Many women are choosing an intervention-free birth in this day and age. In order to avoid interventions such as pain medication, internal fetal monitoring, an epidural, Pitocin, and so forth, women often choose to employ alternatives to manage their labours. If another form of pain relief can be achieved, then a labouring woman is less likely to request or “give in” to interventions.
What are some of the coping methods women use to avoid intervention? Here are some.
Hydrotherapy or Water birth
Hydrotherapy is a pain relief technique where a labouring woman enters a tub of warm water. It may be an inflatable pool, or an acrylic “hot tub” style pool. The warm water helps a woman feel more private and relaxed, and has even been called “the midwife’s epidural.” The water also takes the stress and pressure off of the muscles, bones, and ligaments as the water supports the pregnant woman’s weight. Some hospitals offer hydrotherapy, and it’s a popular choice for homebirth and birth centre births.
Gentle touch during labour can help some women relax. One way it can help a lot is to provide counter-pressure to the lower back. As the baby begins to descend, its head can press against the vertebrae of the lower back, which can create intense pain with each contraction. But massaging and pressing against the lower back through each contraction can relieve and even alleviate this pain.
Perineal massage is another type of massage to prevent episiotomy. Massaging the perineum may make it more flexible, supple, and less likely to tear.
Familiar to some who practice Yoga or engage in exercise classes, birth balls are large, inflatable balls that can help a labouring woman achieve optimum body position and movement. The ball allows the woman to move in ways that she may find impossible otherwise. It also allows the woman to remain upright, which is helpful for enhancing labour and staving off interventions.
In an advanced state of focus and relaxation, hypnosis may help prevent intervention by giving the woman control over her labour and facilitating the process. Hypnosis makes use of the power of suggestion to induce a deep state of muscle relaxation. You can learn to direct yourself into a state of hypnosis, although you will likely be trained by a guide at first.
This technique makes use of the traditional Chinese concept of meridians, or channels, all over the body. Applying pressure in the right places can bring significant pain relief, participants claim, and augment labour. Acupressure can also be used to bring on labour if the woman is past her due time.
Something like hypnosis but not as “deep,” visualization exercises help the woman to picture key images that result in greater relaxation and “loosening” of the body. She may visualize a piece of ripe fruit with all the seeds spilling out, or a peaceful nature scene.