Louise Pyne discovers the best natural aids for childbirth
Writing a birth plan is one of the best ways to mentally prepare for your baby’s arrival. Putting pen to paper not only lets your midwife know exactly what kind of birth you want, but also helps you to work out your priorities regarding pain relief. Giving birth is overwhelming and while understandably many women choose drugs as their preferred method of getting through, it’s also becoming increasingly common to seek holistic aids to help manage the pain.
What is it? A combination of deep relaxation, specialist breathing techniques, self-hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) to help reprogramme any fears about the birth.
Tell me more: “Clinical studies and anecdotal evidence show that the use of hypnosis shortens the first stage of labour, significantly reduces pain and the need for medication,” explains Sophie Kirkham of Calm HypnoBirthing. It’s also thought to leave mum and baby more alert and energetic after birth.
What is it? Essential oils have a whole host of properties which could help. “Try using an oil burner or vaporisor while listening to your hypnobirthing tracks at home,” says Sophie.
Tell me more: In labour, it will only take a few sniffs from the bottle to help re-focus your mind. “Clary sage and chamomile were proven to reduce the need for anaesthesia in a recent study,” reveals Sophie. “Just remember that clary sage must only be used from 40 weeks.”
What is it? This centuries-old therapy uses pressure points on the hands and feet to restore balance. As well as helping to minimise pregnancy aches and pains, it is also used to bring on overdue labour.
Tell me more: “Studies show that regular reflexology during pregnancy significantly reduced labour pain and improved the quality of sleep in postnatal women,” reveals Sophie.
What is it? Controlling your breathing is one of the most important ways of decreasing pain and assisting labour. Finding a slow rhythm will stop you from tensing up during contractions.
Tell me more: Taking deep breaths maximises the levels of oxygen available to you and your baby, which naturally helps labour progress. Breathe in and slowly out (making sure your exhale is longer than your inhale) to encourage your muscles to relax.
What is it? This involves tapping very fine needles into pressure points under the skin
to improve the flow of energy in the body.
Tell me more: Having a few sessions in the run up to birth, and to know some pressure points to touch during labour, can be useful. “When a woman relaxes, her body works better to open up and push the baby out,” says Sophie.
What is it? Besides helping to solve a range of pregnancy ailments, massage also “helps support the mother’s body during profound changes in her physiology,” says Sophie.
Tell me more: The more relaxed you can make your body, shoulders and jaw, the easier it is for the womb and cervix to work at their best. Ask your birth partner and midwife to massage your back, shoulders and feet during labour.
What is it? Whether you’ve opted for a home birth or hospital, floating in warm water can be a fantastic pain-relief aid for many women.
Tell me more: Being immersed in water effectively makes you weightless, so it’s easier to be mobile and the feel of water against your body can be soothing. “If you opt for a water birth, you can get in and out of the birthing pool as you wish,” adds Sophie.
What is it? TENS is short for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation; put simply, this little device delivers small electrical pulses to the body which “enhances endorphin release – the body’s natural opiate,” says Sophie.
Tell me more: It takes an hour for the body to start producing endorphins, so you should use it early, but remember that it should not be used until labour has actually started.