Why does squeezing a comb help with labor pains?

A mother with a newborn on her chest

It’s impossible to know exactly what you’ll experience during childbirth even if you’ve given birth before.

Still, labor and birth will always be hard work.

So, in the weeks before your due date, you’ll probably want to learn all your options to manage the discomfort that comes with labor, including options that don’t involve medication.

There are several. One is holding a comb, teeth-side pressing against your palm, which is a technique that’s been used for decades. The hand is a very sensitive part of your body. When your contractions intensify, the force of the comb’s teeth against your hand may ease your pain. There are a few possible reasons why.

Squeezing a comb during labor can reduce labor pain because:

It’s a distraction: Concentrating on when to squeeze the comb and when to relax your hand gives you something else to think about besides the labor pain you may experience.

Your hand has many acupressure points: Many areas on the palm of your hand, when stimulated, can help reduce pain in your stomach and lower back and reduce the emotional stress response in your body that can accompany physical pain.

Your brain can only experience so much pain at once: The larger the nerve network that’s stimulated by pain, the faster that signal is going to be delivered to the brain. As a result, because your hand has such a large network of nerves, the brain will prioritize the signals received from your hand over the nerves in the back, abdomen or pelvis.

For these same reasons, holding a comb can help you deal with pain in other circumstances as well, such as a toothache, cramps in your legs or chronic pain in your body.

Besides a comb, you’ve got a host of other options to manage pain with or without medication.

Other options to reduce labor pains without medication include:

Moving around – Walk, stand, kneel or sit in a rocking chair.

Using a birthing ball – Lie against it or sit on it.

Taking a warm bath or shower – Warm water can soothe sore muscles and relax you.

Having your support person nearby – That person can help you feel more comfortable through the fatigue, hard work and sensitive nature of giving birth.

Breathing – Abdominal breathing is the most typical breathing strategy used during labor To do it, close your mouth and take a slow, deep breath through your nose. When you breathe in, you want your belly to fill with air and get bigger, like a balloon. Blow all the air out slowly and gently through pursed lips as if you were blowing bubbles.

Pain medication options include:

Epidural: This numbing medication is administered into the lower part of your back. This can help dull the painful sensations of labor and birth while still allowing you to feel pressure and have some movement so you can participate in pushing.

Nubain: This medication, often given as an IV injection, helps dull pain and can make you a little sleepy. Nubain is generally given up until a few hours before birth.

Nitrous oxide (laughing gas): This is a pain reducer and a mild sedative that can help you feel more relaxed during a contraction. relax so it’s easier to deal with the pain of childbirth. You give yourself laughing gas by holding a small mask to your mouth and breathing in and out with the mask on, then taking it off.

Reducing your anxiety about childbirth pain

Anxiety can make pain more intense. As a result, I often recommend taking childbirth education classes. Feeling prepared for labor, understanding the process of labor and having tools that you’ve practiced to manage discomfort can help you feel more confident in making decisions about whether to accept pain medication.

Many people decide they’d like to attempt to give birth without using pain medication. Working through a difficult physical challenge, like giving birth, can often be an empowering and affirming experience. Working with your body on a very instinctive and basic level to bring a life into this world can be transformative.

But giving birth, much like parenting, does not always go as we plan or envision. It’s important to realize that medication for discomfort or to help you get rest may become necessary. And it may help improve your labor and birth experience. Whether you decide to use medication or to withhold it, it’s important that you feel you’re in control of the decision.

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