe it feels better to you with one hand, or maybe two. Use a little cornstarch or lightly scented powder on your fingers first, to reduce friction.
  • Massage is another way to relax and to help tired muscles keep working. Again, it is helpful to have your partner practice massage now in order to find out what works best. Try these techniques: have your partner place his hands on your inner thighs and sweep them firmly down toward your knees as you release your pelvic floor muscles, as you would in a Kegel exercise. Or try kneading the buttock muscles deeply, both at the same time. If you experience lower back pain or back labor, have your partner use the fist or the heel of the hand to firmly massage the area. Some people also report relief by massaging the lower back with a tennis ball. You may want to purchase or make a soothing massage oil. Mix sweet almond oil with your favorite essential oils. Good oils include: lavender, chamomile, sweet geranium, jasmine, neroli, rosewood, melissa, mandarin or cedarwood. These oils are all relaxing; they increase endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers, and reduce sensations of pain. Try some of these scents out ahead of time to see which appeals to you.

Keep reading for two oil blends that can be used to alleviate pain during labor, as well as additional relief techniques.