What options do you have for pain relief aside from an epidural?

Let’s run through some options.

TENS Unit: Never heard of it? It stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. While 1 in 5 women in the United Kingdom use it, it’s fairly rare in the United States. As this article will tell you:

TENS can be a powerful means to avoid pharmaceutical pain relief, if that’s your goal, or it can just be a tool to lessen discomfort during early labor or while you are waiting for an epidural. Many people find it beneficial mentally, as another sensation to concentrate on during contractions. TENS can also help women to feel more in control of their labor. Eileen Ehudin Beard comments that, “The women who seemed to have the most success with pain relief in my practice were women who used TENS during their pregnancy and were familiar with it. They were then very comfortable using it during labor.”

Hydrotherapy: Hydrotherapy is a great tool for pain management in labor. You may know it as “a water birth.” The overall idea is that it provides comfort relaxation helping mom:

  • It helps increases a woman’s energy in the later stages of labor
  • Immersion in water helps lower blood pressure
  • The water helps to reduce stress related hormones
  • Buoyancy improves blood flow to the uterus, which helps with better oxygenation of the uterine muscles making less pain for mom and getting more oxygen to baby
  • Floating helps mom be lighter and gives freedom to get into more positions

Some hospitals offer water births and some only allow hydrotherapy, which means you can labor in the tub but not deliver in the water.  

Hyponobirthing: This is giving birth with the help of hypnosis. Parents Magazine actually tracked down four moms who did this, and the first story should yield some context for you:

“I’m naturally drawn to meditation and yoga, so I thought hypnosis for childbirth was a good fit for me. It never hurts to learn positive thinking and relaxation skills, right? There was a lot of work involved. It was huge time commitment — six weeks of classes — plus homework. I didn’t consistently do all of the daily homework and exercises, but I was really good about listening to my positive pregnancy affirmations CDs (which helped me to stay positive throughout my pregnancy — I never had any anxiety about the birthing process) and used them when labor kicked in. The deep breathing and going limp and loose helped me tune into myself and calm down. And if I didn’t have the practice of breathing deeply and relaxing through the contractions I never would have made it through my long and painful labor. In the end, I did have the natural water birth I wanted. I got to reach down and catch my own baby. It was such an unbelievably incredible experience. Learning hypnosis was totally worth it for me, even though my labor was far from pain-free.”

Movement: Movement during labor increases the effectiveness of your contractions, helps you get into a better rhythm, helps baby descend, and makes a natural birth much, much easier. Examples might include:

  • Walking
  • Swaying back and forth on a fitness ball
  • Slowly dancing
  • Side to side lunges
  • Hands and knees
  • Dancing
  • Side lying

If you and your partner want more support, then hire a BIRTH DOULA! They offer amazing physical, emotional and educational support. 

About Kristin Smith

Kristin is a wife, mom, doula and a kick ass swaddler. She spends her time helping families get top notch support throughout their parenting journey. When she isn't swaddling a babies, she can be found sipping latte's and watching her daughter play softball. Read more...

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