August 22, 2023

How to Manage Pain During Labor

One of the most common concerns for pregnant women is how much pain they will undoubtedly be in when they’re laboring. We’ve all heard horror stories from other women about how labor pains were unbearable, but what if we hadn’t? 

We have this unspoken rule in our society where we withhold our positive experiences surrounding birth so that we do not upset those who had births that were potentially traumatizing. Because of this unspoken rule, our thoughts and feelings surrounding childbirth become an echo chamber of stories where childbirth was scary, painful, and dangerous.

When preparing for labor, these negative experiences can be helpful in recognizing potential issues and creating back-up plans, but don’t neglect to seek out positive birth stories. Labor is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one and if you know that it’s possible to have an amazing birth, you may be more likely to have one. 

Rethink Contractions

Contractions can be intense, but that doesn’t always mean they are painful. As your labor progresses, contractions become stronger and with each contraction, your uterus is squeezing your baby down and into the birth canal. When we go into labor thinking about painful contractions, we will have painful contractions. But when we go into labor knowing that our contractions are just a tightening and release of our uterus, we can separate the feelings of pain versus intensity. 

Visualization and Mantras

Visualization and mantras can be incredibly helpful in getting through each contraction. They are a way to get out of your physical state and into your mental state. 


As your labor becomes more intense, try to visualize yourself floating in the ocean and each contraction is a wave. As your contraction peaks, so does your wave and you float back down to calmer waters. 

You can also try a different visualization tactic where you are imagining your uterus in 3-D, like a balloon. With each contraction you see your uterus tighten and squeeze from the top down to the bottom, pushing your baby down and out. This can be especially helpful in separating the feelings of pain and intensity with your contractions like mentioned previously in rethinking your contractions. 

If neither of these visualization exercises resonate well with you, feel free to create your own. You can even imagine yourself on a relaxing vacation if that is a better fit for you. 


You may find it helpful to come up with a mantra or affirmation to repeat to yourself out loud or internally that will help get you through your contractions. Here are some examples of helpful mantras:

  • I can get through this wave of contractions.
  • I can breathe my baby down peacefully and gently.
  • With each contraction, I bring my baby that much closer to holding them in my arms.
  • My body was made for this.
  • I have trust in my body and my baby that they know what to do.


Rather than feeling like you have no control over your contractions and fighting against them, submit your body and mind to the process of birth. Relaxing your whole body may sound simple, but your body’s natural reaction may be to tense up, especially if you are feeling fearful. 

You must consciously notice any tension in your body and release it. You can ask your partner to help you keep an eye out for tension as well. If they notice you are balling your hands into fists, maybe they can lightly tap your hand to remind you to soften your muscles. Humming, doing horse lips, and making a low, gravely moan can help you relax your throat and face muscles, as well as your cervix. Practice full body relaxation in the weeks leading up to your due date, if you are doing it for your first-time during labor, you may find it harder to release tension.

Breath Work

Breathing is something we do all the time, but we are not usually focused on our breath and how it is affecting us. By paying close attention to how we are breathing, and sometimes redirecting our breath, we are able to have more comfortable birth experiences. Breath work is often used in conjunction with other pain-management techniques during labor such as full-body relaxation, hydrotherapy, and self-hypnosis. 

To help you relax and let go of fear and stress start by placing your hand on your tummy to remind you to focus your breath and energy in that area because that is where your baby is and that is where the contractions are happening. Inhale through your nose for four seconds, then exhale through your mouth slowly for six seconds. Repeat the same steps three more times. Practice this breathing exercise leading up to your due date so you can be well prepared when it’s time for labor. 

The “J” breath can be useful during the pushing stage. Start by breathing in through your nose deeply and out through your mouth slowly while letting out a low groaning sound (think “oooooo”). Imagine your groan traveling down to your uterus then to the birth canal and pushing the baby out. This is the “J” sweep, down and out. On your out-breath, squeeze your abs or uterus to help squeeze your baby out.  


Water can be a surprisingly powerful tool when it comes to pain management during labor and delivery. Some women like to let the water wash over them in a warm shower while others like to fully immerse themselves in a tub; both are great options when it comes to labor. Women who use hydrotherapy for labor and birth report having less painful births than those who have birth outside of the tub. 


Hypnosis is a voluntary state that allows you to focus your attention inward and makes you more open to suggestions such as how you perceive pain during labor. With hypnosis, you are entirely in control of your thoughts and actions and can stop at any given time. Women have reported having very positive experiences with self-hypnosis during labor and were less likely to request pain medication. 

Self-hypnosis uses almost all of the previously mentioned talking points and combines them to help reduce pain, or rather rethink how we perceive pain, during labor. Hydrotherapy is optional when it comes to self-hypnosis. The two most popular self-hypnosis programs are Hynobabies and HypnoBirthing. 

To learn more about pain management techniques, contact our midwives today!

Dakota Collins
Dakota Collins is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mother of two precious little girls who is passionate about freedom in pregnancy and childbirth.
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