Nonmedication Pain Management for Childbirth

You have the option of not using any pain medicine during your labor and delivery. This is sometimes called a "natural" delivery. Nonmedication ways of controlling your pain include:

  • Continuous labor support. Having a support person with you from early labor until after childbirth, has a proven, positive effect on childbirth.
  • Distraction. During early labor, you can walk, play cards, watch TV, take a shower, or read to help take your mind off your contractions.
  • Massage. Massage of the shoulders and lower back during contractions may ease your pain. Strong massage of the back muscles (counterpressure) during contractions may help relieve the pain of back labor. Tell your labor coach exactly where to push and how hard to push.
  • Imagery. Imagery is using your imagination to decrease your pain. For instance, to help manage pain, visualize contractions as waves rolling over you. Picture a peaceful place, such as a beach or mountain stream, to help you relax between contractions.
  • Changing positions during labor. Walking, kneeling or sitting on a big rubber ball (birth ball) are good options.
  • Focused breathing. Breathing in a rhythm can distract you from pain. Childbirth education classes will teach you different methods of focused breathing.
  • Laboring in water. This helps with pain, stress, and sometimes slow, difficult labor (dystocia).footnote 1, footnote 2

Other techniques without medicine

Other ways to control pain without using medicine include:

  • Acupuncture. Small studies suggest that acupuncture is a low-risk, effective way of managing labor pain for some women.footnote 3
  • Hypnosis. This is a low-risk way of managing labor pain and anxiety that works for some women.footnote 3


  1. Cluett ER, Burns E (2009). Immersion in water in labour and birth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2).
  2. Cluett ER, et al. (2004). Randomised controlled trial of labouring in water compared with standard of augmentation for management of dystocia in first stage of labour. BMJ, 328(7435): 314–320.
  3. Smith CA, et al. (2006). Complementary and alternative therapies for pain management in labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMay 22, 2015