Coping with Contractions

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How will I get through the challenges of labour?

For the majority of our clients, labour will be the most physically strenuous activity they have ever endured. Not only is labour physically exhausting, but also mentally tiring. It is important to think about what methods of coping with contractions will work best for you. The goal of coping with contractions is to provide techniques to better help clients remain calm and relaxed throughout labour. There are two main categories for these techniques: non-pharmacological (no medication) and pharmacological (medication). It is important to remember that most clients will use a combination of these techniques to cope with their labour and that coping needs may change as the labour progresses. Changing methods as needed will help you to cope well with labour and birth your baby.


  • Frequent Position changes: Changing position often helps the baby to drop down lower into the pelvis and progress labour. Position options: Standing, sitting on a birthing ball, sitting on a birthing stool, kneeling, squatting, all fours, side lying (with or without peanut ball), supported by the birth partner, sitting in a chair, alternating leg lifts, stairs, using rope for support, and more. The important thing with position changes is to make sure you are safe and supported at all times.
  • Water: Shower, bath, or birthing pool (Water should be under 37.5C)
  • Massage: using oil to massage any area the client finds relaxing, primarily the lower back and hips. Other areas: full back, legs, feet, arms, hands, shoulders, neck, and head
  • Acupuncture/Acupressure: Methods and techniques can be provided by a licensed acupuncture practitioner experienced with pregnancy and labour. Please book your appointments with the provided prior to labour so you feel prepared to use these techniques.
  • Hypnobirthing: Utilizes positive affirmations, visualization, and controlled breathing to help the body relax.
  • Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can effectively help clients relax or re-energize as needed. Please discuss appropriate scents for use with your midwife or a licensed aromatherapist experienced with pregnancy and labour.
  • Music: Auditory intake can effectively help clients relax or re-energize as needed. Please feel free to bring a speaker to the hospital or birth suite.


  • Morphine: Can be administered by an injection into the large muscle of the buttocks. Usually, morphine is only administered in early labour (less than 4cm). Due to local guidelines, morphine can only be administered in the hospital after a consultation with the OB on call, who will order the medication. As with every medication, morphine has its risks and benefits. Ask your midwife for more information.
  • Nitrous Oxide: This is a gas (aka. laughing gas) that is inhaled and is very short-acting (it only has effect while being breathed in, as soon as the client stops inhaling the effect wears off). Due to local regulations, nitrous oxide is only available at our birthing suite and not at the hospital. Nitrous oxide is generally reserved for use during active labour (greater than 4cm).
  • Epidural: This is only available at the hospital and is placed in the epidural space of the client’s spine by an anesthetist. Epidural is only available to clients in active labour (greater than 4cm). Epidural is a combination of the medications bupivacaine and fentanyl, which are administered continuously through the catheter in the client’s back, until after the birth of the baby. As with every medication and procedure epidural has its risks and benefits. Ask your midwife or anesthetist for more information.