Natural Pain Relief During Labor: 7 Proven Techniques

130eddb5-6180-4bbc-bb2a-81099bf6e20cToday’s guest post is offered up by a good friend of Mark’s Daily Apple—Genevieve Howland, aka Mama Natural.

Very few people embrace pain. Sure, we’ve all said “no pain no gain” at the gym. But, as humans, we have a primal, hardwired instinct to seek pleasure and avoid pain. And that’s what makes childbirth such a loaded experience. Because, yes, there is usually pain (some like to say discomfort) involved in childbirth.

And, unfortunately, the process of childbirth seems to be getting harder… or at least longer. Based on 140,000 childbirths, research shows that today’s moms labor an average of 2-3 hours longer than the mothers of 50 years ago. Births in the late 1950s and 60s were compared to births from 2002 to 2008. The study points out that moms are now heavier, older, and are more likely to use epidural anesthesia.

Why does childbirth last longer these days?

Two potential culprits:

  1. Sedentary lifestyles. Our bodies weren’t made to sit in desk chairs for 40 hours a week or recline in a carseat for several hours a day. This is doubly true for pregnant women. Childbirth is a marathon event, and mama needs to train. Also, an active lifestyle encourages baby to assume a more optimal position for birth.
  2. Epidurals. Epidurals increase the amount of time a mom spends laboring by at least two or three hours according to a 2014 study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Epidurals can come with other side effects too, like longer recovery times and slower initiation of breastfeeding. Not to mention the discomfort of being confined to your bed during labor while hooked up to a catheter.

So, what’s a primal mama to do? Well, thankfully, there are many natural (and proven) ways to offset the pain of childbirth.

Here are 7 proven natural pain relief techniques during childbirth.

1. Hydrotherapy

Women are instinctively drawn to water during childbirth for the feeling of buoyancy and comfort it provides. And turns out, water birth can also be a great pain reliever.

In several studies, women who gave birth in water had less need for pain medication, and in some cases, no need at all.

Giving birth in water also reduced overall labor time by about 90 minutes per this study as well as this one.

Not only do water births result in less use of pain medication, women’s perceptions of pain are also significantly lower. In one study, women giving birth out of water ranked their pain score at nearly 7 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most painful). The moms who gave birth in water reported a pain score of only 3½.

Mama Natural Week By Week Guide to Pregnancy book water birth illustration tub mama labor delivery

2. Touch

Touch stimulates the release of oxytocin, an incredible hormone that stimulates uterine contractions, boosts mood and feelings of optimism and you guessed it, acts as a pain reliever. Have your partner hug or hold you in-between contractions to help ease the discomfort of labor. You could even employ a massage therapist.

In one study, laboring moms who received massage therapy had less pain, anxiety, and significantly shorter childbirths. These moms also suffered less from postpartum depression, too.

Another way to incorporate touch is with acupuncture or acupressure. Acupuncture is effective for chronic pain so it would make sense that pressing on certain acupuncture points may help during childbirth. (For example, focusing on the Urinary Bladder 60 point is often used to increase circulation and provide pain relief in the body.)

You can also have your partner or midwife apply counter pressure to your lower back and do a double hip squeeze to help manually open your pelvis during labor to get a stuck or stalled labor (and baby) moving!

Acupressure during labor - Illustration from The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth

3. Breath work

In any good childbirth education class, you’ll hear about “breathing” as a way to cope with the pain. I was a bit skeptical of this one, but I’ve been proven wrong by a boatload of medical research.

For example, a study from St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center found that women with painful conditions such as fibromyalgia experienced less pain when they focused on controlled breathing at a slow rate.

Why? Probably because focused breathing calms the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for—you guessed it—pain.

On the flip side, other studies have demonstrated that focused breathing actually increases our pain threshold.

Your breath has a rhythm that’s actually quite similar to a birth contraction. There’s a peak (the top of inhalation) and then a release (exhalation). If you can stay “on top of your breath”—that is, stay in charge of the pace of your breathing—then you’ve got a good shot that your labor will be more manageable.

While there are plenty of breath patterns you can learn about and research, I think simplest is best: steady inhale through your nose for a few seconds, followed by a calm and steady exhale for a few seconds.

