• Kati Goins

Pain in Labor- Four Ways to Manage Pain During Labor

Lets face it, labor is called labor for a reason! It is painful, it can be long, it is uncomfortable and even if you choose to use pain medication to manage your pain you will often find yourself having to cope with some pain throughout the process. Honestly, I could go on and on about the tricks, tools and ways that I know to help you manage the pain during the different stages of labor. The thing is that no two labors are alike and no two people are alike so what might work for you may not work for someone else. However, these five ways seem to be some of the most effective and unique ways that you, your partner and your doula can help you manage your pain.

Birth Affirmations and Calming Words

Our mind is the control center of our body. It plays an enormous role in everything we do and it can be one of the best tools to help us remain calm and manage pain during labor. I encourage expecting moms to write down things that they may tell themselves or that a loved one may tell them when they're having a tough day. What does your partner say when you are sad, stressed or overwhelmed? What things do your friends tell you when you need encouragement to accomplish a personal goal in your life? What do you tell yourself when you are on your morning walk or run and you're feeling ready to give up because you just aren't feeling it? These can be as simple as "I am strong" or "I am prepared". They could be comprised of that certain thing that your best friend or partner always says to you that brings a smile to your face. By writing these down and bringing them into your birth space for you to see and hear you are creating an overwhelming feeling of safety, comfort and positivity in your brain and thus your body. This often helps moms to push through the pain and discomfort because they are in a happy, supported and calm state mentally.

Acupressure and Counter Pressure

Our bodies are built with points we call pressure points. When applied pressure to these points you can combat unwanted pain and other symptoms all over your body. As a doula I love to use the hands and wrists because they are easily accessible and can provide quick relief from painful contractions. Having a client hold a comb in her hand allowing the teeth to put sensation and pressure on the fleshy palm of the hand allows her to feel in control of the sensation. Hand and wrist massage using pressure points done by a doula can help to relax the body and mind. Another great option for moms that may be experiencing back discomfort or back labor is counter pressure. Counter pressure consists of your doula applying pressure to your sacrum in your lower back, and it is wonderful for helping ease the pain that comes when your babys head is applying pressure along your spine and to your sacrum. Counter pressure can be combined with physical movement, a birthing ball and even used when a mom is laboring in water to further ease the pain associated with this.

TENS Therapy TENS or Trascutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation can be safely administered to laboring moms by a TENS trained doula. Electrode pads are applied to the mothers back in four distinct locations and then hooked to a portable, battery operated device that delivers mild electrical impulses through the skin to stimulate the nerve fibers. Women often have a large amount of discomfort in their back during labor and some women even suffer from back labor, which is the result of the position of the baby as it descends into the pelvis. By stimulating the nerves we are changing the pain signals they are sending to your brain thus providing a reduced level of pain and discomfort in the affected area. Studies show that the earlier a mother starts using the TENS therapy in labor the more effective the pain relief is. Even when a mother plans on using pain medication for labor studies show that using a TENS unit for pain relief delays an epidural by an average of five hours. This is a huge deal especially because it is well known that the longer a mother has an epidural the higher the risk for side effects and complications is. TENS can even be used in conjunction with some IV pain medications!

I have linked this wonderful Evidence Based Birth video for you to watch here!


A doula can be a godsend to a laboring mother in many ways but perhaps one of the better ones is that she is trained in different ways to use massage to help with labor pain and discomfort. Massage has a two fold benefit, first it can bring a feeling of calm and relaxation to the mind of the laboring mother and second it can literally ease pain in a variety of areas physically. Touch stimulates the oxytocin in our bodies which is the hormone that makes us feel loved and cared for. Oxytocin can physically help speed up labor and make a mother feel more relaxed. For this reason a doula often encourages the partner or loved one of the mama to also make skin to skin contact with her to further increase the release of this amazing and magical hormone. Calming massage and repetitive movements performed in a direction from head to toe started in early labor can drastically increase the mothers ability to cope with early labor pains thus allowing her to labor in the comfort of her own home much longer.

I encourage you to reach out to your doula and see if she offers any of these with her services and ask if she has been specifically trained to provide TENS therapy. How many of these things did you know were available or have you used to cope with pain during labor?

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