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How to Help Ease Labor Pain During Childbirth

by Vannessa Rhoades 26 Jul 2022
How to Help Ease Labor Pain During Childbirth


Educating yourself about childbirth is one of the most effective ways to prepare yourself for the process and decrease the pain of labor and delivery.

When a woman goes into labor, she experiences powerful uterine contractions and extreme pressure on her cervix. This aching is often experienced as extreme cramping in the back, groin, and abdominal regions. Some women feel pain in their thighs or sides as well. The additional weight and strain placed on the mother’s bladder and intestines by the infant’s head, along with the widening of the vagina and birth canal are also painful.

Every woman experiences labor pain differently. In fact, each pregnancy for the same woman may be a completely different pain experience. For many, the consistent waves of pain as labor progresses, with less and less recovery time between each contraction, are what make the process so difficult. 

Preparing for Labor

There are a few measures you can take in the weeks leading up to delivery day that may help decrease your pain during labor.


Engage in consistent, moderate exercise in order to strengthen and condition your body for the pressure of labor. Being in the best physical condition possible will also improve your endurance. This is especially helpful if your labor ends up taking several hours. (Hey, there’s a reason it’s called labor!) Don’t over-exert yourself, and consult your physician about what they feel is a safe exercise regimen for you. 

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Attend Childbirth Classes 

Get a partner to go with you, if possible. Together, you’ll learn various approaches to dealing with pain, from strengthening stretches to effective visualization and meditation practices. In the United States, the most commonly practiced childbirth philosophies are the Bradley method and Lamaze.

The Bradley Method

The Bradley method focuses on a natural birth process and emphasizes relaxation as a form of pain reduction during labor. It’s a sweeping plan that focuses on healthy living throughout your pregnancy, including maintaining a nutritious diet, exercising, and improving education so you understand what’s happening during this time. 

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The Bradley method is meant to be a partnered experience between you and your significant other. Essentially, your partner becomes your coach. He or she will encourage the relaxation techniques learned during the course and serve as your advocate during labor and delivery. 


Lamaze is the most extensively used technique in the United States. This birthing philosophy encourages women to approach labor with confidence and teaches that birth is a healthy, natural process. In Lamaze classes, participants and their partners learn various ways to cope with and manage the pain of labor, including breathing patterns, relaxation exercises, and massage. The Lamaze philosophy offers a little more flexibility on the use of medications and medical interventions, urging women to learn about their options and make the best choice for themselves.

Homeopathic Pain Relief

There are a number of drug-free interventions that help many women cope with the pain of labor, including:

  • bathing or showering
  • walking
  • hypnosis
  • yoga
  • distraction with another activity
  • listening to music
  • walking
  • shifting position 
  • counterpressure or massage

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Using Medication

Depending on a woman’s individual situation, there are a number of pain medications available during childbirth. Many women depend on these medications. They find huge relief when the pain is finally removed, and they can re-direct their focus to powering through the contractions. 

It’s important to manage your expectations when it comes to using medication. While medicine may relieve a lot of your pain, it probably won’t eliminate it completely. Consult your physician about the potential benefits and side effects of each type of medication and what may be right for you.


These drugs alleviate pain but don’t get rid of it entirely. You won’t go numb, and you will still feel your body moving. This medication can be administered in a number of ways, but if given through an injection or intravenously, it can affect the entire body. These drugs may induce nausea or sleepiness, and they have the potential to impact both mother and baby. 


While tranquilizers don’t actually alleviate pain, they may help you not care about it as much. Sometimes used in conjunctions with analgesics, tranquilizers help soothe and settle some women who are particularly worried about the childbirth process. They are not used often as they can affect both the mother and the infant. They can also cause memory loss.


Anesthesia is a favorite among many pregnant women for its effectiveness. These medications block pain in specific parts of the body and are used for both vaginal and C-section deliveries. 

An epidural, one of the most common forms of anesthesia, alleviates pain in the entire body below the lower back during childbirth. It is administered by an anesthesiologist via a catheter inserted into the base of a woman’s spine. The amount of the drug can then be adjusted to the laboring mother’s needs. The baby absorbs only a minimal amount of medication, resulting in few, if any, side effects for the newborn. Epidurals do have a few possible disadvantages for the mother, however. They can make urination difficult and cause a drop in blood pressure. Headaches, itching, and nausea may also occur.

Giving Birth Naturally

Some women opt to go through labor and delivery drug-free, trusting breathing patterns and relaxation methods for pain management. Some women change their minds about this once they’re in active labor. Discuss your options with your doctor if you prefer to give birth without pain medication.

Consult Your Doctor

Talk to your healthcare provider about how to decrease labor pain. Learn what options are available to you, their effectiveness, and the potential benefits and risks of any medications. Writing a birth plan ahead of time is a great way to make your choices known when the time comes. Remember, if you decide to change your pain control plans during labor, it doesn’t make you a bad mom! Childbirth is an incredibly physically demanding process. By learning as much as possible before the big day, you will be prepared to decide what pain relief options work best for you.

Looking for more detailed advice? Check out What to Expect When You're Expecting, 5th Edition Paperback by Heidi Murkoff. Filled with must-have information, practical advice, realistic insight, easy-to-use tips, and lots of reassurance, you’ll also find the very latest on prenatal screenings, which medications are safe, and the most current birthing options—from water birth to gentle c-sections. 


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