Anchorage Doula Shanna Switzer Birth Services

Pain relieving techniques for an easier birth

As a birth witness, supporter, and educator, I’m often asked about the most helpful tools for laboring women – which comfort techniques are best?  What about breathing?  Positions? 

I was graciously given some photos from a couple of births I supported as a doula recently, and thought I would compile those along with some others into one blog post, and a photo “series” on comfort measures on instagram and facebook.

Follow along for details about the labor support tools and comfort measures for labor that I use most often in my doula work, and model and suggest to workshop and class attendees:

 

Birth Location

You might not consider this a comfort “technique”, per se, but think about it for a minute and you’ll see what I mean.  Birthing women desire privacy, safety, and support.  When she thinks about where she wants to give birth, what option makes her feel most safe?  Most American women choose hospital birth, but does she know she has options?  Home Birth and Birth Centers offer a more cozy, relaxed atmosphere, and smaller, more intimate staff experience.  When we think about comfort, choosing a birth space is an important – if not the most important -component of birth planning.

I would love to discuss the options available to you in southcentral Alaska.  Contact me any time if you’re curious and would like to chat!

 

Freedom to move

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Laboring strongly and peacefully in a queen sized bed at a birth center, her partner close, me applying counter pressure and verbal reassurance.

  • Dim, soft lighting
  • Known by her midwife
  • She is in control
  • Her music was playing softly throughout her labor

 

birth ball/Peanut Ball

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Rocking and swaying her hips, gently bouncing between contractions. Partner close, me applying counter pressure, hip squeezes and verbal affirmation.

  • Movement helps baby descend
  • Sitting on a birth ball can ease back labor
  • Being upright puts laboring mama in a position of power
  • See peanut ball being used below – peanut balls can also be used in a variety of ways to ease discomfort

 

Warm Water

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

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Often referred to as “nature’s epidural”, the tub or shower is a wonderful place to labor.  In the top photo, mama is listening to music and laboring with her husband while sitting in a labor tub.  In the bottom photo, I am spraying warm water on laboring mama’s back while she sways on her hands and knees in the shower.

  • Water is soothing and naturally relaxes the body
  • Being in the shower can help labor progress more quickly
  • Sinking into a tub can give a laboring mama a reprieve and ease contraction intensity

 

Body Balancing

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Spinning Babies Body Balancing Techniques like the side lying release shown above can help relax laboring mama, and make space in her body for the baby to get in a good position for birth.

  • Many body balancing techniques feel relaxing and soothing to laboring women.
  • We don’t move the baby, we make space for the baby to move.
  • Work with someone trained in body balancing techniques for best results

 

Hip Squeeze

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Hip squeezes – a hallmark doula “move”! 

  • Feel SO good
  • Make room for the baby to move through the pelvis
  • Help “ground” laboring mama with touch
  • Ease back labor and hip pain during and between contractions

 

Rebozo

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Rebozo Sifting (how many sweet bellies and babies has my rebozo sifted? Dozens.) 

  • Can be used to help “jiggle” a baby into a better position for birth
  • Make room for the baby to move through the pelvis
  • Lifts the weight of the baby off of mama’s back, and can relieve pressure and back pain for laboring mama

 

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Rebozo tied on to provide lift and support for this second-time mama’s belly, peanut ball between her back and the wall so that she could move up and down with counter pressure on her back.  Husband supporting her in front.

 

Essential Oils/Aromatheraphy

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Aromatherapy.  Laboring mama was smelling her favorite essential oil, wanting it held close so that she could breathe it in deeply during contractions.

  • Many studies show aromatherapy is useful for pain and nausea relief
  • As a doula, I don’t generally apply or diffuse essential oils unless a client asks, but am happy to support their use for my clients who wish to use them.

 

Supporting Client/Partner connection

Alaska Birth Services Doula Shanna Switzer

Acupressure while mama and partner are close and connected

  • Neck, shoulder, back, hip, foot, and hand massage to relieve tension
  • Mama stays connected emotionally and physically to her partner
  • As a doula, I work to enhance laboring mama’s connection to her partner, never to take their place.
  • Modeling verbal and physical support boosts partners confidence 

 

Pushing Positions

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

Using a Birthing Stool to push, partner supported

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

Using a Squat Bar to push, partner supported

  • Assisting women to find the positions that they find most comfortable and effective for the pushing phase of labor
  • Offering a mirror or reminding laboring women that they can touch their body and baby to feel progress
  • Supporting women in bed, on a birthing stool, in a tub or shower, or using a rebozo or squat bar

 Pain Medications

Anchorage Birth Services Doula Classes Placenta

Comfort Measures for labor


Some of Doula Shanna’s favorite ways to comfort and support laboring women and their partners

 

 

“Just as a woman’s heart knows how and when to pump, her lungs to inhale, and her hand to pull back from fire, so she knows when and how to give birth.”

Virginia Di Orio

 

 

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Nitrous Oxide is an option in two local Anchorage-area hospitals and one birth center.  Ask me for more details

  • Narcotic, Epidural, and Nitrous Oxide
  • Widely used and generally regarded as safe
  • A tool that can be useful in certain situations
  • Narcotic and Epidural are not available in birth centers or at home

Pharmaceutical pain medication is an option in hospital births.  As a doula, I support all birthing choices, and trust you to know what you need for your best birth.  I work with my clients to use all of the comfort measures and tools available to her, and sometimes an epidural or narcotic pain medication is exactly what she and her baby need.  If a non-medicated birth is her goal, I will support her in using all of the other methods first, to be certain her change of plan is what she prefers.

 

In Summary

Every birth and every laboring woman is different.  Some comfort measures that I use often can’t be depicted in photos – like verbal affirmation, meditation,  visualization, music, and  prayer, and I didn’t touch on less-used methods that are useful in certain situations, like a TENS unit or sterile water injections… 

My philosophy as an educator and doula is that you have many, many tools and options available as you prepare for your baby’s birth.  Take a comprehensive childbirth class or private birth prep session to learn more about those tools and make sure you have them available when you need them.  Or, hire a doula and be supported by a birth expert who specializes in knowing and using just the right comfort technique at just the right time!

My best wishes for your best birth,

Shanna XO

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***Many thanks to Nurturing Birth Photography & Blueberry Hill Photography for some of the images in this post.