birth Archives - Real Mom Recs



How To Manage Labor Pain Like A Boss

Of all the worries first time moms-to-be have about labor and delivery, the pain of childbirth is probably the biggest.

Whether you have your heart set on a drug-free delivery or you just want to delay getting an epidural as long as possible, it’s a good idea to be informed of all your pain management options. It’s just about unheard of to have a pain-free delivery, so every pregnant woman should have an arsenal of tools at the ready to help with the pain of labor.

If you are wondering what the best options are for managing labor pain, read on for a comprehensive list of techniques. You will also hear from experienced moms answering the question “what helped you get through labor?”

how to manage labor pain

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click one of the product links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Use Music

Many women have found that making a labor playlist to listen to when you’re in labor helps to distract from the pain. This is especially the case when used with headphones, so you can silently retreat into your own little world.

 “I don’t know what I would have done without my labor playlist and headphones! This helped to keep me relaxed and focused on something else. Also, a hot shower helped tremendously.” -Inez, For The Love Of Mom

“When I was in labor, I had a specific song to focus on and keep me grounded. I would sing it in my head over and over again. This helped distract me for the most part, but when the pain was really rough, i did kegels!” -Melissa,

“Prior to my epidural, music. It had to be through headphones, though. Listening to music that way has always helped me block out everything around me.” -Desteny, A Frugal Desteny

Birth ball

how to manage labor pain

Most maternity wards come equipped with birth balls, which are just regular yoga balls used during labor. Chances are if you have one at home you’ve already been enjoying it during pregnancy, as sitting on it helps take away some of the pressure on your back.

During pregnancy I also loved sitting on it with my legs out wide and swiveling my hips in a circular motion. This action not only feels good on your back and hips, it can also help the baby move down more and get into optimal position for birth.

Jessi, aka The Coffee Mom, tried a little of everything, including the birth ball:

“I had terrible back labor. The only thing that helped at all was getting on all fours and rolling on my yoga ball. Getting into a hot bath helped as well, for a little while. No lie though, I got the epidural after 5 CM.”

Julie (Fab Working Mom Life) describes how the ball and massage helped during early labor:

“I used the exercise ball for a while, rolling around sitting on it. I had back massages and the tennis balls in a sock trick helped at first. After a while, Pitocin got too intense.”


Hypnobirthing is a popular technique based on mindfulness, breathing, and relaxation. The theory is that you need to counter the urge to panic, because that creates adrenaline which pumps blood faster throughout the body as it prepares to fight-or-flight. When you remain calm, the blood is pumped to the uterus where it can do its job of helping the baby move down.

Amy (Mum of the Tribe) says, “I hypnobirthed my second baby drug free- it works but it takes practice. The practice alone is worth it as it allows you go into deep relaxation and really connect with your baby while you’re pregnant.”

The book Amy used as her guide is HypnoBirthing, The natural approach to safer, easier, more comfortable birthing – The Mongan Method.

Aubree of A Mother’s Field Guide writes, “I used the Hypnobabies program, which helped me to relax and focus during my labor. Not only that though, I did a lot of prep work before labor ever started. ”

I think all mothers can agree, being prepared for birth is critical. If you don’t have a comprehensive prenatal class available to you through your hospital or birthing center, here is my favorite online birth class:

how to manage pain in labor

Counter-pressure and massage

During my 22 hours of labor with my first, the only thing that helped take away some of the pain was counter-pressure. We had learned this technique during birth class and I’m so thankful that we did.

With each contraction, the pain wrapped all the way around lower belly and into my back. When I’d feel a contraction starting, I would lean over the side of the bed and have my husband press his fists as hard as he could into my lower back on either side of my spine. This helped take away at least half of the pain! It helped so much that when he needed to use the bathroom I made him run in between contractions so I wouldn’t have to endure even one without his counter-pressure.

manage labor pain

Stormy (Pregnant Mama Baby Life) also enjoyed her husband’s counter-pressure as well as laboring in the tub:

“I labored for a long time with my first. The two things that helped me most were getting into a warm tub of water and having my husband push really hard on my hips during contractions. These two things help so much! Made the pain much more tolerable.”

Anna (Abrazo and Coze) enlisted the help of a Doula to get her through the pain. One of her techniques included counter-pressure as well:

“With my last birth, my Doula was the biggest factor in dealing with 12 hours of labour pain effectively. She played a fun game with Mr. A and I as distraction. Later on, she applied pressure on my back during contractions, which made the pain manageable, despite being on a full dose of pitocin (known for making contractions more painful and intense than without).”