4. Meditation

As you focus on deep breathing, you may want to drift into a meditative state. Just as your body will release stress hormones and adrenaline if you’re watching, say, a scary movie, it will release positive endorphins when you’re focused on gentle breathing or a peaceful image.

In one small study, participants with chronic pain who meditated reduced their discomfort by a whopping 44%! (In contrast, past research indicates that opioid morphine reduces physical pain by only 22%.) You can learn more about meditation with this great beginner guide.

Meditation during pregnancy - Illustration from The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth

5. Movement

As Mark has covered before, sitting is the new smoking. No doubt about it, the human body is not designed to sit from 9 to 5 in an office, and yet many pregnant moms (myself included) are in this camp during their first pregnancy. By moving regularly, we may encourage baby to position him or herself better in our womb.

You can try these desk sitting hacks or special pelvic exercises to keep your hips open and aligned. Regular acupuncture or chiropractic care may also help avoid baby resting in the “occiput posterior position,” otherwise known as a “sunny side up” presentation.

In studies, sunny side up births are associated with:

  • prolonged first and second stages of labor
  • oxytocin augmentation
  • use of epidural analgesia
  • chorioamnionitis
  • assisted vaginal delivery
  • third and fourth degree perineal lacerations
  • cesarean delivery
  • excessive blood loss
  • and postpartum infection

The remedy? Keep your body moving during pregnancy! Movement can encourage your baby to engage in a more favorable position for birth. It also lowers your risk for preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

6. Special foods/beverages

Starting in the second trimester, moms can incorporate a few special foods to help with childbirth. While these items may not be natural pain relievers per se, they can help moms:

  • have a quicker birth with fewer interventions
  • reduce the length of discomfort during labor
  • plus reduce postpartum pain/healing time

Red Raspberry Tea FTW!

If you talk to any midwife, doula, or crunchy mama you’re practically guaranteed to hear about the importance of drinking red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy. Known by herbalists for centuries as a uterine tonic, science is now backing up the benefits of this herbal tea.

According to a study from the Australian College of Midwives Journal, red raspberry leaf tea consumption during pregnancy, when compared with a control group, can:

  • decrease the likelihood of pre- and post-term gestation
  • make artificial rupture of membranes less likely
  • reduce the need for a Cesarean section, forceps, or vacuum birth

Perhaps even more convincing is the anecdotal evidence from countless moms who’ve relied on this herbal tea during preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum. Moms have used red raspberry leaf tea to:

  • reduce morning sickness
  • fortify the uterus in VBAC moms
  • strengthen the bags of water
  • balance postpartum hormones
  • and boost early milk production due to its high mineral content

It’s best to talk with your midwife or OB/GYN to see if RRL tea is right for you. The general protocol is to drink 1-2 cups daily starting in the second trimester.

6 Dates a Day?

Another potentially beneficial (and quite delicious) food particularly for childbirth is dates during pregnancy.

According to this study, women who ate 6 dates a day for the four weeks leading up to their due date were significantly more dilated and more likely to:

  • Have intact membranes upon admission to the hospital
  • Go into labor spontaneously
  • Avoid Pitocin
  • And have a shorter first phase of labor

Pretty awesome for just eating some dates, huh?

Researchers have found that date fruit has an oxytocin-like effect on the body, leading to increased sensitivity of the uterus. It also helps stimulate uterine contractions, and reduces postpartum hemorrhage the way oxytocin does. They also found that it contains many nutritional benefits for pregnant mamas.

“Date fruit contains saturated and unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic, linoleic, and linolenic acids, which are involved in saving and supplying energy and construction of prostaglandins. In addition, serotonin, tannin, and calcium in date fruit contribute to the contraction of smooth muscles of the uterus. Date fruit also has a laxative effect, which stimulates uterine contractions.”

Of course these studies are limited, but there’s no real harm in eating dates during pregnancy, so why not give it a try?

It’s best to consume your 6 dates a day with protein or fat rich foods like nuts, aged cheese, or coconut flakes. If you have blood sugar issues or gestational diabetes, talk to your midwife or doctor.

7. Doulas

Where you give birth is important, since around 6% of birth centers and home births end in cesarean versus the national average of 33%. But who is on your birth team is equally if not more important.

