Worrying about how painful child birth will be is up there as one of the main concerns expressed by pregnant women and birthing people – and it’s a fair concern in our opinion. So if you’re in the camp of wondering how bad a contraction will really feel, we’ve got a tip that might be just what you need to help ease some of those worries – and it comes in the form of the humble hair comb.
Hair Comb Hero
The theory goes that if you squeeze a hair comb during contractions, it could make labour feel more comfortable and enjoyable. Now we know it sounds made up, but there’s legit, actual science to back it up.
What’s The Deal?
The idea is that whilst in labour and experiencing a contraction, you hold a hair comb in the palm of your hand. The advised technique is to hold the comb so that the back of it is across your fingers and the teeth of the comb press into the middle of your palm. The teeth should hit the spot where the tip of the middle finger touches the palm when making a closed fist.
“Palace of Labour”
When placed in the advised position, the teeth of the comb target an acupuncture point known as the “Lao Gong” pressure point. This is a Chinese name which roughly translates to “Palace of Toil” or “Palace of Labour”. It may be that this pressure point was named such because of the type of manual labour people do with their hands, however it comes in pretty hand for a different kind of labour too.
Squeezing a comb during contractions activates this pressure point and instantly reduces cortisol (stress hormone) and releases dopamine. This is really important because too much cortisol whilst giving birth can make labour longer and more painful. Dopamine is also a feel good hormone which can stimulates feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and motivation, which all serve to make labour more comfortable and enjoyable.
Gate Control Theory
When the body experiences pain in two places at the same time, the brain will perceive one of the places as less painful. This is due to the gate control theory.
In a nutshell, the gate control theory states that there is a limited amount of information that the brain can process at one time. If the nerves of the body are flooded with non-painful or less-painful stimuli, it prevents the stronger, more painful messages from getting through. This is because there is a gate that controls how many messages the brain can receive at any given time. As such, the brain is only able to process the less-painful stimuli and the gate essentially blocks out the more painful messages.
So, if you are squeezing a comb into the palm of your hand during labour and the teeth are digging in, this is the pain that the brain will receive and focus on. The pains of contractions will therefore be dulled from the brain’s perspective and feel less painful.
This same theory also applies to using a TENS machine as it reduces the number of pain signals sent to the brain via the spinal cord. The focus becomes the feeling of the TENS machine pulses and the contractions may feel less strong.
Distraction and Focus Point
Another key benefit of the hair comb hack is that it acts as a distraction and focus point during labour. The physical act of squeezing the comb as a contraction starts can help to remind a labouring mama to use her breath in order to ride the wave. It acts as a different focus point and something to do until the contraction eases.
What Do The Experts Say?
Emma Armstrong, aka The Naked Doula, knows a thing or two about making labour more enjoyable and regularly shares easy-to-remember hints to her 139K instagram followers. Floppy Face Floppy Fanny (FFFF) and Knees In, Calves Out (KICO) are just a couple of her helpful and, err memorable, acronyms for getting through child birth.
Emma is a big fan of the hair comb hack. Check out her vid about it here. She recommends squeezing the comb at the height of a contraction, whilst breathing and dropping the shoulders, in order to have a less stressful and more enjoyable labour.
Will Any Hair Comb Do?
Well, yes, sort of but it might not be without its problems. A plastic, small comb is likely to slip, fall out of your hand and slide around the place at the exact time when you need it to stay in one position.
Fortunately, one clever brand has designed a comb, or more accurately – an acupressure tool – to be used specifically during labour. The Wave Comb is curved, wooden and specifically designed to target the relevant points of the palm to help reduce pain.
What Else Can Help With Labour Pains?
Drugs. Drugs help with labour pains and they are available for a reason. If you want the drugs, take the drugs.
If you are trying for a drug-free labour, then methods such as being immersed in warm water or gentle massage are both known to help and reduce the discomfort of labour. Moving positions regularly, staying upright and walking around are all recommended techniques to ease labour pain too.
Other options to help with labour include breathing, humming, singing and dancing. All these different techniques help to keep the body moving, the mind distracted from discomfort and to bring an element of *fun* to proceedings.
Here at Birthbabe, we’re into anything that makes labour easier for our beautiful babes. So whatever method you choose to use, just make sure you’re doing it your way and that you feel as comfortable as possible.