From my experience and learning to explain and share how each of the following therapies and strategies can help control sensations and tension or pain in labour:

1 HypnoBirthing

HypnoBirthing is a birth preparation programme which uses deep relaxation, specialist breathing techniques, self-hypnosis and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) to re-programme negative thoughts and boost women’s confidence in their birthing bodies. Birth is a normal process, the fruition of pregnancy. Clinical studies and anecdotal evidence agree that the use of hypnosis during labour shortens the first stage of labour, significantly reduces and even eliminates pain, reduces the need for medication, results in fewer interventions and surgical births, minimises fear during pregnancy, and leaves mothers and babies alert and energetic after birth. The best way to do HypnoBirthing is to take a class with a qualified HypnoBirthing teacher and to practise – a lot.

2 Essential oils/aromatherapy

There are a couple of ways of thinking about the use of the wonderful essential oils for pregnancy and birth. Perhaps in conjunction with listening to HypnoBirthing (self-hypnosis for childbirth) tracks mums and dads-to-be can have an oil burner or a vaporiser to put essential oils in. The oils are powerful and should be used in moderation. My favourite mix to relax to is Roman Camomile, Geranium, Peppermint and French Lavender. Mix a few drops together and enjoy your home smelling wonderful.

Peppermint oil also helps to clear the congested noses of women in later pregnancy – often in part of the third trimester as the hormones soften the body for birth mums-to-be snore and have nasal congestion. Lavender can help to boost the womb in labour too.

In labour a mum can just have a few sniffs from the essential oil bottle to help to re-focus her mind on her calm and strength.

Remember to buy good quality oils, they are worth the money (e.g. Neal’s Yard and DoTerra).

Clary Sage and Chamomile were proven to reduce the need for anaesthesia in a study conducted at an Oxfordshire maternity unit. Clary Sage must only be used from 40 weeks of pregnancy.

When labour is good and strong there may be no need to use oils to enhance the surges of the womb.

3 Reflexology

Reflexology is extremely beneficial for the pregnant woman. Recent studies show that regular reflexology during pregnancy significantly reduced pain during labour, reduced the length of the first stage of labour and improved the quality of sleep in post-natal women. Reflexology can help with all the major and minor symptoms of pregnancy. Moreover, Reflexology is a useful technique for identifying areas of the mother’s body that require additional attention and that may benefit from another treatment, such as massage, osteopathy or acupuncture.

4 Acupuncture

For me acupuncture is wonderful, I’d have some every day if I could! After a consultation very fine needles are gently tapped into pressure points which relate to the flow of energy in the body. It is fantastic for relaxation too, when you’re lying on the bed with the needles in place and gentle music playing it is certainly a wonderful way to relax for 45 minutes. To have acupuncture in the run up to birth and to know some pressure points to touch in labour is very useful and beneficial. When a woman relaxes in labour her body works much better to get her baby out.

Relaxed mum = relaxed Woman = a cervix that opens up

5 Massage

Massage in pregnancy is a wonderful experience with many benefits.  It helps the woman relax, supports her body during profound changes in her physiology and also helps to prepare the whole body and mind for birth. In preparation for labour, perinatal specialists recommend women practice deep sustained levels of relaxation for 45 to 60 minutes without falling asleep, everyday, especially in the last 6 to 8 weeks of pregnancy.

Having a birth companion and midwives who will massage your back, shoulders and feet in labour is lush. The more relaxed and limp you can make your body, shoulders and jaw the easier it is for the womb and cervix to work at their very best.

Relaxed mum = relaxed Woman = a cervix that opens up

Pressure applied to mum’s sacrum and the top of each side of her pelvis helps to massage the sensations of labour and birth. Touch enhances oxytocin release and that helps labour.

Hugs Before Drugs

6 Breathing techniques

Fuel your body. We are all really good at breathing, we’ve been doing it our whole lives. So the breathing we use to birth our babies is about breathing deeply and fuelling the über powerful muscles of the womb to get the baby out. Oxygen on the in breath and calmness and confident, releasing tension on the out breath, releasing anything the body no longer needs.

The Breathing techniques that we use in Hypnobirthing are often cited as some of the most important tools that mums use during their labour. It is very important that you relax yourself completely before you practice the breathing. Be aware of facial and body relaxation.

7 Birthing pool

Birthing pools be they at a homebirth, Midwife-led birth centre or on a Labour ward are considered pain relief. I spent an hour of my son’s birthing in our bath at home, it was lush. I can remember how soothing it was and how easy to move around – until I wanted to get out and I needed a hand, I felt heavy! Hydrotherapy is probably what you can put birth pools under.

A woman may use the pool to labour and birth in or she may get in and out of it. One thing is for sure, it helps. You can watch the woman get into the water and instantly relax down a few levels. She can move around easily and other people can’t get to her as easily which gives her more privacy.

8 TENS machine

Distraction and endorphins – these are the two things that come to mind when people ask me about TENS machines. TENS machines you can use to enhance endorphin release, the body’s natural opiate. The also distract a woman because of the buzzing and throbbing sensation. Research evidence to support TENS is not strong and it takes an hour for body to start producing endorphins, so you should start using it in early labour.