Everyone’s favorite and least favorite part of pregnancy is delivery. You finally get to meet the baby you’ve been nurturing for 9 months. The downside? The labor pain that comes with it.
Regardless of your birth plan, there’s a few things you can do to help you relax before delivery.
In this guide, we’re sharing 12 tricks for labor pain relief.
How to Relax During Labor to Manage Labor Pain
The suggestions below may help release tension, which can reduce pain. Here’s how it works: When you’re in pain or under emotional stress, your body tenses, which can make the pain worse. Finding ways to relax your muscles between contractions can provide labor pain relief. Try a few ideas on this list to see what helps you best manage labor pain.
#1 Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Tensing your body is a natural reaction to pain. You might squeeze someone’s hand as tight as you can as a way to fight it. However, this often works against you: Tension creates more pain.
In moments where you want to squeeze someone’s hand, try progressive muscle relaxation instead. Become conscious of where you’re holding tension and release it from the top down:
- Lower your shoulders away from your ears (try shrugging and rolling them a few times)
- Let your jaw hang (if you hold a lot of tension there, massage your jaw muscles)
- Unclench your fists (make a tight fist, then slowly release it)
- Release your tight chest with a big, deep breath
- Release tension in your butt area
- Release tight leg muscles
- Uncurl your toes and let your foot go limp
Progressive muscle relaxation gets easier the more you practice it. If you can, make it a practice before delivery so you learn what tension and ease feel like.
Learn more about this technique in the video below
#2 Keep Changing Positions for Labor Pain Relief
Instead of laying in the hospital bed the entire time, try to listen to what your body needs. If you get the urge to walk around or squat, do that. Women often know what positions will be most comfortable, so don’t be shy to move around frequently. Here’s a few position change options:
- Sitting leaning forward
- Open hip positions
- Using birthing balls
- Using birthing stools
#3 Use a Rebozo
Rebozos can be used with a midwife or doula who can determine whether it’s appropriate for your pregnancy. They’re traditionally used in Mexican culture to provide comfort through labor pain.
Rebozos are a traditional Mexican shawl made with strong woven Mexican fabric. Buyer Beware: It’s important to use authentic Rebozos made in Mexico, which are NOT the same as knock-offs made in America. Besides the strength of the fabric, buying an authentic Rebozo helps pay respect and honor to the culture and the parteras (midwives) who’ve shared knowledge of this birthing tool.
Rebozos are typically 4 to 7 ft, giving plenty of space to wrap around the body. They can be used in a variety of positions. Its main goal is to take pressure off of certain areas, even providing a “weightless” feeling to your belly or back.
One study showed that women felt Rebozos reduced their pain. They also said it provided physiological support because it got their partner and midwife involved.
Learn a few Rebozo positions below:
#4 Warm Water
Warm water is helpful for labor pain relief for several reasons. It can help ease aches, tension, and improve circulation. If available, try having a warm shower to manage labor pain. Another option is to use hydrotherapy with labor tubs. The buoyancy can ease the tension of aching muscles.
#5 Intentional Breathing
Focusing on your breath can be useful for labor pain relief. Long, slow, deep breaths can help calm yourself. Other times, fast, short, repetitive breathing can be more effective (for example, during intense contractions).
The style of breathing that feels comfortable to you will likely change throughout your delivery day. The most important thing is to be intentional about it: Try to find a breathing rhythm and stick to it for a while.
If you don’t have a midwife or doula to encourage you to focus on your breath, ask your partner or support team for reminders. They can “breathe with you” and you can mimic their breath to get into a pattern.
#6 Partner Massage
If a family member is wondering how they can help you through labor, ask them for a massage! Try different techniques and pressures on the feet, legs, arms, hands, face, and neck. Have your partner practice massage before labor so they get the hang of what feels good.
You can also try massaging yourself. Some people also hire professional prenatal massage therapists for the big day.
#7 Bring Massager
Whether or not you have someone to massage you on delivery day, it’s a good idea to bring along a personal massager. Battery-powered mini massagers can provide instant relief and distract you from labor pain.
Most people will agree that music can have positive effects. Many pregnant women create labor playlists to feel comforted as they give birth. Since music is personal, the song choices are up to you. Playing calm music may have anti-anxiety effects, while playing your favorite artist can provide a sense of comfort.
Since there’s no way of knowing what music you’ll be in the mood for, Lamaze International suggests creating a few playlists so you have options. Read their list of 118 Labor and Birth Playlist Songs.
#9 Essential Oils
There’s some evidence that aromatherapy and essential oils may help stress. However, most research doesn’t find it effective. Still, many people report feeling more relaxed when they breathe in their favorite essential oil. If you like scents, it’s a good idea to try. Depending on where you’re giving birth, you may be able to use a diffuser to fill the room with a relaxing scent. If not, you can dab a drop onto your wrist to smell whenever you need a reminder to breathe and release tension. (Make sure to choose an essential oil that’s pregnancy-safe)
#10 Choose The Right Support People
When you’re in pain, emotional discomfort can only make it worse. That’s why it’s important to choose the right people to be in the hospital room with you. Sometimes, women invite family into the room out of politeness—instead of who they truly want.
For example, you might invite your mother into the room because she wants to be there. But if you have a difficult relationship with her and she’s not comforting, you’ll be dealing with psychological stress on top of physical stress. Similarly, if you barely know your mother-in-law and having her in the room will give you anxiety, choose to see her afterward instead. Supportive people who you know and trust can help you better manage labor pain.
#11 T.V. Shows or Movies
While a TV can’t directly help you with labor pain relief, it may distract you from the discomfort. Letting your mind go elsewhere between contractions can help loosen your muscles, resting them before the next one. Hospital TVs might only offer a small selection of shows. For the best distraction, bring your phone or iPad and plan to watch a show you find interesting or comforting. Mystery shows can draw you in, helping you forget the pain for a moment. Or choosing a sitcom you’ve watched many times can make you feel comforted, easing anxiety.
#12 Birth Affirmations
Birth affirmations are short phrases you can repeat that make you feel better about labor.
The most important part of affirmations is to choose one that makes you calmer and feels within reach. Some people repeat phrases like “I trust my body.” While that works for some, other women find that affirmation dishonest or cheesy. You might resonate better with a realist-based affirmation. For example, in Netflix’s Inventing Anna, the journalist is in labor pain and feels she can’t push anymore. To gain strength, she reminds herself that people give birth every day, so she can do it too. She repeats the quirky affirmation, “People squat in fields. I’m not special. I am not special. I am not special.”
To get ideas and learn more about how to use birth affirmations, read: 64 Birth Affirmations for a Calm and Smooth Labor
Labor Pain Relief Starts Before Labor…
There’s many things you can try in the hospital for labor pain relief. However, pain relief starts before delivery day. Some research shows that exercising during pregnancy can make labor shorter and less painful with better outcomes. One reason may be that it helps strengthen your pelvic muscles. For example, one study showed that those who did water aerobics asked for pain medication 58% fewer times.
To learn more, read: 7 Exercises to Make Labor Easier and Less Painful
Summary: Manage Labor Pain Relief
No matter where you give birth, there’s a few tricks you can try for labor pain relief. Massage, music, muscle relaxation, and breathing can all play a role to manage labor pain. To be prepared, plan a head and bring the tools you need to relax during labor.
P.S. Have you heard your baby yet? Fetal dopplers are handheld devices that allow you to hear your baby’s heartbeat while she’s still in your belly!
Bond with Baby Before Birth. Try a Fetal Doppler Today!