Non-medical pain relief options
Most people have heard of morphine, happy gas and epidurals to help with pain during labour, but there are a lot of non-medical pain relief options that you can access during your labour, a well as non-medical pain relief options after you have given birth.
If you are interested in having a drug-free birth experience the options for labour pain relief in Australia are wide and varied. So what non-medical pain relief options can you access? See the list we’ve put together below.
Heat and Massage
Like when you injure a muscle, heat packs can help to ease pain during labour. Heat applied to the area that is in pain can aid in your body releasing endorphins (a natural painkiller). Massage does the same thing and can help to distract you from the pain of contractions.
Moving freely (if you haven’t had an epidural) and rocking your pelvis can help you to cope with contractions and staying upright also helps to move baby down into your pelvis for delivery. Moving around can simply mean walking around the room or if you don’t feel up to walking moving around on a birth ball.
Hypnosis & Relaxation
Being relaxed can help to ease pain during labour and there are lots of techniques that you can do to help you relax like calming music, dimming the lights in the delivery room, using aromatherapy and meditating.
Practicing self-hypnosis during pregnancy may help in reducing anxiety and fear around labour and birth. Doing this takes time to learn and practice, but if done correctly hypnobirthing can reduce the need for medical pain relief options.
Water Immersion & Water Births
In most hospitals and birthing centre’s in Australia there are facilities that allow you to take a shower or possibly even have a bath during labour. Being immersed in water can be relaxing and help aid in coping with contractions. The massaging pressure on your back provided by a shower can also help with back pain.
Water births help in the same way as having a bath except that you actually give birth in the bath. Not all birth centres or hospitals are equipped for water births, so if this is something that you want for your delivery you should talk to your midwife of doctor and see if this is an option for you where you live and with the type of pre-natal and delivery care that you are receiving.
TENS Machines and Birth Combs
TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) use two electrodes that are attached to your lower back to send a small electric current through your body. The current is low and generally safe for both you and your baby. There isn’t a lot of scientific evidence that a TENS machine reduces pain, but they are often used and people have found it helpful in coping with labour pains. TENS machine use is based around Gate Control Theory and diverting pain signals, releasing endorphins into your body that block pain.
A Birth Comb works in the same way but does not send an electric current through your body. Discomfort caused on the hand from the comb travels along the nerve pathways to the brain. This pain competes with the discomfort of the contraction surge and not only results in blocking the intensity of the discomfort, but also stimulates an endorphin release.
Sterile Water Injections
This form of labour pain relief involves sterile water being injected under the skin of your lower back by your midwife to relieve lower back pain. The injections may sting but there are no known side effects. Like a TENS machine there is not a lot of evidence around this form of pain relieve working but it is commonly used to help with the pain of labour.
Post Delivery pain relief
After most deliveries you will be given painkillers by your hospital or birth centre for a period of time, continuing when you return home with your new baby. There are methods that you can use to manage your pain and lessen your need for painkillers such as those below.
TENS Machines and Birth Combs
Since TENS machines and birth combs are based around Gate Control Theory and diverting pain signals, they can also be used to release endorphins that block pain if you experience afterbirth pains or afterbirth contractions.
Ice & Heat
Using ice or a cold compress applied to your vagina after a vaginal delivery or on your lower belly after a c-section can help to reduce pain and swelling. This in turn will reduce the time that you need to take traditional pain relief. After the first couple of days you can replace ice with a heat pack to help reduce pain during healing.
Using Peri Spray or a Peri Bottle is a great and easy way to keep your perineum clean after a vaginal delivery. Not only is it a soothing way to clean the area but keeping the area clean aids in a faster recovery and less chance of infection, reducing the need for medical pain relief or antibiotics.
We know that rest is something that can be hard to get with a newborn in the house but rest is proven to help your body to recover faster after a physically traumatic experience. Getting as much sleep and rest as you can after giving birth will help you to heal faster and reduce the time that you’ll need medical pain relief for after giving birth.
What other methods of non-medical have you heard of that you’d like to try? Let us know!