Let water work its magic

how to manage labor pain

Laboring in the tub or with a shower head aimed at your back are both great ways to take some of the pressure off the contractions. Warm water is also a known pain reliever as it helps your body produce endorphins and promotes relaxation.

“When I was giving birth to my son getting in a warm bath helped with contractions so much! If your hospital has a tub I highly recommend giving it a try!” Kayla, Parenting Expert to Mom

Jennifer of Modlins Multiply simply says “Being in the water was a total game changer for me.”

Bella describes how she used the tub in conjunction with hypnobirthing:

“When I was in labour I slept in the bath until my body started pushing. It was so relaxing and peaceful. I had done hypnobirthing so that helped massively.” Documenting the Drews

Heather (Fearless Faithful Mom) confirms the pain relieving power of water:

“Water helped me! With one kid it was the running shower on my belly and with another sitting in a tub of hot water.”

Farrah says, “Warm water was instant pain relief for me. I loved to have the bath filled and have the shower running on me at the same time. (I had home births for my last two).”  New And Natural Mom

Practice relaxation

Contractions feel like an involuntary tensing and tightening of the abdomen. Most people’s reaction to the feeling of contractions is to tighten and tense up the rest of their body. Making a conscious effort to keep your muscles relaxed can actually help you deal with the pain. Think about keeping your body calm while letting the contraction wash over you like a wave.

Susannah of Simple Moments Stick writes, “Labor is all about relaxing for me. Consciously letting all your muscles go limp and focusing on that, not the pain, is a game changer!” 

Do what you can to promote a sense of calm in the room. Dimming the lights, keeping it quiet, and relaxing music can help you feel at peace.

Michelle writes, “Essential oils and fake candles played a part in keeping me calm throughout the fifteen hours.”

Heat or cold

manage labor pain

I used both heat and cold during my labor to help cope with the pain.

During early labor, I used my rice sock. This is a tube sock filled with rice that you can microwave to turn into a long flexible heating pad. It felt comforting around my neck and shoulders, and later under my back.

Aileen also found heat to be helpful as one of her pain management techniques:

“I had a doula who used a warm towel and essential oils around my neck. Counter pressure on my hips was the best until I hit transition. This was my third birth and a VBAC.”

As labor progressed and became more intense, it is normal to feel overheated. This is when I started favoring cold- especially washcloths soaked in a bucket of icy water. I put these on my forehead, the back of my neck, even my belly when it started to feel hot.

Ice also helped me from throwing up when I started feeling nauseated during transition.

Michelle of Bottles n Bellinis lists cold as one of the three things that helped her during her natural childbirth. She also illustrates why all pregnant women should have a backup plan for pain management, because sometimes an epidural isn’t an option even when you wanted one!

“Three things helped me during my natural drug free (not by choice) labor: 1) my nurse running her cold finger tips along the lines of my hands to deflect from the pain; 2) my midwife pushing on my lowering back during the peaks of my contractions; and 3) concentrating on breathing in and out! I was not prepared to labor without the assistance of an epidural, however, the anesthesiologists did not feel I was a candidate due to a rare blood condition that I have.”

TENS machine

A TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit is a handheld device that uses electrodes that stick to your back to transmit electric stimulation to your nerves. It doesn’t affect the sensation of the contractions directly, rather it interrupts the pain signal on its way from the nerves to the brain. In other words, the pain is still there, but you are not interpreting it the same way.

TENS is a low-risk pain management technique used in all kinds of different therapies and by chronic pain sufferers. It is largely unknown in the U.S. but is frequently used in Europe and Canada.

Susana of says:

“I had back labour and the thing that helped most was my TENS machine. You need to put it on early though, when regular contractions start. After having it on for 5 or 6 hours the amount of endorphins I was producing due to the TENS made the whole thing far less painful than my other births. In fact I’d go so far to say I was in a state of bliss. It was a truly magical experience.”

Focal object

A focal object is anything you use to focus on during labor that directs your attention to something positive. It can be a photograph, a mantra, a song, or even a thought.

Focusing on holding your baby can help keep the pain in perspective as you realize it’s all moving you towards a positive outcome.

