Positive Birthing Techniques

When you hear the words natural birth do you think, “Oh what a martyr”? Or maybe you just wonder why any sane person would put themselves through the pain of childbirth. Yet women give birth without pain relief all around the world every day – some by choice, some because there’s no other choice.

And then there’s things like Orgasmic Birth – really? Could that be true?

Women’s bodies know how to give birth. To deal with the intensity of labor, women need support of many kinds. Here at the Birthing Center, we have lots of women who choose to use a minimum of drugs during their birth.

How do they do it? It can be a very active process. Here are some ways to tap into the body’s own neurophysiologic pathways to reduce pain. It works at home for the stresses and pains of everyday life, as well as the labor that leads to motherhood!

MECHANORECEPTORS respond to touch.

Merkel’s Disks are found on the palms, soles of the feet, and lips.

They respond to steady, maintained pressure, and don’t habituate readily – so these techniques work for a long time. (Habituation means that something only works for a while, because our body gets used to it quickly.) Our use of Merkel’s disks in our lives is one of the reasons we have a tendency to put our hands in a ball, or hold the steering wheel tight, when we are feeling stressed. Maybe it’s even why we compress our lips when we are trying to “hold our tongue!”

  • Hold hands
  • Stand
  • Squeeze a “stress ball”

Meissner’s Corpuscles are found on fingertips and hairless skin.

They respond to textures and light touch.

  • Effleurage (fingertip massage of belly) – you often see moms doing this quite mindlessly when they are very pregnant, way before labor begins.
  • Move fingertips lightly on sheets – some people also rub their feet back and forth.

Pacinian Corpuscles are found in the deep layers of the skin.

They respond to deep pressure and vibration.

  • Deep massage
  • Acupressure
  • Sitting on a well-filled birthing ball
  • Double hip squeezes
  • Hand-held shower head beating water on the lower back

Joint Receptors are found in joint capsules, ligaments and synovial membranes throughout the body. They are also slow to habituate.

They respond to movement and hugging!

  • Rock in a rocking chair
  • Slow dancing and belly dancing
  • Pelvic rocking on all fours
  • Moving/rocking on a birthing ball


Olfactory: Small fibers in the upper nostrils go to the hypothalamus and limbic system.

  • Provide familiar, calming scents: your own pillow, your partner, your favorite Yankee candle, chocolate! (By the way – if you are doing labor support, bring a toothbrush and toothpaste with you. And don’t eat tuna grinders. Moms are often very attuned to smells during labor!)
  • Aromatherapy: Jasmine or lavender to relax, rosemary for energy and to clear the mind. When it’s time to push, switch to grapefruit!

Taste: Favorite clear fluids, lollipops, Italian ices, popsicles.


Hot and cold receptors are found throughout the skin. Some favorite places to target during labor? The lower back, the shoulders, and under the belly!

  • Ice chips
  • Cold packs
  • Warm showers or baths
  • Hot packs

As you can see, just because you didn’t use drugs doesn’t mean you did nothing during labor. You and the people who love you worked hard together!

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