• Using the Heat and Cold as a Comfort Measure for Labor

Prenatal and Postnatal Care, CNY Healing Arts RochesterBoth Heat and Cold can be used to reduce pain and increase comfort during labor and childbirth. Very often the laboring woman will have a strong preference for one or the other.

When I was in labor for the birth of my son, the mantra that surged through my body was “more cold packs!”.   I kept my husband, sister, mother, doula and midwife very busy.  They had a chain of hands going from the ice bucket, which contained wet icy-cool rags, straight to my back.  I was Hot and my body seemed to heat those cold rags in a flash.  The cold rags seemed to make a huge difference in my comfort.  I was able to have a completely natural childbirth without any medications or interventions with the help of natural positioning options and the use of Heat and Cold! My advice to you is to follow your instincts.  Your body will tell you what to do and what you need.  My body screamed “more cold packs” and my family still jokes about how their hands went numb trying to keep me cool and comfortable during labor.

Caution: A laboring woman’s sense of temperature is altered by labor.  Never place a hot pack on any area of the body affected by an epidural or anesthesia!

* Decreases local blood flow
* Decreases local skin and muscle temperature
* Decreases tissue metabolism
* Decreases muscle spasms
* Slows the transmission of impulses over afferent neurons, leading to decreases sensation

  • A cold washcloth for the face, neck and upper chest helps to refresh and invigorate the laboring woman.  Placed across the back of the neck can reduce nausea.  Placed on the lower back can help with back labor.
  • A cold or ice pack can reduce back pain.  Wrap-around packs with a Velcro belt allow the laboring woman to move around
  • Ice packs to the perineum immediately after the birth are highly recommended to reduce swelling.

* Increases local blood flow
* Increases local skin and muscle temperature
* Increases tissue metabolism
* Decreases muscle spasms
* Relaxes tiny muscles in skin (hair follicles, capillaries)
* Raises pain threshold

  • Warm,wet towels, wrung dry, rolled and placed below the pregnant abdomen provides comfort in late active labor.
  • Warm wet washcloths reduce perineal discomfort and encourage softening and stretching of the perineal tissue in preparation for birth. (*my midwife held a warm compress on my perineum for about 45min before I started to push.  It can’t begin to tell you how much this will help.  I recommend that you request this in your birth plan*)
  • A hot water bottle or hot pack can be applied to the back for back pain during labor.
  • After birth, during breastfeeding it helps to have a warm pack on the belly to help alleviate the cramping sensation when the uterus is shrinking back to its original size.

Using HEAT and COLD together!

  • Place a cold pack on the laboring woman’s back and cover her with warm blankets
  • Place a cold washcloth on her brow or neck while she sits in a warm bath.

Good luck and have a blissful labor and childbirth experience!
Namaste or “mamaste”,
Christa Tyson, Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Instructor and Birth Doula