Heat and cold

Applying heat or cold, or both, can be a soothing, natural pain reliever in labor. The goal of applying heat or cold is to make you more comfortable so that you can better relax.

Heat relieves muscle tension. It can be applied through a heating pad, a warm towel, a hot compress, a hot water bottle or a heated rice-filled pack or sock. You can apply heat to your shoulders, lower abdomen or back to relieve pain. As you near the time to push, you may find it comforting to place a warm blanket over your body if you're trembling, or a hot compress on the area between your vagina and anus (perineum).

Cold can be applied with a cold pack, a chilled soda can or a baggie filled with ice. Some women like a cold pack on their lower back to help relieve back pain. You may find that a cool, moistened washcloth on your face helps ease tension and cools you during labor. Sucking on ice chips also can help to cool you and create a distracting sensation in your mouth.

You may want to use a combination of heat and cold to relieve pain naturally during labor. For example, a hot water bottle alternated with a washcloth soaked in cold water can reduce backache or cramping.

If you apply heat or cold to your skin, don't overdo it. You don't want to burn or freeze your skin.

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