9 Natural Pain Relief Strategies for Doulas

Why not have as many tools in your toolbox as you can when assisting an unmedicated birth?

There is a whole host of natural pain relief strategies you can share with your clients; I mean, have you searched Pinterest? Instead of losing an hour of your time getting lost in the wonders of Pinterest, I'm giving you my tops picks that have worked for couples I've taught to clients over the years:


The best reference for acupressure use during labor and birth is Debra Betts.  She is a trained nurse and acupuncturist and has been in this arena for over 20 years. Acupressure is best used early on in labor and continued throughout.  A great tip for couples, if using acupressure make a permanent marker dot at each point, so you won’t have to find it during the more active parts of labor.  

Breathing Techniques

Again, hard to demonstrate in a blog, but many resources for this.  One of my favorite breaths, Horse Lips (yep, it’s just as it sounds) inhaling through nose, exhaling through the mouth making “Horse Lips”; GREAT for relaxing jaw and facial muscles.  

Massage and Light Touch

I don’t know who doesn’t love a good massage.  So make sure you let couples know that this is encouraged during labor, especially if it makes the laboring mother relax.  Bring in fun massage tools!  Have some in your doula bag.  Light touch, on the arm, face or back, is great and no gadgets needed.  With that said, there will be some mothers who want NO touch at all.  Respect those wishes.  


Any use of warm water can be very relaxing to the mother.  Many hospitals now have either labor tubs or showers.  Home births are easier because you can use your own tub or blow up the kiddie pool!  The one thing about hydrotherapy is not starting too soon.  It’s better to wait until the active stage of labor.  


Only use if mom is really into it and don’t permeate the room.  If essential oils are being used, just put a couple drops on a wash cloth, that way the scent can be taken away if mom gets sick.  Remember also, essential oils are not within doula scope unless you are specifically trained in aromatherapy.  


I always encourage couples to create two different “Labor Playlists”; the workout version for active labor and the chill out version for early labor.  Or using white noise, which I had a couple use to cover up any unwanted room noise.  


Speaking of room noise, strongly encourage your client to use vocalizations during labor.  Not only are they soothing for mom, they’re also soothing for baby.  Remind them that these may just happen.  This is the fun primal part of labor.  


There are trainings out there to become certified in hypnosis for labor and childbirth.  As with any hypnosis or meditation, this takes practice, but if your client is already a meditation practitioner, then this might be for them.  


Move, move, move.  Get that mom to move.  Moving helps baby descend and progress to the optimal fetal position.  Now, if the laboring partner is exhausted, get her to rest.  Also, with changing positions and movement, remember that first contraction after changing positions will be the most challenging, so extra support may be needed.   



Angie Merriken
Parenting Resources
Instructor, Holistic Health Coach, Birth and Postpartum Doula, and Yoga Instructor