Midwife practices have lower intervention rates across the board, but they also tend to attract low-risk women. Birth doulas, on the other hand, can be employed by high risk, hospital birthing moms who want to have more natural births.

The word doula comes from the ancient Greek and means “a woman who serves.” A birth doula is a trained professional who gives continuous physical (non-medical), emotional, and informational support to expectant mamas, laboring moms, and postpartum mothers and families.

A 2012 Cochrane review showed that women who had continuous support, especially from a doula, were:

  • more likely to have a spontaneous vaginal birth
  • less likely to have any pain medication, epidurals, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, C-sections, or negative feelings about childbirth

Other documented benefits include:

  • higher breastfeeding success rate
  • better maternal self-esteem
  • lower blood pressure during labor
  • and less pain experienced

So yes, natural pain relief during labor is possible

When you find the right support and follow some of the strategies here, you have a great chance of perceiving less pain during childbirth. There’s also a good chance you’ll experience fewer medical interventions, have easier healing postpartum, and enjoy more positive feelings about your birth.

Go, mama, go!

Want to help change the birth culture in our country?

It starts by getting informed. I’ve just published the world’s first week-by-week pregnancy guide from a natural perspective. Featuring insights from a certified nurse midwife (who happened to deliver both of my children), as well as a registered nurse and doula, the book is packed with helpful info on:

  • Natural remedies for common pregnancy symptoms
  • When to get an ultrasound (and when not to)
  • Sex during pregnancy
  • The truth about epidurals
  • How to naturalize a surgical birth
  • Natural pain relief during labor
  • What to do during every stage of labor
  • How to recover naturally
  • And so much more

This book is evidence-based, empowering and entertaining. ? (No boring text books over here!)  If pregnancy is in your future, or if you know anyone who’s pregnant, please consider picking up a copy.

Even if you aren’t pregnant…

Consider purchasing the book and…

  • Donating to your local library
  • Giving to your ob-gyn at your next wellness visit
  • Passing along at a La Leche meeting or baby carrying group
  • Sharing with a pre-med student
  • Keeping in your home library to loan out as needed

This will help us get the word out and change the face of birth in the U.S.!

Best wishes to all the future mamas out there!

I hope every mama out there gets the support and resources she needs to have an empowered and grace-filled birth.

Thanks to Genevieve Howland, aka Mama Natural.for today’s guest post. Have you or someone you know used natural birth supports? Have questions, comments, stories, or suggestions? Share them on the comment board, and have a great end to your week, everybody.


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45 thoughts on “Natural Pain Relief During Labor: 7 Proven Techniques”

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  1. Thanks for a great article! Your timing is impeccable, too – my wife is due to birth our second child in 6 weeks!

    1. Best wishes to you and your wife, Tom. There are many good suggestions here. I would be interested in hearing comments from women who opted to give birth at home, possibly with the help of a midwife. Maybe things are changing for the better since I had my kids, but too many medical facilities still treat childbirth as a disease rather than the natural process that it’s supposed to be.

      1. I had two home births 30+ years ago. Used a midwife for both. We were living in Oregon at the time, where it was okay to have midwives help with home births. I believe some states have laws against midwives at home births.

    2. A little late on my end since my sister-in-law just gave birth Tuesday lol

  2. Very interesting article. I had my first baby 11 months ago and anecdotally I agree a lot with theses points. I was only in active labor for about 90 minutes (less than 15 minutes of pushing) before my daughter was born. Since she was my first birth, I don’t have a comparison with not using these techniques, but I did have success.

    I did not use any type of pain medicine. I was able to get through labor with breathing techniques and movement. I was active my entire pregnancy. I do not work a desk job, so up to the day I had her, I spent the majority of my day walking and standing. I even mowed the lawn the while I was having minor contractions, before we headed to the hospital .

    I used red raspberry leaf tea throughout my pregnancy. Maybe it was part of what helped my waters not break until just moments before my daughter was born, or that could be coincidental.

    I did give birth in a hospital, but by being up front with my doctor and the nurses, they were very supportive of my natural birth plan. I would recommend a baby-friendly hospital if you go that route because they are more likely to support the natural approach.

