herbs to ease labor, birth, and recovery

Herbs can be very useful during labor and after birth to ease pain, calm emotions, and help speed recovery.  The herbs described below have been use for years by midwives and birthing women.*

  • Blue cohosh and black cohosh are two herbs that work synergistically to bring on labor, but do not use them prior to 39 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Raspberry leaf (tea or tincture) is one of the best uterine tonic herbs to prepare uterine muscles for an efficient labor. Its astringent action slows bleeding and helps to expel the placenta. Have the tea on hand or make raspberry tea ice cubes to suck on during labor.  It can also be taken in pregnancy to prepare uterine muscles for pregnancy.

Many herbs can help ease the pain of contractions:

  • Crampbark tincture can be used for uterine cramping during labor, and after birth to eliminate after birth cramping pains.
  • Scullcap and catnip relieve pain, as well as calm and relax the body.
  • Chamomile helps control pain during labor by relieving tension.

Other herbs help with emotional balance during labor:

  • Rescue Remedy, a Bach flower remedy, is excellent for bringing one quickly into focus when under stress or shock during a difficult labor. It can also be put on the baby’s forehead or wrist after a stressful birth.
  • A massage oil, enhanced with herbs, will relax the muscles and ease back labor pain. Use relaxing, aromatic herbs such as chamomilerose, and lavender. Rubbed on the perineum, it helps prevent tearing as the baby crowns and ease swelling and burning.

<<To read more herbal options for pain relief during labor, click this link.>>

9 Natural Pain Management Techniques for Labor

Deal with birthing pains naturally! This post has 9 natural pain management techniques for labor, including a birthing ball, essential oils, and more.

With my first pregnancy, I had desired a natural labor and delivery. But I didn’t prepare for natural pain management. In fact, I only read one book my entire pregnancy–Easy Labor. It was the only book on labor I could find at my local library, and it primarily addressed medicated pain relief.

After a long, medication-laced labor with my first, I was determined to find some natural relief for labor pain my second time around. With the help of my doula, some naturally-minded friends, and quite a few books and a couple of videosI was able to incorporate these natural pain management techniques and achieve the natural birth I desired.

Not everything works for everyone, but here are 9 natural pain management techniques for labor you can try:

1. The Birthing Ball

This is basically the same as an exercise ball. My doula suggested I practice bouncing on one regularly while pregnant, and I found it a huge relief during labor. I sat on the birthing ball and rocked back and forth, and I also leaned over the birthing ball while kneeling.

2. Changing Positions

With my first labor, I was flat on my back in a hospital bed for 16 hours. With my second, I changed positions frequently. Both of my older babies were sunny-side up (posterior), which lends itself to a LOT of intense back labor. I found that rocking on all fours really helped take the pressure off my back.There were times during my second labor when my nurse asked me to come to the bed for monitoring. Even in the bed, I was able to rock back and forth from side to side, which my midwife said helped the baby move down the birth canal.

3. Water!

Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to experience a water birth. Even though I was able to move around freely with my second, the hospital where I birthed had no tubs in the room at the time (they do now!). But, I was able to use the shower. My favorite part of labor was sitting on the birthing ball in the shower. I rocked back and forth on the ball, draped my torso across a chair, and let my husband and doula spray hot, hot water over me. The water was the most comforting pain relief technique for me!

<<To read the remaining techniques, click this link.>>

Labor Hormones in Under 10 Minutes

“Note: this page is about how to TEACH this concept to expectant parents. If you’re an expectant parent looking for info on labor hormones, their effect on labor pain, and what your partner can do to help you have a shorter and less painful labor, click here.

In my childbirth classes, and with doula clients, I want them to understand that our emotions, and the support we receive, absolutely affect labor on a physiological basis, by influencing our hormones. The big message is that fear and anxiety slow labor down and make it more painful. Support and feeling safe make labor faster and easier. I have simplified the complex details into a simple stick figure drawing that takes 5-10 minutes.

Before I talk about my teaching method, let’s start with a basic summary* of hormones:

Hormone What Does It Do What doesn’t help What does help
Oxytocin Causes labor contractions that dilate cervix Anxiety, bright lights, feeling observed, feeling judgedPitocin – if have synthetic oxytocin, make less hormonal oxytocin To increase oxytocin: Skin-to-skin contact.
Nipple stimulation, making love.To increase endorphins: social contact and support from loved ones.To increase oxytocin and endorphins and to reduce adrenaline: create an environment where we feel private, safe, not judged, loved, respected, protected, free to move about.(So, partners, if you remember nothing else about labor support, remember that if she feels safe, loved and protected her labor will be faster, and less painful)
Endorphins Relieve pain, reduce stress (cause euphoria and feelings of dependency) Stress, lack of supportNarcotics (if you have an external opiate, your body will start producing less internal opiate… even after the narcotics wear off, you’ll have less endorphins)
Catecholamines (adrenaline, etc.) In early / active labor: slow labor down(Imagine a rabbit in a field. If it doesn’t feel safe, it wants to keep baby inside to protect it)In pushing stage: Make you and baby alert and ready for birth, give you energy to push quickly.
(If the rabbit is about to have a baby, and something frightens it, it wants to get the baby out as quickly as possible so it can pick it up and run with it.)
Stress / anxiety / fearLack of control

