For me, one of the scariest parts of being pregnant was wondering if I could make it through labor and delivery. As a person with low pain tolerance, I was extremely worried about what the experience would be like.
My birth plan always included getting an epidural, but my goal was to hold out as long as possible to encourage a faster labor experience. I used different movements and positions to make labor more comfortable until that point.
Research shows that movement during labor releases endorphins, which naturally help birthing women cope with labor and delivery pain. Research also shows that women who move around or change positions during labor could have shorter labors. It is recommended to change positions about every 30 minutes.
Below are some research backed ways to help manage labor pain. While none of these tips or positions will promise you a totally pain free birth experience, these can help to ease labor and delivery pain. Make sure to practice these before going into labor, so that on the big day they will be easier to remember. Try out different positions to find what you like best and encourage your support person to get involved and help out when possible.
- Get upright by standing or walking. Both options work with gravity to move the baby down lower into the pelvis.
- Squatting also helps the baby move down lower into the pelvis with gravity’s help and can also help to open up the pelvis, making labor pain more manageable.
- One of my favorite positions was sitting/ rocking on a birthing ball. This really helped to ease the pain of contractions and took the effort away that standing and squatting required. This is how I spent most of my early labor.
- If you have back labor, try leaning forward (on a chair, support person, etc.). This will help ease the pressure on your back. Having your support person provide some counter pressure by pressing on your low back at the same time may also provide some extra relief.
- Another option is to move to all fours. On your hands and knees also takes pressure off your low back and also allows easy access for your partner to provide that counter pressure.
Later in labor, I used a peanut ball. A peanut ball, provided by some hospitals, helps to keep mom’s pelvis open and encourage the baby to continue moving down. This position can be really nice in later labor when you are more tired and need a low-effort position.
Here's a chart from the Royal College of Midwives showing these poses and more!