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TENS - Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation:

This is another method, which is coming up now-a-days. Here small pads are placed on the lower back (on specific areas) and the nerves are stimulated by giving small electrical impulses. These impulses then join the other pain impulses coming from the cervix and the uterus and thereby decreasing the pain perception.This acts by '' distracting" the pain fibres so that you  feel more comfortable.

Contrary to the misconception that people have regarding this technique, hypnosis in qualified hands, provides legitimate and medically acceptable method for pain relief.
 There is nothing mysterious about hypnosis.
Technically, it is just suggestions and power of mind over matter. This depends upon the individual susceptibility and the method of hypnosis used. It is done over a period of weeks to months before labour.

Accupressure and Accupuneture:
These are old Chinese methods where pressure over specific body parts and skin punctures with needle are used respectively.
 The action is similar to TENS.

Involves applying pressure, heat or cold over certain pressure points. Pressure is usually applied with thumb / finger tips kept stationary or moved in small circles. It can be done yourself or by your spouse. For details refer to books recommended for Accupressure. Few techniques for relieving the discomforts of labour and postpartum are: 

  • For relieving head / neck and upper backache apply circular pressure on the muscles at the top of the shoulder in vertical line with the nipples near the back.

  • Massaging the center of the sole, below the ball of the feet will relax the lower body.

  • To relieve low backache, pelvic discomfort or pain, press firmly in an inward direction on either side of the vertebral column, below the waist level. Circular pressure is applied during contraction and intermittent pressure between contractions.

  • Heat and cold applied to the upper and outer part of the buttocks relieves hip and upper thigh pain on the same side. 

Accupuncture is using needles and puncturing specific sites on the body to relieve pain. This can be done only by an expert.

Physical Therapy:

(i) Massage: given by a professional masseuse or your spouse can provide pain relief. Massage can be customized to individual requirements. You can ask your spouse to massage more over areas, which provide most relief.

(ii) Counter pressure: There are various ways to give counter pressures.

  • Your partner / spouse can use the fist or heel of hand on your back to reduce pain. You can direct him to the exact location. The point will move lower as labour progresses.

  • You can go on all fours and your partner can squeeze your hips with both hands from the sides.

  • Another counter pressure for relieving backache is called “knee press”. You sit on a straight back, chair with a folded towel / small pillow behind the small of the back. Your partner sits in front of you with hands on your knees.

During contractions your partner leans forward, presses your upper legs towards the back of the chair.



(iii) Hot and Cold Compresses:

Heat provides soothing relief and cold provides pain relief by numbing. For this, hot water bottle / electrical pads / warm and wet towels / ice bag / rubber glove filled with ice, etc. can be used. This can be applied to your back by your partner / spouse.

(iv) Light stroking or “Effleurage ”:

This can be done by your own or by your partner / spouse.

  • During contractions place your finger tips on either side of the midline, just above the pubic bone and tightly stroke upwards till the top of your abdomen and then outwards and downwards back to the beginning part. Continue this in circles using light stroking movements.

 Ask your partner/spouse to:

  • Gently stroke your arms and legs with full hand along the entire length.

  • Gently massage your face and lower jaw

  • Grasp and release from great toe and adjacent 2 toes during labour.

  • Gently stroke neck, shoulders and back during contraction.


You can distract yourself from the pain using music, listening to jokes, playing cards, etc. This can to a certain extent make the pain bearable.

Intradermal Injection of sterile water
This is a new technique where small amounts of sterile water are injected directly under the skin to form blisters like bumps. These cause intense stinging followed by relief of backache for 60 – 90 minutes. This may be due to release of substance called “endorphins” in the blood, which acts as natural painkillers.

Which method to use?

Of all these techniques, some are “Do it Yourself” but others may or may not be available at the place where your deliver. So you may have to speak to your doctor regarding the availability of the techniques or any substitute for the same if not available.

In the majority of cases, where delivery is in a large institution or hospital with all facilities available, epidural analgesia is preferred. This is because it does not interfere with your level of consciousness, allows you to participate fully in the labour process and does not lead to any major complications. You must realize that you may not be able to ‘push’ as effectively in the second stage of labour. This is because part of the natural reflexes may be blocked. Hence you will require constant supervision and encouragement to ‘push’ or bear down. This is done by your doctor and / or the anaesthesiologist. There may be an increased need for assistance with vacuum or forceps to help you deliver your baby.      This should not cause any additional problem in well-selected cases.

In most cases of ‘first time’ labour, some form of pain relief is helpful as the duration of labour is longer. The second (or further) time around, labour tends to be shorter and you may not require pain relief. It is a question of individual choice, however, and you should discuss all these options with your doctor well in advance. Most importantly, keep your calm and resolve, do not lose control in labour. Prepare your mind that motherhood is a pleasure – and some amount of pain in worth it. Labour is not as painful as shown in movies or described by some – It is your journey and you are the caption of the ship! Your doctor is your navigator and will guide you in the best possible manner!


Recommended:  book
"The new parent"
by author Martha


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