Feeling trapped

Hunger, cold

 

So, in class how do I convey these ideas in just a few minutes, so it’s easy to understand and to remember?

First, I say: “In labor, our emotions and our environment effect our hormones. Our hormones have a huge effect on labor. Let’s look at a couple scenarios for labor.” [I draw two stick figures on the board.] “This one is awash in stress hormones which will make labor longer and more painful. Let’s label it adrenaline. This one is under the influence of oxytocin and endorphins. These help the laboring person shift into an altered state where labor pain is milder (less intense and less unpleasant) and also help labor progress more quickly.” [Add labels to drawings, add sad face and smiley face.]

Picture2

Then I say “So, you are all probably familiar with adrenaline. What do we call it? Yes, the fight or flight hormone. This is the idea that if an individual ran into a tiger in the woods, they would choose either to fight it or to run away. Do you know what we call oxytocin? Many call it “collect and protect” or “tend and befriend.” If a tiger is coming into our village, we gather everyone together, because we are safest together.” [I add these labels to my drawing.]  (I sometimes throw in the tidbit here that men who are not dads are more likely to release adrenaline during stressful situations; women and dads are more likely to release oxytocin – it’s the “gather the babies and protect them” response.)

Picture3

“So, what effect do these hormones have?”

“With adrenaline, all your muscles tighten. All your energy goes to your limbs in case you need to fight or run away. So, oxytocin production drops and labor slows down. (It’s hard for your cervix to open when you feel scared…)  You are also more sensitive to pain – this is useful if you’re at risk of injury – your body tells you what to move away from. But, in labor it’s not helpful – it just means labor hurts more!”

“With oxytocin and endorphins all your muscles relax. Energy is sent to the uterus and oxytocin increases. (Oxytocin is often called the love hormone, because it increases when we feel loved, and its peak levels are when we orgasm, when we birth, and when we breastfeed. It’s all about making babies, birthing babies, and feeding babies.) We also get an increased endorphin flow, which makes us less sensitive to pain, can cause euphoria, and can cause feelings of love and dependency in us… “I love you man….””

<<To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Birth is Simple Physics

Birth Positions

We know this or rather do we know this? Movement plays an important role during labor and birth.

Through out the history of womankind, not just the last 75 years, women have changed positions as they felt the need during childbirth. Laying in bed to give birth was not a common practice.

When you consider the physics of giving birth laying in bed for hours is counter productive to the design of a woman’s body. In a supine position or laying down a woman’s pelvic outlet closes and decreases the space for a baby to descend. Laying down in bed can also exacerbate and make any discomfort worse.

Moving through childbirth is a great way to cope with the intensity of contractions and help labor to progress.

 

 

 

 

 

This poster from Childbirth Graphics is a great teaching tool. It is also available as a tear sheet.

Birth PositionsIt is important when woman are pregnant to have them along with their support person try as many different positions as possible in order to connect with their bodies and discover what makes them comfortable. Having this knowledge and connection to their bodies will be of benefit during birth. It will give them the confidence to know what is right and intuitively they will work with their bodies to progress labor.

 

 

 

 

 

<<To watch a video that demonstrates the basic physics of birth, and to see more from this site, click here>>

 

Directed Pushing

“What to Know:

  • Research shows that routine directed pushing, breath holding, and limiting pushing during labor is not beneficial, and that prolonged breath holding may reduce fetal oxygenation.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends not directing laboring women to hold their breath or consciously sustain pushing.
  • The American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM) recommends that a laboring woman’s body direct any pushing.
  • Directed pushing may help you if you’ve had an epidural and don’t feel the urge to push.”

<<To read the rest of this article, click here>>

8 Best Pain Management Techniques During Labor

Image: Shutterstock“The pain of labor and delivery is probably the fact that scares most women during pregnancy! Many women have ruined the joy of their beautiful journey by dreading about the delivery pain. You may be facing the same concern now, especially if you are a first time mom and your due date is approaching.

Do not worry. Delivery pain is normal and today, many pain management techniques are available. Here we’ve put down some of the best ones for you mommy!”

 

 

<<To read the rest of this article, click here>>