There are several options available to you that uses your body’s sensory system to control pain. Find out what they are.
Many women have discovered that being immersed in water can be comforting in labour. Lying in warm water increases venous pressure promoting the return of blood to the heart more efficiently. It also enhances cardiac action and slows the pulse rate. Total relaxation in the warmth and comfort of a bath may also help the uterus to contract more effectively. Water counteracts the force of gravity and relieves pressure, reducing pressure felt from inside the body.
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A TENS machine is often used as an alternative to epidural to relieve labour pain. A current is passed through lead wires to electrodes pads placed on the skin. The current produces a tingling sensation and is thought to stimulate the production of natural pain-relieving endorphins and enkephalins.
Electrode pads are attached to the woman’s back, abdomen or groin in the first stage of labour and the machine can be operated by a switch mechanism to control the intensity of electrical current with each contraction. An advantage is that the pregnant women can operate and control the level of stimulation herself. A disadvantage is that it can not be used in water.
Clitoral stimulation is cited as an effective method of pain relief during labour. While the hospital delivery room may not be the most practical place to trial this method, it can be useful at home in the early stages of labour.
Massage on the lower back and sacrum increases circulation to the uterus and eases pain. The reproductive system receives blood and nerve supply from lumber 3 and lumbar 4.
Massage on the head, neck and shoulders or feet can induce relaxation and provide both physical and emotional support.
Acupuncture is known to not only relieve pain and stress but also strengthen contractions and shorten the duration of labour. The advantage of acupuncture is that it is non-invasive and babies are not subjected to ill effects of chemical anaesthetics. If you do not have access to a practitioner, ask your birthing partner to use the following acupressure points:
Spleen 6, Bladder 32, Bladder 23, Kidney 3, Bladder 67, Gall Bladder 21, Stomach 36
Reflexology involves manual pressure applied to the feet or hands to stimulate the release of natural endorphins and other chemicals that help reduce pain.
According to studies in England, regular reflexology treatments from mid pregnancy lead to shorter, easier labours. It is also believed that reflexology stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin that helps contraction of the uterus.
Some midwives in Australia are familiar with the reproductive reflex points located around the ankles. The point located in the natural depression on the inside of the ankle helps the uterus prepare for birth. In the final month of pregnancy and during labour, you or your partner can massage and stimulate this point.
Hot & Cold Compresses
Hot and cold towels can be used as compresses to help ease pain. By alternating the temperature, it encourages local circulation to the area. Used against the lower back and on the perineum, compresses can also be soaked in herbal water or water with aromatherapy essential oils added.
Compresses are simple to prepare and easy to use. Smaller compresses can be used on the forehead during labour