Birthing Naturally

Comfort Measures for Labor

For women planning a natural childbirth, the ability to use a variety of comfort measures during labor is a must. Comfort measures are probably not going to eliminate all the pain you feel during labor. What they can do is help you manage the pain to keep it at a level where you can continue without medication. To use them effectively, you need to know what they are and how to best apply them to labor.

Types of Comfort Measures

Labor positions can be used to change the pace of labor, encourage comfort and relaxation, and help labor progress.

Labor tools include everything from massagers to water bottles. Find out how to use them.

Comfort techniques vary from specific types of massage to relaxation exercises. Which ones you use will depend on the circumstances you are trying to work through.

Herbs for labor may be used to speed labor, slow labor or manage pain.

Providing Labor Support

For readers preparing to provide labor support rather than labor themselves, additional information relevent to supporting a woman through natural childbirth with comfort measures is available in the the Partner's Guide to Labor.

Easy as 1, 2, 3

Not sure you are going to remember how to use all the comfort measures you learn? Here is a handy trick to help you make the most of all your preparations. You can print this cheat-sheet in your birth bag to use when you just don't know what to try. Be sure to try something for a few contractions before deciding if it works. Expect to change your technique as often as every half hour or as infrequent as every two hours. Try to change your position every hour; you should also have a bathroom break every hour which will be a good time to do a position change.

Step 1: Choose a Position

Select the most upright position you have energy for.

Standing (walking, dancing, in a shower, leaning on someone) allows pelvic movement to help baby align properly while reducing discomfort

Leaning (over a ball, the back of a chair, onto pillows, against a wall) allows you to stay upright while taking some of the weight off your legs

Sitting (chair, ball, bed, floor, toilet) allows you to stay upright while giving you the ability to rest

Hands and Knees (on the floor or bed, over a ball or chair, with the head resting on the floor) relieves back pressure while using gravity to help baby realign

Laying on side (on a bed, in tub, on couch, recliner chair, pillows on floor) allows you to rest

Step 2: Chose a movement

(moving your pelvis during contractions can help your baby get into a good position)

Slow Dancing alone or with a partner

Belly Dance hip circles or figure eights

Walking on a flat surface or up stairs

Lunging with one leg on a stool or chair

Hip sways can be done in many positions

Rocking moving your upper body can cause movement in the pelvis

Step 3: Choose a way to relax

(relaxation can help minimize discomfort and pain)

Deep Breathing keeps your lungs full of oxygen

Patterned Breathing uses distraction to relax you

Mental Imagery either alone or with someone guiding you

Focal Point uses distraction to relax you

Vocalization moaning, humming or singing can release tension

Progressive Relaxation actively relaxing the muscles of your body

Music can be used as a focal point and for vocalization

Counting can be used as a focal point

Shower uses heat, water, noise and pressure to help you relax

Tub uses heat and water to help you relax, buoyancy keeps you more comfortable

If Necessary: Use Spot Techniques

(effectiveness of these techniques changes as labor progresses, so something that stopped working an hour ago may work now)

Pressure massage using tennis balls, rolling pin or fist to provide pressure to the lower back

Ice Packs/Heat Packs help to minimize pain for 15 minutes to half an hour

Empty Bladder to reduce pelvic pressure

Massage lower back, upper legs or other sore areas

Cool Cloths to the face or neck to maintain comfortable temperature

Water small sips or sucking ice chips to keep mouth moist