pregnant female on beach practicing relaxation

Relaxation for pain relief in labor

Relaxation for pain relief in labor sounds like a myth, and a rude one at that! However it is NOT a myth and is able to be obtained through a few techniques taken from Penny Simkin and her three R’s: Relaxation, Rhythm, and Ritual.

What we will not cover in this article is epidurals and medication for pain management- that is a discussion for another day (and a great one! You do you mama!)


A few ways to achieve relaxation for pain relief in labor are visualization, affirmations, deep breathing like Lamaze (patterned conscious breathing), and anything that makes you feel warm and safe in labor. Things that make me feel warm and safe are worship music, candles, and my husband.


Remember that each labor contraction is caused by a wave of Oxytocin (the love hormone) coursing through your body. So, very literally, each birthing surge is a surge of love. Allow yourself to meet each surge with the same warmth, intimacy and acceptance that you would experience during a kiss or a loving embrace

Lauralyn Curtis

Rhythm for relaxation in labor is different for every mother. Rhythm is a coping mechanism for relaxation in labor, so therefore what each mother needs will vary. Some rhythmic coping mechanisms are:

  • Sitting on a birthing ball
  • Moaning or singing through a contraction
  • Breathing in a rhythmic way through a contraction
  • Having your partner or Doula perform techniques, massage, or using the shower sprayer to rhythmically spray


Once a woman finds her ritual she will want to stick to it because it is working. Rituals are often spontaneous and can look like these options taken from

  • One woman felt safe and cared for when her mother brushed her long, straight hair rhythmically during the contractions.
    Another rocked in a rocking chair in rhythm with her own pattern of breathing.
  • Another wanted her partner to rub her lower leg lightly up and down in time with her breathing.
  • Another wanted her partner to count her breaths out loud and point out to her when she was beyond the number of breaths that meant the halfway point in the contraction.
  • Another dealt with her back pain by leaning on the bathroom sink, swaying rhythmically from side and moaning while her partner pressed on her low back.
  • Another, who had rowed crew in high school, used a visualization in conjunction with her breathing pattern: each breath represented a stroke of her oar, helping her to “glide smoothly” through the contraction.
  • Another let her breathing follow the rhythm of her partner’s hand moving up and down (“conducting”); she focused entirely on the partner’s ring with its blue stone as her guide.

Rituals go hand in hand with rhythms and are the key to winning overall relaxation for pain relief in labor.

Watch this AMAZING video from Penny Simkin to learn more about the three R’s in labor!


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