Easing Labor Pain

There are many ways to cope with the stress and pain of labor. Think about the measures youve taken to feel more comfortable with stress or pain in the past and whether those might help you stay calm and focused through labor and birth.

Here are some strategies to try.

  • Environment: Think of things you do now to make your surroundings more comfortable. You may:
    • dim the lights
    • keep the room as peaceful and private as possible
    • keep the temperature comfortable
    • play music that you love
    • wear your own clothing, robe, T-shirt
    • prepare for spells of nausea during labor
  • Physical movement: Movement can help you feel more in control, and can help you labor more effectively. Some activities that women find helpful while in labor include:
    • walking
    • pelvic rocking
    • positioning pillows for comfort
    • slow dancing with a partner
    • sitting on birth ball and swaying
    • rhythmic movements
    • changing positions often
  • Touch: Some people like to be touched during labor; others do not find it helpful. Your reaction may change during the course of your labor. Some helpful ways your labor partner may touch you include:
    • massage with moderate pressure
    • stroking with fingertips
    • hugging and cuddling
    • applying steady pressure to the lower back
  • Heat: Warmth can help relax your muscles and reduce pain. Try:
    • a deep tub bath or long, warm shower
    • resting a hot pack or warm washcloths on your lower back
  • Cold: Cool temperatures can also lessen the intensity of pain. Try:
    • ice packs on lower back
    • cool cloths to wipe your face
  • Self-comforting measures: Breathing patterns, rituals, meditation and the like can help you focus your mind. Practice these skills:
    • visualizing happy images from your imagination or memory
    • affirming your inner strength by saying I can DO THIS
    • focusing on your breath and following specific breathing patterns
  • Vocalizations: Feeling comfortable using your breath deeply and fully, making grunting or moaning noises or repeating phrases can be helpful in letting go.
  • Having a trusted person with you: Perhaps the most important comfort measure is having someone you love and trust hold your hand, give you support when you need it the most, advocate for you and help guide you in using different strategies to stay strong and focused.
  • Your healthcare providers also have methods of easing your pain, including epidurals and other pain reducers. Discuss these options in advance so that you can make informed decisions during your labor. Be sure you also tell your labor coach or partner your wishes in advance.


Epidural anesthesia is often offered to women in labor to block or lessen feelings in the lower half of the body. Various doses and types of epidural medication are given through a catheter in the lower back.

Some types allow a mother in labor to change positions and even walk about, and some require her to stay in place. All allow you to stay alert and participate in the birth of your baby with less discomfort. Depending on the strength of the medication, however, some epidurals may make it difficult for you to push as labor proceeds.

Like all substances that enter your body, epidural medication will cross the placenta to the baby, and there are a range of opinions and research on how it affects infants. Depending on the particular medication and dosage, some newborns may be subtly affected, including being sleepy or having difficulty latching on to the breast for their first nursing.

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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