7 Natural Pain Management Options for Labor and Delivery

August 08, 2023

pregnant woman sitting on exercise ball with husband and nurse in hospital room

In recent years, the adoption of medication-based pain management for laboring mothers has offered a powerful tool during the birthing process. For some, however, medication may not be an option. Certain health conditions, such as neurological or blood disorders, prevent mothers from using certain pain medications. Other mothers simply prefer a natural birth.

Whatever your reason for a natural birth, it’s important to prepare for the pain.

“More and more mothers are choosing natural births. Some mothers think they can easily handle a natural birth because women have been giving birth forever,” says Cristy Monroe, RN, a labor and delivery nurse and perinatal education coordinator at Memorial Family Birthplace. “But the key to a natural birth is being prepared to cope with labor pain, so it’s important to know your options.”

Monroe describes seven common natural pain management options for mothers choosing a natural birth.

Understanding Natural Pain Management

In many cases, natural pain management focuses on changing your state of mind, which can help you work through the pain and help improve your delivery experience.

“Managing pain without medication is largely mental. The goal is to help silence the mind and relax the muscles. Your uterus is a muscle, so when you’re tense, it’s tense, too. This can prevent you from dilating and make labor harder,” says Monroe.

Seven examples of natural pain management methods include the following:

1. Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy involves using warm water to help alleviate pain. Options include soaking in a tub, if available, or taking a shower. Hydrotherapy can also help move labor along because it makes it easier to move around. For example, floating in a tub makes it easier to move and change positions.

2. Focal Point

Focal points can keep you grounded and distract you from pain. Pick something you can fixate on. Useful focal points include pictures you bring from home, such as an ultrasound of your child or a soothing picture from a vacation.

3. Guided Imagery

Guided imagery helps take your mind off the pain you’re experiencing. During the process, you picture something soothing, happy, or that conveys a positive emotion. For example, with the help of your birth partner, you could focus on a vacation to the beach or another calming experience.

4. Music

Studies show listening to music during labor can decrease pain and enhance mood. It’s an easy strategy to have ready before going into labor.

“I recommend creating a playlist of songs you enjoy before you go into labor, so you can play it in the background and help take your mind off the pain,” says Monroe.

5. Position Changes

Movement and changing your position can help better align the baby for delivery. It can also help release tension in muscles that cause pain during labor. Memorial Family Birthplace has equipment such as birthing balls, peanut balls, and a walking path to help you comfortably explore different positions to help alleviate pain.

6. Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy uses essential oils to help alleviate pain. Though it’s not entirely clear how it helps, research shows that aromatherapy can help reduce anxiety and tension common in laboring mothers. So relaxing smells can reduce pain or the perception of pain.

7. HypnoBirthing®

A newer option, HypnoBirthing, focuses on mentally preparing you for the pain you will experience. The technique puts you into a near-hypnotic state. It can even help shorten labor because it helps your body better tolerate contractions.

“HypnoBirthing has proven to be one of the more successful non-medication pain management options available,” says Monroe. “I’ve noticed that people are more successful using this option than others because they are better prepared to tolerate pain surges and contractions.”

You’ll need a special class to use hypnotherapy successfully during labor. We offer HypnoBirthing classes at Memorial Hospital Miramar.

Learn More About Pain Management

Memorial Family Birthplace is dedicated to supporting expecting mothers throughout their labor and delivery. Our staff has experience with a range of pain management options. We also provide education about pain management options to help you achieve the birth experience you want.

Want to learn more about pain management options for labor and delivery? Check out the birthing classes we offer.