  3. Wife had both of ours in 10 minutes… maybe 20ish. Never planned on going all natural. Ten plus years ago, I don’t think MDA, nor Primal Blueprints, existed… how were we suppose to know about primal philosophies… instincts?

    Got to the hospital and there was no time for anything… much less the epidural. Two healthy, robust boys would be born. Wife moved a lot (obsessively) leading up to the births… I’m sure that movement, age and exceptional health played a huge role.

    In the modern world, most just want to be comfortable because, after all, it’s available. Comforts are all around us… they feel nice… like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold winter morning. Make no mistake about it… comfort (and modern conventional thinking) is the enemy.

    I wonder how many of these natural childbirth techniques our early ancestors would have used. No doubt movement… maybe touch… maybe hydro… probably breathing… not so sure about the others. Also, not so sure what else that’s not on this list our early ancestors used… or would have needed to use if their childbirths were 10 to 20 minutes too.

    1. Much of the ease or difficulty encountered in childbirth is directly related to a woman’s build, general physiology, and the size of the baby. It has little to do with exceptional health or a desire to be comfortable. There are women who pop out babies quickly and easily with little pain involved, but there are others who, for whatever reason, are incapable of a natural delivery and require a C-section to get the job done. Plenty of women have died during childbirth, all the way back to the beginning of time, due to various factors beyond their control. This is why a hospital is still the best choice for “at risk” mothers-to-be.

      1. I wouldn’t know about the difficulties encountered in childbirth…

        What I do know is that the moment-to-moment choices that we make shape what we become. We are not prisoners of our genes (our build, our physiology, our whatever)… we are the creators of it! We become what we genetically express. What I know for certain is that comfort is not good for the organism… most of the time (exceptions might include sleep and play).

        Comfort means that we order in.. or dine out. It means that we don’t move bc, well… it requires effort. It definitely means that we don’t lift heavy things nor sprint bc that requires even more effort. Imagine if our early ancestors chose such comfort… maybe I wouldn’t be writing this.

        1. Well, Brian, speaking as a woman whose narrow pelvic girdle has nothing to do with choice, moment-to-moment or otherwise, I disagree with you. I had a severe post-partum haemorrhage after my first child, and damned nearly died, along with my son, with the second delivery. My son was a much bigger baby than my daughter. My pelvis was literally torn apart by the birth, and twisted so that my left hip and the left side of my sacroiliac joint are higher than on the right. My lower back has compressed disks. And I ended up having a hysterectomy to deal with the ripping of my uterus. It’s hard to know what choices I could have made to change my physiology.

      2. As a family practice doc and primal lifestyle advocate who does ob (in a hospital) I agree with Shary. We are no longer willing to accept the risk of losing a mom or baby in the natural but occasionally risky process of childbirth. Moms who are concerned about unwanted interventions during their labors should talk to their provider and should be able to feel that their provider takes them seriously. No one is forced to have an epidural, but a mom who is literally thrashing in pain may be strongly advised to do so. Fear and ignorance about the process play a huge role in labor pain. I try to educate my patients about the importance of preparation for childbirth, often recommending Ina May Gaskin’s book, and welcome their suggestions as to how they would like their labor to go. However, emergencies happen, and the best place to have your baby is in a facility where there are people trained to respond.

        1. Oh, I love Ina May Gaskin! Read her when I was pregnant with my first. What an important figure for women’s health…

          Loved the article—and the illustrations!

        2. Completely agree with this. I also noticed, when working in obs (in a 3rd world setting, where epidurals were not offered,only minimal pain relief was available and caesars were only done for dire emergencies) that the moms who were more psychologically prepared (usually older, women who’d had a previous baby, a wanted pregnancy) fared much better than the ones who were not (often teenagers, 1st baby, unplanned pregnancy).

          I used to think if I ever had a baby that I’d want to go natural delivery as much as possible (having seen some of the unpleasant side effects of caesars for the mom), but I find as I’ve got older I’ve become more risk averse. If I do decide to have a child I’ll probably have an elective caesar, because the circumstances are so much more controlled. I also consider the fact that every female obgyn I know has chosen to have a caesar when having her own children. Now I know there are those out there who are suspicious of the medical profession and anything they consider to be “unnatural” but considering that natural childbirth had an unacceptably high rate of mortality and complications for both mom and baby, I’d prefer to have the safest option that modern medicine can offer.

