Planning a natural birth and want to make sure you are ready? You’ll want to know about these weird labor coping tips that will help you manage pain and get through labor without drugs. Avoid the epidural, cope through transition, and use these techniques for natural pain relief during labor.
When you’ve been involved in the natural birth community for almost 20 years like I have, as a homebirther and a doula, you hear some funny and unusual tips for managing pain over time.
There’s the normal list of coping techniques to give natural pain relief during birth like water (through a bath, tub, or shower), counter pressure, sitting on a birth ball, etc. And there’s the labor advice that sounds just a little bit crazy!
Still, I am here to assure you that many women have found great success with these comfort measures for birth, and you can, too! Here are the natural birth pain coping techniques you’re not going to hear every day:
Wiggling your toes during contractions
Wiggling your toes seems like really strange labor advice. But in fact, it helps relax your pelvis and take your mind off the contractions while also relieving pain! Kind of a win/win/win. I definitely suggest you try it.
Along the same lines, if you’re laboring in a big tub, you can put your toes on the jets in the birth pool during contractions. If you’re not in a big tub, consider using a removable shower head to spray directly on the bottom of your toes.
Why so much focus on the toes? Well, a little known fact is that your toes are “spiritually connected” to your pelvis. Is that too woo woo for you? Your toes formed on your pelvic area before your legs grew in when you were just a wee fetus. And now your neural pathways for your toes travel right up to your pelvis and right next to your genitalia. I mean, your toes do curl during an orgasm, right?
But physically speaking, you have to use your leg muscles to wiggle your toes, so that simple act of wiggling relieves tension in your legs and pelvis. It also functions as a bit of a distraction technique as your brain switches focus from the tightening uterus to your wiggly toes.
Regardless, it’s such a simple technique and so easy to do. The only hard part is remembering to try it! Start a list of all your favorite labor techniques and share it with your partner so you don’t forget.
Holding a comb in your hand
This one’s been around for a while, but this technique simply involves a gentle clench on a hair comb in your hand during contractions. The tines of the comb should hit your palm just below your fingers.
The comb definitely works. Lots of women in labor have attested to that. But why? Apparently, the comb presses on a pressure point that either relieves pain or just distracts your brain so much it can’t feel the pain of the contraction anymore.
Does it really matter why? Just throw a comb in your hospital bag or near your homebirth space and don’t forget to try it!
You might also like: What to pack in your hospital bag (with a checklist!)
Checking out completely
Sounds weird, but this happens to a lot of women involuntarily. I call it “going to Laborland”.
If you’re a practiced meditator, you might be able to get there more easily by employing your favorite meditation techniques. If you’re not used to meditating, please start practicing relaxation today! It will be so helpful to you during labor. I wrote all about practicing relaxation for labor right here.
Once you’re in Laborland, you’ll be in your own little world. You’ll lose track of time and cope more easily with each contraction as it comes. You’ll essentially be in flow with your labor as you intuitively vocalize and move your body. It’s just a lovely place to be and a wonderful way to labor.
Here’s another distraction technique: Have someone squeeze hard on your ankle during a contraction. Some women have found that the ankle squeezing somehow makes the pain of a contraction go away. Definitely worth a try.
And if that doesn’t work, try the opposite: Effleurage. This is a French technique of light, sweeping touches on the belly that also serve as a nice distraction. Bonus tip!
If you’re at all familiar with famous American midwife Ina May and her amazing book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (if you’re not familiar, read it!), you may remember this one. Iny May recommends that during labor you blow air through your loose, flapping lips. If that isn’t a great description, I don’t know what is.
A couple things are happening here when you’re flapping your horse lips around. Ina May noticed that when a woman’s facial lips where loose and relaxed, her cervix and perineum also relaxed. There is a relation between how we hold our face and our bottoms. Clench one and the other clenches. Relax one and the other follows.
According to acupressure principles, the mouth and forehead are directly related to the pelvic floor. Neural pathways from facial areas are connected to abdominal areas. So keeping that whole face loose is so important.
As a doula, I often find myself gently running a finger over a wrinkled brow as a nonverbal reminder to relax those muscles. It is literally impossible to keep a tight face (and thus, bottom) if you are imitating a horse. In fact, even if your partner does horse lips, you will probably benefit as laughter can be beneficial in the exact same ways.
So keep your face loose and relaxed. Laugh and have fun when you can. Your birth will go easier and you have a better chance of not tearing, too!
Tapping fingers during contractions
This is similar to wiggling your toes, but perhaps without the benefit of relaxing your pelvic area as a by-product. If you’re already a finger tapper by nature, you may want to try this during labor and see how it feels. At best, it’s probably a distraction technique, but a good distraction technique is better than nothing!
Shake the apple tree
Another gem from Ina May! This is more a technique that someone has to do TO you instead of something you can do for yourself. And it sounds even crazier than horse lips, but it is really relaxing and helpful.
Essentially, shaking the apple tree is a technique in which someone puts their hands on your outer thighs or bum and literally shakes them back and forth in a rhythmic pattern. If the sound of someone rolling your extra padded parts around sounds a little off-putting, just trust me that it feels amazing and you will forget about the self-consciousness the minute you feel the relief!
Shaking the apple tree is great because it not only feels wonderful, it can also be super useful in back labor or for a baby in a weird position that might be slowing down labor a bit. That fluid shaking motion helps baby to get unstuck and come around to a better position, especially if you are in a hands and knees or open knee chest (polar bear) position with your butt up in the air.
So add this one to your dream birth list, too, and teach your partner how to do it now. You might want to ask your doula if she does this one regularly and suggest it as an option to her.
Weird Pain Management Techniques for Birth
Did you learn something new?
I hope that these strange labor hacks will give you options for comfort measures when you have your baby.
Let me know if one these helped you or if you have a weird labor coping tip you’d like to share . Drop it in the comments below or message me on Insta!