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Drug-Free Pain Relievers

Rubbed The Right Way

When you're gritting your teeth during your 57th contraction, you may think that someone touching you is the last thing you'd want. But massage therapy has actually become a popular and effective way to manage pain. According to a study conducted by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine, women who were massaged for 20 minutes every hour during labor experienced less anxiety and pain, and shorter labors to boot.

Many prenatal classes are beginning to offer training in labor massage, so you and your partner can practice ahead of time. However, "massage comes very naturally, so don't worry if your class doesn't offer training," says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the institute. The technique used in the study was quite simple: While the woman lay on her side, her partner rubbed her head and temples, and slowly moved down her neck, back, arms, and legs using long strokes with light to moderate pressure. The best part? It's effective anytime.

You're Very Sleepy

When you think of hypnosis, do you picture someone sitting up and barking like a dog? If so, it may be time to take a second look.

How it works: Beginning in the second trimester, women can work with a certified hypnotherapist to develop a personalized visualization script that will train them to envision delivering their baby without pain or fear, says April Pifher, certified master hypnotherapist and licensed practical nurse with the Life Enhancement Hypnosis Center, in Las Vegas. Over the course of 7 to 10 weekly sessions, moms-to-be will use their scripts (which may be recorded on a loop tape) to help them fall into a deeply relaxed yet focused state. Ideally, by the time labor begins, moms know their scripts so well that they are able to slip in and out of this self-hypnotized mode as needed.

Will it work for everyone? It really depends on your temperament, says Pifher. Some people have an easier time reaching a deep level of hypnosis than others. To find a licensed hypnotherapist in your area, visit the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. Training courses range from $275 to $400.

Got The Point?

Though few controlled clinical trials have been conducted on acupuncture and labor, some studies have shown that the practice may minimize pain and decrease the need for medical drugs and treatment. Inserting the hair-like needles on specific points of the body stimulates the release of certain brain chemicals that can block the sensation of pain, says Wolfgang Shay, D.O., a family practice physician and a licensed acupuncturist in Barto, PA.

American hospitals do not generally integrate acupuncture into treatment programs, and Dr. Shay says that he has only administered it during home births. However, its use is on the rise, so feel free to ask your hospital if they would allow you to bring your practitioner with you. If you would like to find a certified acupuncturist, contact the American Association for Oriental Medicine at 888/500-7999. Prices range from $50 to $100 an hour for the first session.