      3. Very true. When the WHO sees populations with c-section rates below 10%, it usually means there is poor prenatal care and too many babies and moms are dying.

        Having said that, many midwives in the U.S. have c-section rates of ~5% with excellent outcomes.

    2. Our female ancestors birthed with other, more experienced women (doulas) and ate sacred foods… (although probably not dates and tea). I bet water played a role, too.

  4. I loved seeing this article on the blog today! Years ago I had a wonderful doula who helped me through both my children’s births. She was also the instructor for my birthing class, and meditation as well as acupressure were tools we used. Acupressure on those back points helped get me through that crazy transition phase! Thank you for spreading this message. Too many women don’t know the variety of choices available to them.

  5. Awesome article! Sharing with a few girlfriends who are expecting/planning to conceive soon!

  6. Mom of three children, two of whom are twins. All born naturally. The number #1 best way to get there is to make sure you have an labor advocate just for you. That can be the doula or a hired labor coach. But you definitely need someone who will be supportive and encouraging throughout and can guide you through that period when you confront the fear that you can’t do this .. you need someone to look you in the eyes then, someone who in not your partner and not your doctor or midwife (unless she is a lay midwife), and with confidence let you know you can do this.
    Some other thoughts: #2. Practice relaxation with steady breathing. Neither my husband nor I could remember the lamaze breaths and they just made us anxious. Our neighbor was a childbirth educator and labor coach and she had me practice relaxing muscles on touch… it was most helpful for labor for baby # One. I also used a birthing chair for that birth. #3. For babies two and three, labor so fast I almost missed it. But then in 2nd stage labor everything stalled. What worked at that point was my amazing midwife getting me up onto the squat bar.

    I’ve also heard that hypnosis works incredibly well…

  7. I had my daughter at 37. Yes I was a little bit over recommended weight gain (10-25) lbs for a normal weight person. I also was mowing the lawn with a reel mower at term in 90+ Oklahoma summer heat. I was in great shape, had a doula, was at 42 1/2 weeks. Labor hadn’t started and we couldn’t find a reason why. We didn’t know that the cord was wrapped around the chest and neck. We didn’t know until we finally induced and baby’s heart rate plummeted. Emergency c-section it was. She’s a happy healthy 10 year old now. Thank goodness we were in a medical facility or it might have turned out differently. Interventions are sometimes necessary.
    Also the increased labor time could also have something to do with the dramatic amount of weight gain (resulting in bigger babies) that most women nowadays seem super casual about. A friend of mine was complaining that her midwife was advising her to slow down on the weight gain. She’s doing her job. The amount of recommended weight gain is right there on the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology if you just care to look it up. I think people have become so sensitive to any talk of too much weight especially during pregnancy.

  8. I had a doula also. Even though things didn’t go well, (emergency c-section) she held my hand in the delivery room after birth, while my daughter went with my husband to be warmed on his chest. She really took care of me. Money well spent

  9. I remember my OB semester in school at one of the major hospitals here in San Diego. Part of the OB floor was dedicated to natural births. I thought one of the stats that the hospital kept track of was interesting. Over 50% of the women who had intended to have a natural birth ended up opting for IV pain medication when labor was in progress.

  10. Wow! I had my child many years ago and never gave it much thought. It was quick and relatively easy. ( It went too fast to have any pain medication) I talked to my mom a lot before and since about how women have experienced childbirth over the last few generations. It was fascinating to hear that my great grandmother had 11 children and delivered them herself. Our family were farmers in the southern mid-west part of the country and doctors (much less Doulas) often were not available. I was told that grandma worked the fields a lot to take care of the crops and she would go into the house on her “lunch break” and have the baby, get up and go back out to work. Amazing! I’m sure she thought nothing of it, just part of a woman’s life in those days… different from what we are told now…..that it is safer to be in a hospital (undoubtedly somewhat true) and that we have so many choices of how to give birth and what pain relievers to have. Makes one wonder what the experience will be like 100 years from now.

