“Natural Pain Management” in Labour. What does that even mean?

The word “natural” has been over popularized and over used now a days to mean something totally different than the words original intention. Natural pain management simply means managing your pain without the use of medication. Now even saying that can draw up visions of Hollywood birth where women are “HEE HEE WHOOing” their way through childbirth. I admittedly find these images hilarious. As a labour and delivery nurse, I have never seen, or thankfully heard a woman actually breathe like that during labour, and I’m glad because I think Id be trying hard not to laugh.

The purpose of this series of blog posts is to dispel the common misconceptions of what types of measures can be used to either replace or delay medical pain management in labour and highlight how and when these measures can best be used.

natural pain managment woman in labour kitchener
Notice how relaxed her face is during the contraction, she’s almost smiling!

This week’s focus is breathing. I can hear many people rolling their eyes as they read this. But breathing is an essential part of surviving labour, its essential to surviving overall! The more oxygen you take in during a contraction the more oxygen your baby gets. Breathing slowly and deeply is key to staying calm and focused during labour. If your anxious and hyperventilating It quickly makes labour overwhelming and unbearable. Now, don’t get your hopes up. I don’t have a magical breathing pattern to make the pain of labour disappear. But I do have some tips to help focus your breath and help lesson the way your body interprets the feeling of your contractions.

Here are the “Balancing from Birth to Baby tips and tricks” when it comes to breathing.

  1. Don’t hold your breath! Holding your breath during a contraction does nothing for you other than help you to focus on how uncomfortable you are and lose yourself in the pain.
  2. Keep the muscles of your face relaxed! Pursing your lips or gritting your teeth actually engages the muscles in your abdomen and pelvis at the same time, exaggerating the fatigue caused by a contraction and the pain you feel as well. Ina May Gaskin, a world renowned Midwife, equates having “loose lips” to having “loose hips”.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make noise! Using low tones and moaning through a contraction helps to focus and slow your breathing, as well as maintain the “loose lips” philosophy.

That’s it for Breath awareness, keep a watch out for the next post in this series “Preparing for Labour”.

If you’d like to learn more about coping with labour effectively check out our “Natural Pain Management for Labour Class”.


Maggie Hilton RN, BScN



Maggie Hilton RNMaggie Hilton RN, BScN, is a Registered Nurse with 6 years of experience in Childbirth Nursing and 4 years of experience as a Childbirth Educator in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Maggie is a part time instructor at Conestoga College where she teaches maternity nursing courses to nurses looking to further their careers in the maternal-child field. She has a great passion for childbirth education, especially in regards to pain management during labour. Maggie is the mother of two young children, one of whom was born at home and one of whom was born in hospital.

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  1. Pingback: The Truth about Epidurals in Labour - Balancing From Birth To Baby

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