Amy (Daily Successful Living) used lots of pain management techniques including this focal thought:

Giving birth is tough! I don’t have one specific thing that helped me but had a lot of little things the helped distract me. I had a great playlist of inspirational songs, I walked around as much as possible, I almost broke my husbands hand squeezing and most importantly I meditated and focused on a positive outcome and being able to hold my baby for the first time.

Capricon (Dream Big Blog Hard) used a mom and baby focal picture:

My first one was cesarian, and because of that on my second birth I was stuck in bed with the monitor. I didn’t have the luxury of walk or warm bath and the labor lasted for 10 hours. The one thing that helped me was a focus on the picture on the wall. It was of a mother holding her baby. I keep telling myself that I will hold my baby soon.

Ashley from 5 Kids and a Bunny says:

Find something to stare at and just stare and breathe through contractions. I had them put on a stupid show I didn’t like just to have something to concentrate on.

Move around

When you’re laboring naturally, take advantage of the fact that you are not confined to a bed. This freedom to be up and about means you can look for whatever position is most comfortable for you in the moment. Walking around also helps speed up labor and bring baby down.

Tavia of Big Brave Nomad did lots of moving and changing positions during labor:

“I labored mostly standing next to the bed swaying my hips, then when I went into transition I moved onto the bed and labored on all fours with my arms draped over the back of the bed. I would blow raspberries with my mouth through contractions. I freaking love giving birth — hands down the best part of the pregnancy experience.”

Throw manners out the window

When you’re in the midst of physical agony, do whatever it takes to get through the moment. Go ahead and rip your gown off if it bothers you, squeeze your husband’s hand until he screams, or curse like a sailor. Your labor and delivery providers have seen it all before!

Ashley’s advice is, “Ignore everyone. If I didn’t feel like speaking or responding, I didn’t. Manners don’t matter right now.”

Alaina-Lee,, says: “I screamed profanity at my husband and doctors … that seemed to help a lot.”


Some women are superhuman and make it through all of labor and delivery without the help of pain medication. But for many women, they reach a point where the pain either becomes too intense, or labor goes on so long that they are too exhausted to keep doing what they’re doing. Getting an epidural can allow you some much needed pain relief as well as rest.

Even if your goal in life was to birth a child completely drug-free, you should never feel like a failure if you end up getting an epidural. Delivering a child is an amazing feat no matter how it’s done!

If you’re curious about what it feels like to get an epidural, I answered that and any more questions in All Your (Not So) Stupid Birth Questions: Answered!

It’s also a good idea to have a general idea of what a C-section entails, just in case you unexpectedly end up needing one, which happened to the guest poster of 15 Things You Need to Know About Having A C-Section.

Those who have given birth before, what helped you manage labor pain? For those who haven’t yet, what are you planning to try?

Ask Me Anything Series: Postpartum Depression

Ask Me Anything is a collaborative series featuring individuals and families that are facing challenges or are unique in some way. People can ask them anything they’d like to know about their story as long as it’s respectful.

The goal of this series is for people to gain a better understanding of those in unique situations. Open communication is key to understanding one another. If you would like to be featured in a future post, email me at [email protected]

This post was written by guest blogger Jenn R. of This Mommy Is Real.

Ask Me Anything: Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

When did you realize you had PPD? Did you seek help right away?

Around the third week post birth I realized something was not right.  I had a difficult and unexpected birth process, and I suffered from insomnia and anxiety right after.  I felt really out of it and not connected to anyone or anything. I didn’t feel any motherly bonding or blissful moments. In my mind, my son was a baby, but not MY baby. While I provided care for him like every mother should, I felt like a shell or a robot doing a job.

My mind would not rest. I was constantly worried and scared.  In the third week, I experienced a very debilitating panic attack in the middle of the night. The next morning, I realized that something was very wrong and that I needed help.  I started calling the local urgent care office, but eventually spoke with an online psychologist the same day.

Can you share with us the signs or symptoms of PPD so new moms can recognize it better?

PPD and PPA can happen to experienced and first time moms. It’s not guaranteed that a mother will experience it with each birth. PPD and PPA are different from the “baby blues”, which are temporary and fade within a few weeks or so.

Some signs may include:

  • Excessive crying
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Irritability, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed
  • Insomnia or eating problems
  • A feeling that something isn’t right
What was it like parenting with PPD? 

Truthfully, to this day, I can’t remember all of it because I was constantly in a fog. I do remember that it was very difficult. My thoughts and feelings consistently affected my ability to function normally. I am a first time parent, so I was already struggling with childcare skills. PPD/PPA didn’t make it any better.

