Attempting a Natural Birth? Read this First.

As a birth doula, I chat with lots of expecting mamas who are hoping for a natural childbirth - that is, one without loads of medical interventions or pain medication. And in response, I reply with a few automatic questions.

“Have you or are you planning to take a childbirth education class?”

“Will you have a support team?”

“Are open to trying new things?"

And if they answer yes to each of those questions… then I’d say they are ready to add some tools in their toolbox for attempting to labor naturally! Something to remember, women have been giving birth for thousands of years, and many do not have access to the various resources that we are so lucky to have living in this country. When you go into labor, a lot of how you cope with contractions comes instinctively. The following list is not exhaustive. There are many, many techniques that are not included here, including the ones that will come naturally to you in the moment.

Breathing and Vocalizing

-Deep belly breathing, filling the lower lungs

-Moaning, deep low noises during exhale

-Grunting during exhale

-Blowing air out, thus releasing tension

-Inhale to the count of 4 or 5 and exhale to the count of 4 or 5


-Chanting, repeating a sound or word

-Fluttering the lips while exhaling to keep the jaw relaxed


-Breathing in sync with your partner or doula


-Soothing, melodic music

-Upbeat, energizing music

-Nature sounds (ocean, rain, etc.)

-Poems, scripts, or affirmations read aloud to you

-Self-hypnosis audio tracks

-Total quiet

-Scripture or prayers

Moving and Positioning

-Lying on your side with your top leg and arm supported with pillows

-Slow dancing with your partner or doula

-Swaying/rocking while sitting on a birth ball

-Kneeling in a bath tub or birth pool


-Lunging, rocking, or swaying with one foot on a chair or stool

-Kneeling while resting head and chest on a birth ball

-Sitting backwards on a toilet or chair

-Sitting on a birth ball and leaning upper body on a bed

Nourishment (If you are laboring at a birth center or hospital, be sure to always check with your provider regarding their eating or drinking policies.)


-Ice chips

-Flavored teas, drinks


-Honey sticks


-Crackers, energy bars

-Whole wheat pasta, toast


-Quinoa and avocado


-Food as desired for energy

Self Affirmation

-“My body is powerful and strong.”

-“I am opening my body and surrendering to my labor.”

-“One contraction at a time.”

-“I can do it. I am doing it!”

-“My body knows how to give birth.”

-“This labor is bringing my baby into the world.”

-“My tension is melting away.”

-“I am perfectly safe and secure.”

-“My baby will find the perfect position for labor and I will help him/her.”

-“My baby needs this labor to have the best start.”

-“My body grew and nourished my baby perfectly and can give birth perfectly, too.”

Touch and Massage

-Broad strokes with palms down the back, legs, or arms

-Head massage, brushing hair

-Gentle strokes of the forehead, temples, or around the ears, jaw

-Hand massage

-Counter pressure on the lower back/buttocks

-Ice pack on the lower back

-Hip squeeze

-Rolling massager on shoulders, back, or thighs

-Gently rubbing belly or supporting the lower belly

Essential Oils

-Clary sage: Use to bring on labor and to advance labor if it stalls

-Lavender: Use to promote relaxation between contractions and encourage peace of mind

-Peppermint: Use to ward off nausea and encourage mental clarity and focus

-Frankincense: Use in combination with a carrier oil on the perineum to help avoid tearing and on the umbilical cord until it stops pulsating to promote healing (with your medical provider’s approval)

-Orange: Use to increase energy and mood


-A safe space with dim lights, soft voices, and people who are patient, gentle, and respectful

-Use of the TENS unit, electrical stimulation on the lower back

-Acupressure and reflexology points

-Warm shower stream aimed at the lower back or belly

-Submersion in a warm bath with jets

-Soothing scents (lavender, rose, sandalwood, neroli, etc.)

-Rest forehead on hands, partner’s hands, or the wall

-Heating pad on the lower belly or back

-Use of a fan

-Meditation or self-hypnosis

-Talking to your baby

-Cold wash cloth on forehead, belly, back, legs

-Smiling or laughing

-Remembering that labor is normal and healthy

I hope that you are able to find a few different techniques from this list that you can tailor to your unique laboring experience! If you have already gone through labor, and found something to be very helpful that wasn't included here, drop a comment below! I'd love to hear some of your ideas.