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Comfort Measures for Labor

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For some lucky women, labor is a breeze. For others, it can be very uncomfortable and painful — but it doesn't have to be. There are lots of ways to make yourself more comfortable during labor. You can learn and practice natural pain-relief techniques prior to labor, and you can try others as your labor progresses. Drugs and medical procedures are also available as needed. 

You'll want to weigh the benefits and risks of each before deciding which measure or combination of measures to go with on the big day. Here are your choices:

Nonmedical Pain Relief

  • Relaxation techniques. Childbirth educators, nurses, and women who've used this approach recommend it more than any other as a noninvasive way to reduce muscle tension and pain in childbirth. Progressive body relaxation — taking a tension-reducing "walk" through your body — is something you can learn and practice ahead of time so you'll be comfortable using it in labor. 
 
  • Massage. Have your partner massage your arms, legs, or back during labor to help you relax and to decrease tension and pain.
 
  • Rocking. Spend as much of your labor as possible in a rocking chair, gently moving back and forth as you breathe and relax.
 
  • Walking or "slow dancing." Walking, or even just pacing right by your bed, decreases discomfort while helping your contractions become stronger and more regular. Or you could try "dancing" with your partner, leaning on him and swaying back and forth.
 
  • Changing positions. Don't stay in the same position for more than an hour, and don't lie flat on your back. Instead, try sitting up in your bed or a chair, lying on your side, squatting and rocking on a birthing ball, or leaning forward over the back of a chair or your birthing bed. 
 

 
 
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