Non-medical pain relief alternatives have no negative effects on the baby or on labor. However, it is difficult to predict their pain-relieving effect. Non-medical pain relief tends to have the best effect at the start of labor.
Upright birth positions and physical activity increase production of body’s own pain-relieving hormones. In an upright position, the force and weight of the baby is pointed in the right direction. Not only is it easier to breathe, but both nausea and vomitting are less common. Many women describe a greater feeling of being in control and involved.
Showers and baths
Many find showers and baths soothing, and that they provide pain relief. Point the shower head at the painful area to divert the pain. Bath water temperature should not be more than 38°C (100°F). Remember to take a break after a couple of hours since you could get dehydrated and the baby’s heart rate could increase.
When it comes to bathing, keep the following in mind: - If you get into the bath early in labor, your contractions may come more seldom. When you are further along in labor, the contractions will not be affected and bathing generally provides relaxation and good pain tolerance. If you enjoy taking a bath, of course.
Massage is probably the most common non-medical pain relief alternative. Your partner plays a big part here and back massage is the most commonly adopted technique. Foot massage is another option that can help you to relax more easily. Which is best varies during labor, and it’s important that you decide how and when you receive massage. Try it out, and see what works for you. Your midwife will help and guide your partner.
Sterile water blocks
This is when sterile water is injected directly under the skin above the painful area. Injections are most commonly made in the back or over the pubic bone. The more water blocks that are administered, the better the effect. The injections cause a severe burning and searing pain lasting between 15 and 30 seconds, after which the pain-relieving effect sets in. This effect can last between one and two hours after the injection. If needed, new injections can be administered.
Transcutaneous Electical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
TENS involves applying short electrical pulses over the painful area and thereby blocking the pain impulses. Rubber pads connected to a battery-operated unit are secured with tape over the area that will be treated. A weak electrical current—that feels like pulses—induce a pain-relieving effect. You can use the unit yourself and adjust the intensity of the electrical pulses to achieve the desired effect. It’s a good idea to practice this technique in advance, and to start using the technique in the early stage of labor.
Heat and cold
Heat and cold are classic techniques that women have always used. Really warm washcloths or heating pads can be placed over the painful area. Cold therapy is most common after the baby has been born to alleviate the pain of vaginal tears.
Most midwives are comfortable using acupuncture these days. The therapy, a thousand-year-old tradition from China, is becoming increasingly more common during labor. A pain relieving and calming effect is achieved by placing the acupuncture needles at specific points. Acupuncture can also be used to stimulate contractions and get the placenta to separate more easily after the baby is born.
Sources: - Abascal, G., & Huss, M. S. (2018). Att föda. Bonnier Fakta.