Alternative Pain Management Choices

The amount of pain experienced during childbirth differs from mother to mother and may even be different each time you give birth. For a first time mother, the fear of the unknown may add to her anxiety. For many expectant moms, knowing ways to cope with pain not only with medication, but using alternative and natural methods, is a source of comfort.

Alternative Pain Relief Treatments

Women all over the world can benefit from massage, relaxation and hydrotherapy in times of distress and pain during labour. Though you may find relief in one, or all, of the methods, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor before trying therapies such as homeotherapy or acupuncture.

Water Therapy – Using water as a way to ease birth and labour pains is very popular. The most simple and soothing way to relax and take control of your pain is to have a peaceful shower or a bath.

Many women complaining of back pain may find relief from a water massage, which is the massaging of muscles while in water. Another concept growing in popularity is water births. This is because water not only makes the mother feel lighter, but it also makes her feel more relaxed. Another advantage of water therapy during labour is a reduction in tearing of the perineum.

Sterile Water Injections – This is a relatively new technique for curbing back pain during labour. The advantage is rapid relief without the use of drugs. Using this technique allows the mother to remain fully conscious during labour. She can move around freely and may not need an epidural in the later stages.

Pure, sterile water is injected into 4 specific locations on the lower back of the mother. This may cause a stinging pain that lasts for 20-30 seconds, but the relief lasts for an hour, or more and the procedure can be repeated any number of times. A midwife or a nurse can administer the injections and the procedure can be done in a hospital or at a home birth.

Massage – In the early stages of labour, when contractions are beginning, it may be a good thing to get a massage especially for the back, which is constantly under strain because of the growing abdomen. A back massage can be had while lying on the side, or sitting on a chair with the body tilted forward. Massage seems to work because of the constant action of the hands on the foot, or the back in a slow, rhythmic, relaxing movement.

Effleurage, a light massage for the abdomen, may also be a good way to relieve pregnancy pain. A nurse or coach can practice this, or it can be self-administered. The lower abdomen is stroked and massaged lightly, using circular motions, starting at the pubic bone.

If you have access to a professional, you can also take advantage of the ancient Chinese art of acupressure. Specific points in the body, called acupressure points, are pressed to lessen the pain felt in the abdomen, back, or any other area.

Acupuncture – Another well-known Chinese practice, this one uses needles inserted at specific points to relieve pain. Many women have found this treatment beneficial and relaxing during pregnancy, to treat morning sickness as well as pain.

The placement of the needle will depend on which stage of labour you are in and the kind of pain you are experiencing. It is always advisable to get this treatment done from a certified acupuncturist, who can not only read your symptoms and treat them accordingly, but also has experience with treating pregnant women.

Homeopathy – There are homeopathic drugs that may help lessen the pain of natural childbirth. These are mostly sweet tasting, round pills that have to be taken at regular intervals throughout the labour.

Though homeopathy is not recognised as a way of curing an ailment or pain quickly, you can begin taking the medications during the earlier months of pregnancy, with the aim of reducing your eventual labour pains. These drugs should only be taken on the advice of a recognised homeopathy practitioner and your obstetrician.

Heat Therapy – Sometimes a simple heating pad may work wonders to relieve the pain you feel while giving birth. Heating pads come in all shape and sizes, are suitable for almost all women and are easy to use. If one is not easily available you can also give yourself heat therapy using a warm water pack, or even a warm sock.

Hypnosis – This technique may not directly relieve your pain, but it helps to distract you from the anxiety of contractions and pain. If practiced correctly, hypnosis can help you to relax, control your breathing and put your body and mind in a state where you are more focussed on the birth, rather than thinking about the pain.

Self-hypnosis can be taught at various hypnosis training centres, or special childbirth classes that teach the technique of repeating positive statements and concentrating on beautiful images. You can also try listening to a hypnotherapy tape to help you feel more relaxed.

Reflexology – Another ancient practice in which pressure is applied to specific body parts, specifically the soles of the feet, to relax other body parts. During labour, a reflexologist can help women cope with pain, and speed the process of childbirth by applying pressure and stroking specific ankle points, which are said to stimulate the pituitary glands to release pain killing hormones.

Reflexology should only be performed by an experienced practitioner.

Birthing Balls – Birthing balls were originally developed by physiotherapists to be used for exercise and treating orthopaedic and neural disorders, but using them has been found to be equally beneficial for a pregnant woman. Using the ball throughout pregnancy can help strengthen the spinal muscles, making them less vulnerable to the back pain that continues to increase as each month passes.

During labour, a ball is a much easier place to sit, relax and move on than a bed. The natural squatting position on the ball will also help to align the foetus and provides pelvic support. Squatting has also been shown to speed up the labouring process.

Gentle movement on the ball is a good way to relieve contraction pains. It also provides a better position for a doula, or practitioner to give a massage.

Because of the number of benefits of a birthing ball, they have become a permanent feature in many hospitals and childbirth centres.

Distraction – A woman in pain can take her mind off of the contractions and labour by reading a book, listening to music, taking a walk, talking to a friend or watching TV. These activities are simple to do and provide distraction from the pain.

Breathing – Controlled, rhythmic breathing has been found to be relaxing by women dealing with labour pain. If you can control your breathing it can help to calm and distract from the pain. It can also help to diminish the natural instinct to hold the breath during contractions.

Position – Different positions during labour have different ways of helping you relax and be more comfortable. To avoid back or stomach pains, many doctors suggest mothers adopt a semi-reclining position or lie on their side. A walk, squatting position, standing up, or the foetal position can help ease pain. You can take whatever position that you find most comfortable.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) - A method of pain management in which electrodes, fitted to the woman’s back, pass electric current into the body. This stimulates the natural secretion of endorphins, the body’s painkillers. This method is usually used in the early stages of pregnancy and has no known side effects.

Discuss pain relief options with your doctor well before delivery so that she will know what methods you prefer to try. The treatment that you end up using will probably depend on the availability of the professional, your doctor’s advice and the suitability of the method during labour.

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