11 Ways to Ease Contractions Without Drugs

Pregnant woman having labor contractions

If you’re planning to give birth without drugs, Lamaze strategies can help you stay more comfortable. Here are 10 ways to help you manage your labor pain and contractions, medication-free.  

1. Find a soothing environment

Choose a place to give birth that feels comfortable to you, with space to walk and bathe, as well as a variety of furniture and devices to enhance movement and pain relief: a rocking chair, birth ball, low stool, squatting bar, and soft bed. It should also have policies that encourage you to try a variety of positions. Access to appropriate medical care is crucial if problems arise.

2. Choose your team carefully

Midwives, doctors, nurses, partners, loved ones, and doulas can play essential roles on your birth team. Choose people who will treat you with respect and patience. The proper support can help decrease stress and inhibitions, so you can find your best coping mechanisms more easily.

3. Learn about labor

You can learn a lot about labor from books, magazines, web sites, videos, classes, a hospital tour, and discussions with your health-care provider, doula, family, and friends. Familiarize yourself with the procedures and customs at your hospital or birth center, and ask about flexibility. Such discussions are best had before labor. More knowledge means fewer surprises.

4. Express your fears

Are you worried about pain, needles, medicines, or losing control? Speak with a knowledgeable and trusted friend, childbirth educator, or doula. Voicing your concerns can bring relief as well as allow you to learn more about practical solutions to your concerns. Stating your preferences in a birth plan can also help calm fears.

5. Practice rhythmic breathing

Breathing techniques can help you manage contractions. Breathe fully in a slow rhythm during contractions. Release tension with each exhalation and try moaning. Also try taking quick breaths, about one every 2 to 3 seconds (20 to 30 per minute). If you lose your rhythm, your partner can help you regain it with eye contact, rhythmic hand or head movements, or by talking you through contractions.

6. Use imagery and visualization

Focus on something that makes you happy (like your partner's face, an inspirational picture or favorite object) to engage your senses and decrease your awareness of pain. Listen to music, a soothing voice or a recording of ocean waves, and picture yourself somewhere that's relaxing to you.

7. Take a warm shower or bath

A warm shower can soothe you, especially if you can sit on a stool and direct a handheld showerhead onto your abdomen or back. Bathing in warm water may relax you—and it may even speed up labor.

8. Keep moving

Move around as much as you can to stay more comfortable. Walk, lean, sway, rock, and squat. Some positions will be more comfortable than others.

9. Seek relief with warm or cool compresses

Place a warm pack on your lower abdomen, groin, lower back, or shoulders during labor. Fill a long sock with uncooked rice and heat it in the microwave for about one minute, then place it on your abdomen (make sure it's not too hot). If it gets cold, reheat it in the microwave.

A cold pack or latex glove filled with ice chips can help soothe painful areas—but avoid using it on the abdomen. Cool cloths relieve a sweaty face, chest, or neck.

10. Indulge in gentle touch or massage

Touch conveys reassurance, caring and understanding—whether it's someone holding your hand, stroking your cheek or hair, or patting your hand or shoulder. Have your partner or doula massage you with light or firm strokes using oil or lotion to help soothe you.

You could also place three tennis balls in a tube sock and have your partner roll them up and down your back to relieve back pain. Or have him rub your back with the heels of his hands.

11. Try acupressure

Use acupressure to help ease pain by pinching the fleshy part of your hand between the thumb and index finger. Don't do this before you go into labor, though, as it can also stimulate contractions.

Giving Birth with Confidence, the online community created by Lamaze International, provides articles and tips written for and by real women (and men) on a variety of topics related to pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting. Their goal is to help women achieve healthy pregnancies and safe, satisfying births by offering a meeting ground to obtain information and support from other women, Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educators and knowledgeable experts.


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