8 Natural Ways Women Can Manage Pain During Labor


The pain of labor is something that we have been trying to manage for women since the dawn of time. Whether it was cool rags on the forehead of a laboring woman or a stick to bite down on, helping women ride the contractions and make it through to the other side when they are holding their baby has long been the subject of research. We spoke to some labor experts who gave us some helpful hints and tricks to make the pain a little more manageable. 

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For many women, pain management really just means getting the epidural as soon as humanly possible. And that's fine. But for others who want to experience all the pain of labor without medication, there are other ways to manage and mitigate it without the use of drugs.

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CafeMom spoke exclusively with Lacreshia Laningham, a massage therapist and doula, as well as Jenny Skoog, who is a pre- and postnatal fitness trainer, birth coach, childbirth educator, and star of Pushing It. They gave us some tip-top advice for how to deal with labor pains. Read on to see their ideas for natural labor pain management for women. Hopefully their advice will make that final push a little less painful.

Woman on exercise ball

  • TENS Machine


    TENS Units override the pain signal to the brain through electrical impulse. The results are immediate, and yes, some women use them in labor. With most, the woman controls the pulse width, pulse rate, and intensity. This is available for purchase and can be bought for under $40 or so at medical supply stores.

  • Position Changes


    For years women have been lying on their backs in bed during labor, but we know now that that position is actually not even close to ideal. "For back pain we tend to recommend being on all fours," says Laningham. Skoog agrees: "Slow dancing with partner in a wide stance for 10 contractions can help or sitting on a birth ball and listening to 'white noise' or waves crashing on noise-cancelling headphones."

  • Massage


    This is a great one. Counter pressure is a fantastic way to relieve pain. Have your partner press into your back and even lift your hips to take some pressure off. It can feel incredible. The massage pictured here is PROBABLY not the kind you will have in labor, but some women really do like the warmth of hands on them to support them during labor.

  • Aromatherapy


    The scent of lavender, peppermint, and even citrus can help some laboring women during their contractions and relax their muscles as they go along. These oils can be applied to the wrists or temples or if that is too strong, merely waved under the mother-to-be's nose in the bottle. Scented candles can also work, but so much of it is dependent on how the mother feels while in labor and what she can handle. For some women scents are overwhelming and unwelcome. For others, they are soothing.

  • Water


    The water from a birthing tub really helps lift the weight of the belly off of the back. One midwife I spoke with said a birthing tub can take labor pain from a 10 to a 7 in a matter of seconds. Water can really make the difference between needing the epidural and skipping it. For some women, the tub is too intense and for them, even a shower or a wet washcloth applied to the belly or to the forehead can make a difference. It is all about experimentation in labor.

  • Hypnosis


    "Hypnobirthing is amazing ... tranquil even," says Laningham. I used Hypnobirthing for both of my births, and while I wasn't "tranquil," I did make it into my zone and the pain was manageable. Basically, the process involves deep meditation and relaxation techniques that help women visualize their contractions as waves that are merely coming and going. It involves a lot of relaxation and breathing as well as visualization. It really works, too. My births were relatively easy thanks to it.

  • Electrolytes


    "During labor, as with any endurance sport, hydration and food as fuel are key to lasting for the long-haul," says Skoog. This is contrary to what many hospitals do with laboring women, but it's vital. Have Gatorade or fuel bars or anything that might sound good to a woman in labor on hand so that she is able to refuel. It's a marathon, baby.

  • Calm Atmosphere


    This isn't one we always think of when we think of the moans and screams and chaos of labor. But it matters a lot. "Any amount of hurried activity or nervous energy can elevate stress levels in the birthing mom," says Laningham. "Keeping calm voices can definitely calm the mom and lower stress, elevate oxytocin, and progress smoothly."

labor & delivery labor