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Natural Pain Management Techniques for Labor

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Many women choose to experience birth without epidurals or medical interventions. For these women, natural pain management techniques can make all the difference--and even for those who choose epidurals or other pain management interventions, these safe, natural techniques can be a great way to manage your initial pain before it's time to get the epidural. Here are a few techniques to practice now, so you're all ready for labor when it happens.

1. Breathe deeply.

Perhaps no technique is more famous in natural labor than breathing exercises. Lamaze, Bradley, hypnobirthing, and other schools teach their own takes on breathing, but the basics are simple – calm, focused, cleansing breaths will help you manage pain throughout the labor process.

Some moms combine this breathing with visualization – picturing places they find calming, happy, or empowering. You can even bring a photo or comforting object into the labor room with you, so that you can keep those good thoughts flowing.

2. Keep moving.

Walk down the hall, rock back and forth, or bounce on a yoga ball. In early labor, it often helps to keep your body moving, especially during contractions. Trust your body and allow it to guide your movements.

(Note that once you get an epidural, if you choose to do so, you will no longer be able to get up and move around. IV's, monitoring devices, and other equipment can sometimes limit your range of motion, though most still allow for walking and other movements, as long as you remind mindful of them.)

3. Don't back down.

Most women report that no position is more painful than lying on your back. Save lying on your back for times when your healthcare provider must do periodic checks to your cervix, and otherwise, try almost anything else, from curling up on your side to crouching on all fours.

4. Massage.

This is a great way to get a supportive partner involved in the labor process. Practice massaging your shoulders, hands, head, feet, or wherever you prefer. Just make sure you communicate very clearly to your partner when you do and do not want to be touched – during the pain of labor, some women find massage deeply reassuring, while others find it an unwelcome distraction.

5. Soak.

Or bathe, or shower, or wade. If you are giving birth at a hospital or birthing center that has tubs – or at home – take advantage.

Even hospital rooms without tubs often have showers you can use to help manage pain.

6. Hum, Sing, Cry, Shout – Yes, Even Curse.

Some women become very quiet or withdrawn when in pain, while others shout at the top of their lungs. You may not know how you'll react until you experience it, but the main thing is, do what comes naturally, without embarrassment, whether that's crying, laughing, or even using some adult language.

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