As a new mother anticipates the arrival of her newborn, she may not realize the physical toll that labor can take on her body. Birth is called labor for a reason: It can be physically demanding. While many opt for pain medication to numb or alleviate the pressure and tenseness of contractions, alternatives are available to help you manage labor without drugs.
While in labor, you can manage pain without drugs through hydrotherapy, the practice of submerging your body in a pool of water or bathtub. The delivery can also take place in water, according to Dr. Doerthe Brueggmann, a Los Angeles-based obstetrician and gynecologist with Health Goes Female. "Pain relief is believed to come from decreased anxiety, relaxation and a decrease in the pressure component of pain," she says.
Finding a focal point during contractions can help you relieve pressure and tenseness during labor. With hypnotherapy, patients are taught how to self-hypnotize to focus, or they meet with a hypnotherapist prior to labor, says Brueggmann. "Hypnosis is believed to relax the patient and help her to focus on things other than labor pain," she says.
Familiar and pleasant smells can offer the calm atmosphere needed to achieve a comfortable delivery, according to Melissa Troncale, an Arizona-based midwife with MomDoc Midwives. Troncale recommends aromatherapy -- the use of aromatic oils to soothe the mind and body -- during labor. "I often recommend lavender and vanilla scents to calm and lemon or peppermint scents for moms who are queasy during labor," she says. "Aromatherapy offers a focal point through the scent and the environment," she says.
Many women opt for acupuncture for natural pain relief during labor, says Brueggmann. Needles are inserted through the skin by a trained professional and are believed to interfere with the perception of pain, she says. "It can be used during pregnancy to get the body ready for childbirth or during the birthing process," she says.
Moderating your breathing and simple touches or massages can provide drug-free pain relief during labor. "Many women learn breathing techniques in a prenatal birthing class, but massage, acupressure and simple touch can relieve pain, calm and distract the soon-to-be mom, too," says Brueggmann. Moms can also play music or tracks with relaxation guidance from professionals to relieve pain and cause a distraction when contractions become intense.