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Managing Pain Without Medication During Labor

No matter what decision you make regarding pain medicine during labor, some parts of labor will include discomfort. It’s a good idea to make plans now for how you will handle discomfort and to prepare yourself for labor.

The best way to prepare is to take classes that explain the birth process and give ideas of comfort measures you may wish to incorporate. See our Childbirth Preparation program for descriptions of classes we offer.

  • Comfort and support

    It’s a good idea to consider the following as you make plans:

    Think about what you want in your environment during labor.

    • Music. For example, create a playlist; perhaps soothing for labor and exhilarating during pushing.
    • Aromatherapy.
    • Lighting.

    Consider what will help you physically during labor.

    • Distraction. Record programs to watch that make you laugh or engage you.
    • Focal point or imagery. You may wish to bring a focal point to use during labor, such as a baby’s outfit, a picture you find calming or a word that helps you focus.
    • Movement. If you have no complications, you may be eligible for intermittent monitoring or auscultation. Ask your provider about these.
    • Massage or therapeutic touch.
    • Hot or cold applications.
    • Exercise ball or peanut ball to help open the pelvis. Your nurse can show you how to use these.
    • Tub or shower. If you have no complications we have these available during labor.

    Also prepare yourself mentally.

    • Who do you want as your support(s) during labor and how can they best help you?
    • Write out your thoughts on what you want to do during labor and who you want to be part of your labor. Let the people you want in your birth know how they can best help you.
    • Review your plan and ideas with your provider so you’re both on the same page.
  • Focus on breathing

    Breathing techniques may also help you stay calm and focused during labor. These usually include the following:

    • Relaxation breathing. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly and deeply. It may help to count while you inhale and exhale. It is often more relaxing to breathe in to the count of four and breathe out to the count of seven. This is helpful in all stressful situations and effective in early labor and between contractions.
    • Light breathing. Breathe in and out lightly as the contraction builds. Once it has peaked, take a deeper breath and imagine yourself blowing the contraction away. This is more effective in active labor. Use the relaxation breathing technique between contractions.
    • Hee-Hee-Hoo breathing. Use this during labor transition. This involves two short breaths in followed by an exhale. It helps distract you from discomfort and keeps your oxygen level up during contractions.

    Be sure to bring a copy of the plan you review with your provider to the hospital so that your caregivers may also understand your plan. This will help us help you have the best possible birth experience.