Childbirth Comfort Measures: Use all of your senses

Imagine trying to be intimate with your partner in a bright, sterile room with strangers walking in and out. How do you think that might go? Now imagine intimacy in a warm, candlelit bedroom with the door locked. Which scenario is more likely to lead to the best outcome? The same aspects can affect your birth.

One of the most significant factors in your labor and birth is how you react to your environment. Experts in childbirth know when a laboring woman feels safe, secure, private and relaxed, she will progress well toward birth. But a mom who feels threatened will release hormones that can slow labor.

Privacy and safety are the keys for creating an environment conducive to birth. What will it take to make you feel protected, comfortable, supported and relaxed? As you write your birth plan, imagine how you can use all of your senses to create an atmosphere that will help you to feel these attributes, so your body can do the work it needs to do to birth your baby.

Sight: Women do best during childbirth with dim lights, which create a sense of seclusion. Consider the room you are laboring in: do you need to close the blinds or turn the lights off to achieve the privacy you need? In addition, having something to focus your attention visually can help you maintain your attention during contractions, or even in between. Make it something that creates a sense of serenity for you – a piece of artwork, a photograph of your favorite vacation spot, a sonogram picture, a labyrinth or maze, etc.

Smell: Did you ever notice how connected your olfaction is to your emotions? Scents may remind you of certain people or situations – both positive and negative. And when you catch a whiff, you may have a very physical reaction – changes in breathing, heart rate, hormone production, etc. Aromatherapy can reduce anxiety, boost energy, and reduce pain. And there are no side effects that could affect your baby or your labor. What are your favorite scents? Are there ones that relax you, like lavender? Or others that energize you? Will the antiseptic hospital smells bother you? Will you need to find a way to mask them?

Hearing: If you are in the hospital, the sounds of staff coming and going in the hallway, as well as announcements on the public address system, can be distracting. How can you minimize these? If you’re at home, will there be noises from outside that will intrude on your ability to relax? Music, headphones, and closed doors all help to block unwanted noise. If you’re planning to use music to help you through labor, remember that it doesn’t all need to be slow and relaxing. You may have points in your labor where you want something fast and energizing.

Taste: While this may not have to do directly with a secure, private setting, you may want to have gum or candy on hand throughout labor. These will keep you from getting a dry mouth, which can be distracting. Staying hydrated is extremely important, too. Your favorite soothing tea might serve the purpose – keeping you relaxed and keeping all of your muscles (including your uterus) working well.

Touch: Massage, gentle stroking, even a hand lightly on your shoulder – all can ground you and help you feel safe in the unknowns of childbirth. Skin is your largest organ, and all of those nerve fibers underneath can provide a direct route to pain management during labor. Remember to add some type of lubrication for any massage (maybe your favorite scented oil or lotion) so that you’re not bothered by friction (which can work against your labor progress!). Water – whether raining down on you in the shower or surrounding you in a bath – can also provide tactile stimulation that will help you relax (and the tub or shower can be very private!).

Keep in mind one method won’t work for your entire labor, so have a “goody bag” of supplies, or at least a mental list of methods, to try. Create a setting that feels good – in which you feel protected and secure – so you can relax and ease your baby into the world. Plan your childbirth comfort measures with all of your senses in mind.

Written by Michelle, childbirth educator, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

5 Tricks to Help You Through Labor

If you’re hoping to have a natural birth, it’s a good idea to plan in advance how you want to manage the pain of labor. While these methods won’t rid you of the discomfort of contractions, they will help you get through. And that’s really all you need to do – get through one contraction at a time.

Try a new way of breathing – take a deep breath in through your nose and blow it out your mouth, relaxing your muscles on the outbreath. Focus on your breathing, not your contractions. Try counting as you breathe in and breathe out to the same number or imagine the air coming in as one color and going out as another, more relaxing, color. At the peak of a contraction, it might be necessary to change the pace of your breathing (not many people can maintain slow, deep breaths through pain). To practice this, start by placing your hands on your abdomen and breathe in as if the air is going the whole way to your hands, then breath out again. Now place your hands on your chest, and imagine the breaths in only going to that level – this is the level of breathing you might need at the hardest part of each contraction. Once the peak has passed, you can go back to the abdominal breaths.