  11. I had two home births and compared to hospital they are more gentle and peaceful. My midwife did the double hip squeeze and lower back pressure which was amazing, and I also didn’t time in the shower. I like that better than a bath because the water pressure on lower back helps with the pain. I naturally stood when I had a contraction.
    I moved to home birth after my sons birth where his shoulders got a bit stuck and there was all this drama all of a sudden in the delivery room – the doctor was yelling and stick his hands all the way inside me which hurt so much, they flipped me into my back lying down, the nurse was asked to put pressure on my abdomen(!!) and she did it in the wrong spot (!!!) so the doula I had there jumped in. And if purse I had stitches because of this type of birth….
    When I next fell pregnant I did lots of reading and research and met hundreds of obs/midwives. One said to me – just book a c section now(!) after hearing about the stuck shoulders. (Not a true dystocia). That’s when I started to realise home birth was the way for me to go.
    I read ina may and visualised standing or all fours to give birth.
    The homebirthwas the best decision. The midwife was so in tune with me the whole time, the birth was gentle and even though he wasn’t small, no stitches! Bc of all fours- best birth position ever. I had no trauma and recovered quick and easy, got my mojo back in a few weeks compared to a few months after the last traumatic birth.
    I also was low carb through the pregnancy probably almost primal although I didn’t know about it at the time, to try keep the baby smaller. I did cheat, but I was at a better weight.
    My only regret is getting a doula- she charged a fortune and had a loud abrasive personality that grated on me. I need silence during labour, peace and quiet. She was cracking jokes and really did nothing. Maybe Bc the honebirth midwife is one on one she acted like a doula as well, with massage etc she emotionally supported me and I found the doula I paid for unnecessary plus I think she bothered the midwife.
    Obv homebirtb is only for low rush, healthy women and you need a skilled profession midwife- mine was amazing! I only wish I still lived in New York so I could use her again!

  12. Loved this article, but I was expecting to read more about movement, since this is MDA! Mama of three here, and first delivery? was horrible and traumatic and I swore that i would never let myself by subjected that anything like that again. I read and read, hired a chiropractor and a doula and learned about how movement shapes birth. Check out Spinning Babies website – it’s all about how movement, posture, and standing, lying, sitting positions change our bodies and change how babies are positioned in the womb. A well positioned baby is what makes for an easy birth! I wonder how much of our birth issues comes from a modern lifestyle, with sitting in bucket seats and couches causes in utero babies to shift to the very hard occtiput posterior position, which is almost always an automatic C-section. Squatting, forward leaning positions, lunges, on the ground on all fours- these positions help a baby to rotate.

    Finally, labor itself is all about movement. The second I stopped moving, I was in agony. As long as I could move through contractions, I managed them well. All movement helps, but bet you never considered belly dancing as labor aid! This traditional dance is female-centric, danced with women, for women, and is amazing during labor, especially the horrible back labor of an OP birth. Opens up pelvis, massages back and hips, releases tension, and helps the baby to slide down. I belly danced through my last two labors, and when I told my doctor later that I had managed to deliver a large OP baby that was, he was shocked, but you know what, we are made for movement, and labor is no exception.

  13. I read “birthing from within” and did accupunture leading up to labour. During labour i took some homeopathic tabs and breathed and meditated, thinking over and over “does a seed feel pain” while visualizing two (i was having twins) cotyledons unfolding through the seed case. This was wonderful and beautiful and the labour was easy compared to my two previous labours which were intravenously induced. i had a wonderful midwife who was in her 70’s and i told her how i would like to experience labour for the last time (i was 41) and she told me exactly what would happen and it happened exactly as I wished it would. I was so happy and impressed.
    I think this was the only time I have felt like I have meditated successfully…

    I also really feel being paleo was also instrumental. I was primal for the whole pregnancy and I gained less with twins than I did with either of my other pregnancies, now…just have to get back on track after all the nursing twins cravings….

