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Drug free pain relief

Something that really worried me during my first pregnancy was how to cope without having pain relief during labour. I knew I wanted to have a natural birth, and to avoid drugs during labour, if I could.

But aside from 'calm breathing' I wasn't sure what else I had up my sleeve or how to cope with contractions - and honestly this really worried me!

Over the past 5 years of being a hypnobirthing teacher I've gathered so many resources and ideas on how t maximise your chances of having a natural birth and cope with labour without using drugs. But as well as this, I've also had 2 natural births of my own (one using just gas and air, and the other using NO medical pain relief at all).

This week in the Positively Pregnant Facebook group I held a free online antenatal class all about the different forms of 'drug free' pain relief options we have available to us during labour.

So here's some of the 'drug free' pain relief options you have at your disposal during labour and birth:

  1. A comb!

Yes, that's right...! A humble comb can seriously reduce your perception of pain, by firmly gripping it in the palm of your hand. In fact a comb always used to be a staple in an old school midwife's bag!

So we're not talking a regular brush you'd use for your hair here, but more like an old school comb they used in Greese!

A correctly gripped comb works by utilising something called the 'Gate Control Theory'; essentially your brain is distracted by the sensations of the comb pressing specific acupressure points. Your brain focusses on the nerve endings in your palm, and so is distracted from the intensity of the sensations of your contractions. This in turn reduces your awareness of the pain in that part of your body.

There is actually a specifically designed comb just for this use in labour, called The Wave Comb. I really rate these combs, they're superb quality and feel really durable and comfortable in your hand. I'd also reccommend giving them a follow over on Instagram, where owner Kat often gives demos on how and when these combs can be used.

2. Water

Using the pool, shower or a bath during labour is absolute bliss! Now this one I have personal experience of, during both of my labours - and is something that women are often interested to hear more about during my Group Hypnobirthing Classes.

Warm water immersion during labour has been shown to increase your chances of having a natural birth, reduce pain levels, reduce your chances of episiotomy and reduce your length of labour* (I mean, wow!).

I actually did a whole free online class all about water birth, which you can watch on replay in the Positively Pregnant group HERE.

If you can't use the pool during labour, or you don't want to - the shower is a fantastic pain relief (this is what I used in my 1st labour when I wasn't permitted to use the hospital pool. I was in there for about 4 hours, with my husband directing the shower either on my bump or my back depending on where I was feeling the intensity. The pressure combined with warm water made my contractions feel SO much more manageable.

*If you'd like to learn more about the evidence & statistics around water birth - take a read of the Evidence Based Birth blog here: WATER BIRTH

3. Aromatherapy

Special essential oils used to relax and ground you during pregnancy and birth can be a godsend. I wholeheartedly find aromatherapy for labour super helpful - so much so that I trained especially in aromatherapy for birth so that I can share information with you lovely lot!

Blending a relaxing smell that appeals most to each individual Mum is even a part of my Hypnobirthing courses! Each Mama takes home a 'signature scent' which we have created together with specialised theraputic grade oils to help reduce pain levels by helping her to relax.

If you'd like to learn more about using essential oils during pregnancy and labour, take a read of this BLOG POST

4. Movement!

Tuning into your body and move in instinctive ways during labour can SERIOUSLY help to ease pain. That therefore makes it important to not have your mobility limited is you can possibly help it. Interventions such as continuous monitoring can severely limit how much you can move (the strap for the monitoring machine often falls down when you're moving in an instinctive way during labour). It's therefore important to weigh up the evidence behind such interventions (THIS is a great look at the evidence for continuous fetal monitoring) when planning a natural birth, where you're hoping to minimise medical pain relief.

5. TENS machine

TENS machines are something that a lot of women who come along to my Positively Pregnant Hypnobirthing courses utilise during their labours - I even have one which I lend out to women who work with me!

TENS machines work in a similar way to the comb; they're small battery operated devices which have sticky pads on leads connected to the machine. You attach the pads directly to your skin (usually on your lower/ mid back during labour) and then small electrical impulses are delivered to the area you have put the pads.

The impulses can reduce pain signals going to your brain, which can in turn help muscles to relax and stimulate the production of endorphins (your body's natural pain killer). To you the impulses will usually feel like a tingling sensation.

Anecdotally, I hear that the TENS machines work best when started during early(ish) labour, rather than bringing them out once labour is in the 'really intense' stage (!). You can't use the TENS machine when in water. Some hospitals have these to use, but if you think this is going to be a good option for you, I'd recommend hiring or buying one yourself.

6. Hypnobirthing!

Yep, I saved the best til last...! Hypnobirthing really does work when it comes to making labour less painful! In fact, it was experiencing the power of hypnobirthing during my first labour that made me want to go on & train to become a teacher myself! I actually wrote an entire blog called 'What is Hypnobirthing'? recently for those who are unsure!

But don't just take my word for it... taken from an article by Nursing in Practice:

" A number of historical studies have shown that the average length of labour, particularly first stage, is significantly reduced in multi and prima gravidas (first & second time mums). Most recent studies focus on the effects of hypnosis on the perception of pain, with significant reduction of the use of chemical analgesia.

The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust carried out a survey comparing hypnobirthing labours with the general population and found reduced emergency caesarean section rates from 15% to 4%.

They also found that the occurrence of non-instrumental births in hypnobirthing mothers was 84% compared with the general population of 64%.

A retrospective survey by Gallagher reported significant differences in epidural rates of 18% in hypnosis participants compared to 40 to 95% general rates for the area. Again, caesarean rates were reduced in the experimental group in comparison to the general population (6.7% compared with 20-25%).

Spontaneous deliveries, higher apgar scores at birth and reduced medication use have been reported by Harmon et al and Vandevusse et al.

Davidson claimed that there are greater implications for the use of hypnosis in childbirth than the analgesic reduction, as a significant number (70%) of hypnosis mothers reported to have found labour to be a pleasant experience with 53% reported no pain or only slight pain.

This can be contrasted with the control group where 33% reported birth to be a pleasurable experience and 6% claimed to have felt no pain or only slight pain.

This is supported by findings in Gallagher’s Retrospective Survey14 that showed 96% were pleased at the use of hypnosis, would use hypnosis as a subsequent birth and would recommend its use to other women. Current studies report similar findings of significant benefits to overall positive perceptions of birthing experiences."

(To read the full article & find the study references head HERE )

Hypnobirthing is for pretty much any 'type' of birth, but I do think it really is an essential tool for women who are hoping for a natural birth, or hoping to avoid medical pain relief.

If you'd like to learn more about Hypnobirthing, head to my homepage to find out how you can incorporate this labour enhancing tool into your birth game plan!

The Positively Pregnant Online course recently won 'BEST Online Antenatal Course - England' and consists of 10 pre recorded classes with Jessica, founder of Positively Pregnant - and includes a luxury pregnancy & hypnobirthing 'box' delivered straight to your door.

Learn more about the course here:

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