Get a hand massage – let your birth partner support your hand and focus on his or her touch. He or she can make small circles all over your palm, stroke from wrist to fingertips, massage each finger separately, or squeeze your whole hand tightly. Use some massage oil to improve the effectiveness of the movements, and to keep your skin from getting chapped. Choose scented oil for the additional value of aromatherapy.

Follow the maze – consider placing a maze or labyrinth image on the wall, and as the contraction starts, work your way through it visually. If you’re laboring at home, you can even set up a labyrinth to walk if you have enough space inside or outside.

Color away your tension – coloring books aren’t just for kids! Find a book of mandalas or patterns, choose colored pencils or felt tipped pens, and color to your heart’s content. Coloring allows you to enter a meditative state, and can ease stress and help you maintain focus. You may even be able to find a book meant just for the purpose of childbirth.

Shake your booty – dance through your contractions. Put on some energizing music and sway your hips or put on some slow jams and dance closely with your partner. The movement will help baby move into a favorable position for birth, and will help you lessen the pain of each contraction.

No one method will work throughout labor, so plan to use more than one. What other methods can you think of to help get you through one contraction at a time?

Written by Michelle, lactation consultant, Lamaze instructor, writer and editor, and mom to 4 busy kids

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

Pain Relief During Labour

Before the birth of your child, it’s important to sit down and think about the type of birth you would like. Would you like to have your baby in hospital or at home? Do you want to use a birthing pool? What type of pain relief would you like to have available? You will need to consider all of these things when you write your birthing plan.

You should discuss your birthing plan with your healthcare provider and birth partner, so that they know how to best support you on the day. Of course, it is not a definitive plan, and you should be open to change on the day. While you may love the idea of a natural birth, on the day you may find yourself asking for drugs. Alternatively, if you plan to have an epidural immediately after the first contraction, you may surprise yourself by coping fine without.

Since you can’t predict in advance how you will feel during labour (even if you have given birth before, remember, all births are different), it makes sense to be read up on all the pain relief options available to you. That way you can make an informed decision on the day, even if labour isn’t quite what you were expecting.


This is the most commonly used form of pain relief used during childbirth in the US, as many as 66 percent of women opt for an epidural. An epidural provides continuous pain relief during labour. A thin hollow tube is inserted into the epidural space near the base of your spine. Once in place, a combination of narcotics and a local anaesthetic will be administered. An epidural should provide good pain relief, but may restrict your movements during labour.

Systemic medications

Systematic painkillers are used to dull pain, but will not eliminate it. Systemic drugs are delivered by IV or injected into muscle, and will affect your entire body. You will remain conscious while on systemic medications, but may feel sleepy. This form of pain relief is often described as ‘taking the edge off’, and may help you relax during labour. Systemic medications cross the placenta and may affect your baby, because of this, the amount you can take is limited.

Spinal block

A spinal block is a one-off injection into the spinal fluid. This provides fast pain relief that lasts just a few hours. Spinal blocks are often used for women who decide they want an epidural too late, or for when labour is progressing at speed. The major disadvantage to a spinal block is that it can inhibit the pushing stage and lead to a longer labour.

Combined spinal/epidural

This new technique offers fast and continuous relief. For the first hour or two, you may still be able to move around during labour, so this is a good option if you are hoping to stay mobile to help your labour progress. A combined spinal/epidural will reduce sensation which could cause problems during the pushing stage and lead to a longer labour.

Water birth

As well as helping you to stay mobile and upright during labour, birthing pools are said to provide pain relief. The warmth of the water can help to ease discomfort, and the support from the water may help you to move position easily during labour. Your healthcare provider will need to assess whether you are a suitable candidate for a water birth, and then you will need to choose a birthing centre that has pools available.

Natural birth

If you’re hoping to give birth without drugs, you may find relaxation techniques useful. Breathing exercises, meditation and hypnobirthing are all great tools to help you keep calm and focused through contractions.

What pain medication are you planning to use during childbirth?

Written by Fiona (@Fiona_Peacock), mother, writer and lover of all things baby related.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.