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Partner's Guide to Labor

Choosing Comfort Measures

There are many types of discomfort a woman may feel during labor. Selecting an effective method for comfort is sometimes done by trial and error. Choose the technique that seems to best fit the situation and try it for a few contractions. If it is not as effective as you hoped, try something else. Keep going until you find a technique that works the best.

It is also normal for a technique that worked for a while to stop working, then begin working again after an hour or more. As labor progresses, the baby's position changes affecting the location and sensations of pain a laboring woman may feel. Even with these changes, many women find favorite comfort measures they return to several times during labor. Be aware of how different comfort measures make you feel, and how you can alter them during different times of labor.

Remember comfort measures can only go so far. The first step in staying comfortable for labor should be selecting a good position. The various labor positions change pressure points, allow different amounts of pelvic stretch and movement and affect the way contractions feel. Before starting a new comfort measure, determine if a new position is necessary.

Once labor starts, you should be able to use your pain management techniques effectively by:

Paying attention to her body

How does she feel the most comfortable? If she feels better standing up, then help her stand up. If massage is too distracting, try a mental relaxation technique. Remember that pain and discomfort are signals the body sends to tell us to do something else.

Creating a routine

Many women find that having a routine procedure for contractions helps them to manage the contractions. A routine could be as simple as a deep breath when the contraction starts, lean over a chair and have someone rub her back. The value of the routine is in knowing that you have an established way to respond to the contraction.

Varying the techniques you use

As labor progresses and the baby moves deeper through the pelvis, the sensations will change. As sensations change, you may need to change the way you handle contractions. You may find a subtle change in position is effective, or you may need to make a major change in the routine you have developed. Understand also that techniques that stopped being helpful may become helpful again later in labor.

Localized Pain:

A localized pain in labor may be in the back, on a thigh, the front of the pubic bone or at the base of the uterus. Hot and Cold Packs can be helpful in decreasing a localized pain. In addition, you may find counter pressure helpful on the back or thighs. Using the bathroom or a bed pan to keep the bladder empty can help alleviate localized pressure in the front of the pelvis.

Painful contractions felt mostly in the back can be a sign of an occiput posterior baby. You may find using Hot and Cold Packs, a rolling pin, tennis balls, a weighted ball or a frozen water bottle to the back effective at lessening the discomfort. Techniques such as the hip squeeze, the lift or the lunge can help your baby move into a more favorable position, while counter pressure, water and vocalization may help you deal with the pain.


A feeling of fatigue during labor can be helped by sleeping or using relaxation techniques such as abdominal breathing, progressive relaxation, the rainbow technique and visualization. Staying hydrated and getting fresh air can also help. Some women try aromatherapy, drinking tea or eating a teaspoon of honey or a lollipop for energy.

Overall Discomfort:

>Baths and showers can be effective at managing discomfort for many body parts at one time. A birth ball or rebozo can be used to select more comfortable labor positions. Massage techniques such as effleurage, kneading, pressure and stroking can provide comfort to large body surfaces. Relaxation techniques such as abdominal breathing, progressive relaxation, the rainbow technique and visualization can help minimize the pain. Rhythmic breathing and music may distract, lessening the sensation of pain.

Slow Labor:

When labor is progressing slowly, techniques such as walking and swaying, nipple stimulation and visualization can be used to try to speed up labor. Often, changing position can help eliminate a poor presentation, which is a common cause of slow labors.

Fast Labor:

If a fast labor is frightening, relaxation techniques such as Rhythmic breathing or abdominal breathing, progressive relaxation, the rainbow technique or visualization may be helpful at keeping the mother calm.