If it is your intention to labor without medical pain relief, there is no shortage of other comfort measures to try. Medication-free comfort measures are sometimes referred to alternative or complementary medicine, but don’t be mistaken — these methods have been used for many years and their efficacies are backed by evidence. There’s a large spectrum of options, and it surely is not as dichotomous as “epidural or no pain relief.” Choosing to forgo pain medication does not mean you have to give up your comfort.
Complementary pain relief methods are used across the globe. Nitrous oxide, a 50/50 mixture of nitrous gas and oxygen is commonly used during labor countries such as Canada, Australia, and Sweden, and is now growing in popularity in the United States, too. The gas is similar to “laughing gas” used by dentists and is highly regarded as a safe method of reducing labor pain. It dulls, but does not numb, your pain, so you can still move freely during labor. The gas is self-administered, so you’re in control of when you breathe it in, and if you find you don’t like the feeling it produces, the effects are gone with a few normal breaths.
Laboring in water is officially backed by the American College of Nurse-Midwives and does not increase risks for healthy moms or babies. The warmth and weightlessness of the water can safely offer reduced pressure on your joints and muscles, allowing you to relax and labor more comfortably. Even if you do not labor in a tub, you can still get the benefits of warm water. A warm shower, especially in early labor, can offer you moments to relax and prepare for what’s to come.
While water can take the pressure off your back and hips, sometimes a little pressure is exactly what you need. Acupressure: Based on the same theory as acupuncture, utilizes pressure points to relieve pain and induce relaxation.
Massage can help lower stress levels and release endorphins, our natural “feel-good” pain-relieving hormones. The best part? It comes without dangerous side effects.
Aromatherapy is another noninvasive and affordable option. Essential oils have been found to reduce nausea, anxiety, and pain during labor. Oils may be put into the tub for water births, rubbed on your skin, or simply sniffed from a bottle. Aside from the specific benefits essential oils may offer (like peppermint reducing nausea and lavender reducing anxiety), you may just choose to use essential oils that you enjoy the smell of to create a relaxing ambiance.
Truly, sometimes it’s not what method you have, but who you have. Surrounding yourself with birth-workers and loved ones that make you feel safe, strong, and empowered in your choices can be the most important comfort. At Best Start Birth Center, it’s your birth, your way, and we support you in creating a comfortable and satisfying birth experience.