"The top ten non-narcotic pain relievers to be used while in labor"
ENCOURAGEMENT. Having people you trust tell you you’re doing great, your baby is doing great, and you’re not going to rip your body in half with the next contraction lessens the anxiety you feel, which takes the edge off the pain.
WATER. While in the shower or submerged in a tub of hot water, pain subsides for most women. Midwives call it the aquadural. In part this is because anxiety lessens. It’s hard to feel tense in soothing water, and in the tub buoyancy also relieves some of the physical pressure.
BIRTH BALLS. Make sure that the place where you plan to give birth has a few of those big, brightly colored balls made of strong plastic that you see in the gym. Straddling them spreads out the pressure on your cervix and flopping on top of one can also massage you as you experience another contraction.
BREATHING. The old childbirth standby from Lamaze classes is short, rhythmic breaths that allow you to focus on something outside your pain. Another technique is long, slow breaths that release the tension that is building inside you as labor progresses, or falls to progress. HypnoBirthing also teaches specific breathing techniques and self-hypnosis to take you into a relaxed state and create your body’s own natural anesthesia.
ACUPRESSURE. Experienced caregivers know just what body buttons to push to relieve your pain. They’ve been trained to seek out and apply pressure to the special spots unique to your body that soothe back labor or ease headaches. If you are planning to give birth without drugs, make sure to pick a caregiver who knows these spots well.
MOVEMENT. Walking, dancing, and swaying from side to side will all help labor progress and distract you from anticipating the next contraction. Even if you have found a comfortable position, you should move every thirty minutes or so to help shift your baby closer to being born.
MASSAGE. A partner or caregiver who knows how to knead your shoulders and neck can knock you into a lovely state of relaxation that will make the moment between contractions deeply restful and allow you to think about something besides the upcoming sensations. You might want to rehearse this before the big day so your partner knows what soothes you and you don’t have to pretend to tolerate a half-assed massage.
HOT PACKS OR COLD PACKS. The numbing effect of cold on the lower back or the soothing effect of a hot compress on the belly, or wherever else needed, works quickly.
VOCALIZING. Women are sometimes shy about making too much noise as they labor. Scream out! Lose your inhibitions! Not all of the vocalizing is screaming. Many women deep within the fugue state of labor let out beautiful deep moans that express how their body is adjusting as the baby moves. Whatever the sound you prefer, feel free to make it. Penn the mouth, open the cervix, and let that baby out!
HIRE A DOULA. These personal labor assistants are trained to support you emotionally and physically, but not to assist you in the medical aspects of birth as a midwife would. They stay with you for the entire birth and are skilled in all of the above techniques, plus they are a calming, experienced presence at times where your partner or family might not be. Studies say that having a doula can cut labor time in half. Many women prefer the hands-on attention of a doula to having an epidural.
— "Your Best Birth", by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, pages 25-27 (via above-the-cuts)