  14. My friend is gona be so happy when I tell her shes a huge tea addict but the doctor told her not to take tea but you suggested red raspberry tea did a quick google search on it and there are thousands of sites suggesting it for pregnancy. Cheers Genevieve Howland for this great article 😀

  15. I think aside from my husband doing pelvic counter pressure (amaazzingg) and being able to move freely around the room (and EAT!!), the best advice I got from my German midwife was to make “low sounds” when breathing, like “haaaaaaa”. She said high sounds increased tension, but low sounds released tension. So when I would breathe out (yell out?) I kept my voice low instead of screaming high and it actually seemed to work remarkably well.

  16. Having 2 natural births in the past 3 years, all of these items listed above are accurate (for me). I think having a Doula is very important. She can point you to all of the other items. My doula is 74 years young and has been in the business of bringing babies into the world for close to 50 years. Having all of that experience made me so comfortable. I also birthed in an in hospital birthing center that was specifically set up for natural birthing momma’s. Labor for my first was 6 hours, 6 for my second. If any momma is thinking about natural delivery, meet a few doula and see if things click with any of them. Yes, it can be an additional expense but some insurance covers them too. I don’t think I could have gotten through my labor without? mine. Hubs would have had no clue how to comfort or relax me the way she did.

  17. As an anesthesiologist who follows a primal lifestyle and has also been through labor, I am disappointed in the way epidurals are portrayed in this article. While I agree with trying the methods described to alleviate pain and I do not think every woman needs an epidural, epidurals have their place in the arena of modern labor and delivery. There are even high-risk situations, such as when the mother has certain heart conditions or develops pathology like pre-eclampsia, when placement of an epidural can save the life of the mother. This is an indirect mechanism and difficult to explain briefly, but the epidural helps to keep sympathetic tone lower and changes in cardiac output smoother. And it can be used to dose anesthesia in the event of a C-section in a much safer manner than an emergent general anesthetic (something we try to avoid like the plague!).

    Prolongation of labor is not the only factor that can lead to problems during labor, and many times in my practice I have seen women become much more calm and able to handle the huge demands of labor once they get an epidural. Having to “sit still in the bed” with a catheter as described above is really much less of a nuisance when the epidural is in place. The procedure to get one is extremely safe with a very low complication rate.

    Sadly, some women who are set on having a “primal” birth with no interventions feel that they have somehow failed when/if they get an epidural. This sets the woman up for feeling like a failure as a mother before her child is even born! On this site, Mark often talks about how important it is to embrace the positive things about modern medicine and society while striving to preserve certain aspects of how our ancestors lived. It doesn’t fit with the spirit of Mark’s Daily Apple to shame the epidural.

    1. I’m sorry you felt that I shamed the epidural as this wasn’t my intention. Epidurals can be a great tool to help moms, who are exhausted after laboring for days, sleep. They also can relax the pelvic floor or reduce intense anxiety; and actually prevent a trip to the operating room. Having said that, there can be consequences to epidurals (like longer labor) and other interventions. I believe it’s important for mom to know this and then make an informed decision.

      1. I agree that women should receive all the information for informed choices. I have just seen too many women either wait too long and then want an epidural when it’s too late, or get one and feel completely defeated. Thanks for your reply.

  18. Loved the article! Found much if this to be true from experience. I had three natural births at home. My first baby was sunny side up–50 hours of labor, incl. 5 hours of pushing. She was 9 1/2 lbs. I’m 5’1″ on a tall day. The most blissful moment I remember was when my midwife made a bed of pillows to support my body in a comfortable position and she and my husband held my hands and massaged me a breathed with me–after that my body was ready to push. Next pregnancies I got chiropractic care to ensure good positioning (it worked!) and my second baby–9 lbs–flew out before the midwife could arrive. Third took longer but he was born in the caul so I was birthing a bag of fluid in addition to a baby. Lots of vocalization getting that little guy out. (He was 8 1/2 lbs and looked so small to me I was worried he was sick!) The experiences of birthing my children were some of the most powerful– and empowering–of my life. I wonder what our society would be like if most women could know themselves–know their bodies–as powerful givers of life in this way.

  19. I am looking for such techniques and I found this article in Google. These 7 techniques seems very useful. Thanks for sharing. I will surely try them and share my feedback here. Bookmarked this page.

  20. Great! I had 2 completely natural births, one in a hospital, the other at home. SOOO awesome being able to do that and say that I have done it! Mama Natural is empowering so many to do things natural!