By Dr. Tehseen Meghji, BSc., ND, Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator

Endorphins are the body’s natural pain reducing hormones. Did you know that they can be stronger than morphine in reducing pain? Every labour contraction causes a release of endorphins and as labour intensifies, the production of endorphins increases. In fact, in un-medicated labours, the peak of endorphins in the bloodstream occurs just before birth.

In fact, in un-medicated labours, the peak of endorphins in the bloodstream occurs just before birth.

Endorphins in childbirth:

  • Reduce the sensation and perception of pain in labour
  • Produce an altered state of consciousness – “labour land” or “on another planet” feeling
  • Promote endurance for long and challenging labours
  • Facilitate a sense of euphoria after birth
  • Foster alertness and attentiveness postpartum for mother and baby
  • Encourage prolactin release and are present in breastmilk

Endorphin release can be encouraged through fostering a safe, calm and informed environment during labour. Since stress and pain medications can hinder the flow of endorphins, focusing on slow deep breathing throughout labour and delaying pain medications for as long as possible, will also support continued release.

Here are three other excellent endorphin releasing tools to use throughout labour, either on your own
or with the help of a trained birth professional:

TENS Machine

The TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine emits mild electrical pulses through skin electrodes. These pulses help interrupt pain signals, encouraging the body to produce endorphins for natural pain relief. The skin pads are usually placed on the areas of the back and sacrum, to manage labor discomfort and promote relaxation.

Most labouring clients find the TENS machine helpful during early and active labour to help with sleeping between contractions, during car transfer to the birth center or hospital, and/or on the sacrum during pushing.

Any type of TENS machine can be used, however birth specific ones are more portable, easier to use and have a special “BOOST” button that provides stronger pulses during a contraction. They can be purchased or rented online and may also be a part of a doula’s birth toolkit.

Light Touch Massage

Light touch massage can be provided by a birth partner or doula. This technique is best used in early labour and between contractions throughout labour. Slow, light and gentle strokes stimulate nerve endings, sending a rush of endorphins through the body. Using the fingertips and the nails to provide long vertical, horizontal, circular, “V” and “S” shaped strokes along the full back, sacrum, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, belly and buttocks, provide the best pain- numbing effect.

Birth Comb

The birth comb is a simple yet very effective tool known to stimulate the body's natural endorphin release. Many labouring clients never want to let go of it during contractions! Any fine toothed comb works, however they come in many shapes (long, short, wavy, ergonomic) and styles (plastic, wooden, with or without affirmations).

The comb is placed in your palm, teeth pointing just below where your fingers meet your palm, and squeezed during a contraction. The fine teeth stimulate superficial nerve endings, triggering the body's endorphin response.

The mild discomfort of the birth comb also distracts the brain from focusing all of its attention on the pain of only the contraction, which in turn eases discomfort and mental stress in labour. It can also be used as a tool for light touch massage between contractions. Furthermore, the birth comb can be used to stimulate the acupressure point Pc8 (Laogong or Labour Palace Point), to bring contractions closer together during labour and to even help induce labour. With so many uses, definitely make sure to pack one or maybe even two birth combs into your birth bag!

Harnessing the power of endorphins through these tools and tips, can help to reduce pain in labour and
create a more comfortable and empowered childbirth experience.

To learn more about how a doula can support you in managing pain during labour, please reach out to
our team here

Wishing you the very best on your pregnancy, labour, postpartum and parenting journey!

DR. TEHSEEN MEGHJI, ND From childhood, Dr. Tehseen has been drawn to pregnancy and childbirth. She completed Naturopathic Doula training in 2011, and had the privilege of witnessing her first birth in Haiti during a medical externship. Since then, she has gained experience in home, water, birth center and hospital births. Having had the honor of attending 100+ births to date, Dr. Tehseen feels blessed to call Naturopathic Doula care her life’s calling. Dr. Tehseen cooperatively works alongside midwives, obstetricians, physicians and medical staff to promote an environment that is comfortable, empowering and supportive during pregnancy and birth. She guides mothers and their partners to recognize their innate strength to parenthood, and provides them with the knowledge to make informed decisions about the birthing process. Empowering mothers and witnessing birth brings Dr. Tehseen the utmost joy. She is committed to providing families with the highest level of emotional and physical support to encourage a positive birth experience. Dr. Tehseen is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and the University of Calgary (Bachelor of Science Degree in Biological Science). She has additional training in prenatal/fertility acupuncture, reflexology, rebozo care, Spinning Babies® techniques and Hypnobirthing®. Her Naturopathic practice primarily focuses on women’s health, fertility and prenatal, postpartum and infant care.

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