The lack of sleep and constant struggle with breastfeeding made it worse. Because I was anxious, I felt like my son could sense it when he nursed.   I felt like a complete failure. I was nothing like the person I used to be, and I could not recognize the person I had turned into. I was no longer confident. Instead, I was a fearful person who constantly suffered. I cried constantly.  Certain thoughts were always running through my mind:

  • I am a failure at motherhood.
  • My poor child is going to suffer because I am a bad mom.
  • I can’t do this. Please don’t leave me alone with this baby.
  • I am so scared. What if I hurt him?
How do you think your mental state affected your child?

A lot of mothers worry what affect PPD / PPA has on their children. The only issue I saw was when we were nursing.  I’m sure that my anxiety and lack of sleep affected the feedings and his ability to be comfortable. However, aside from this, the good news is that as babies, they are too young to commit this period to memory. As long as their needs are being met, and they are not neglected, they are unaffected. My son is proof positive. He is known as the “super happy baby” out of the baby groups. He smiles all the time, and is hardly cranky.

What was the most frustrating thing that people would say to you during that time? 

It was really difficult when people called it a “phase” or “just the baby blues”.  I know they meant well, but this is the time when the mother is so vulnerable, so statements like that feel dismissive.  Sometimes it seemed as if what I felt was not important or trivial.

It was also really difficult to see other mothers (both in person and on social media) have seemingly perfect experiences. I definitely didn’t feel that way, so seeing that made me feel worse and alone.

What was your response to that?

In the beginning, I would remain silent, or I would start crying without explanation.  I had no idea how to process my feelings and deal with their intentions at the same time. However, as I slowly began to cope and recover, I learned to be my own advocate. Because it has made such a significant impact on my well-being and my role as a mother, I started to share what I was really feeling and how it was affecting me.  I became more assertive and open which actually shocked people because they don’t necessarily understand PPD/PPA and its effect on mothers.

Did you use any medication to help battle your depression? Was it effective?

In beginning, I did not. I was very anti-medication because I was afraid of effects on my son (research shows little to none depending on the medicine). I attempted non-medicinal strategies for a couple months.

Eventually I decided to include medication in my recovery because I felt as if my recovery was stifled.  My body rejected the first medication. After a few weeks, I switched to the medication that I am on today. I haven’t had any side effects, and I feel as if a fog has been lifted. While I still have my moments, I am able to recognize them and deal before they overtake me. I am in a better mindset to utilize my coping skills. There is a new clarity, and I think it has given me the opportunity to take more initiative in my recovery.

What strategy was most effective to overcome your PPD?

I don’t think there is just one catch-all strategy for overcoming PPD and PPA.  For me, it was a combination of the following:

  • Having a strong support network (friends, family),
  • Consistently attending and participating in a PPD/PPA Support Group
  • Undergoing Therapy with a Psychologist that specializes in Women’s Issues
  • Seeking the assistance of a Psychiatrist that specializes in Maternal Mental Health –  she was in charge of reviewing my medication requirements

There is one thing that I did on my own which I felt was instrumental in my recovery: I challenged myself to avoid isolation at all costs.

Isolation has a profound effect on the intensity of PPD/PPA. Thus, it is important to take the steps to talk to trusted friends, family and mental health professionals. It’s important to take yourself out of physical isolation as well – having some freedom and a change of environment will help. Once you put yourself out there, it becomes easier to talk about the situation; it helps you become more receptive to care and coping strategies. You feel less trapped or stuck in time.

What advice would you have for new moms who think they might have PPD?

If you suspect that you might have PPD or PPA, don’t feel ashamed to speak up. Your OB should provide you with a simple post birth questionnaire. It asks you about your feelings and well-being. A certain score indicates that you might be suffering. You shouldn’t feel bad if that’s the score you get. It means you will be getting the help you need!

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. You’re doing this for both your well-being and that of your child. Remember, you are NOT alone and this is common.  These moments are all but temporary, and you will find yourself again.   PPD and PPD ARE treatable and there resources out there to help mothers like us.

Jenn R lives in California with her husband, dog and young son. She began blogging this year to help herself and others recover from Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. When she’s not in the blogging world, she works full time the import / export industry and sells on the Poshmark platform as a hobby. You can read more about Jenn at
Thanks to the wonderful bloggers who contributed questions to this post: