-Hold a plastic comb in your hand, so that the bristles poke lightly into your palm. That mild stimulation is thought to help reduce pain messages to the brain.
-Play with temperature: Lay a cold, wet washcloth on your forehead- especially awesome if you are sweaty. If you are laboring at home, you can even freeze these in advance! Then there are those funky fans they sell that also squirt water (but, you probably don't want anyone squirting water in your face! Just use the fan part to cool off.) A heating pad or a microwaved rice sock can work wonders on the lower back. Note: many hospitals don't want you to heat non-food items up in their microwaves. Just ask in advance.
-Meditation: You can find a huge number of meditations everywhere music can be found; so load up that IPod and practice! Relaxation is one key to getting through a labor with less discomfort, and meditation can get you pretty far without interventions. It can also help you delay pain meds for a bit, which can increase their safety, if that is your choice. Try it out!
Some things can be done on your own, and are even better with the help of a companion or an especially-trained doula:
-Dance. That's right, dance! I've seen radiant laboring women getting down to all kinds of genres. The motion may be just the ticket for helping your baby to wiggle into a good birthing position. Slow dance, fast boogie- it's all good if the feeling is right. Plus, it can help you keep your mind off of stuff that it needn't be on at this particular moment. Some doulas are trained in specific types of dance that can be effective, though you can also usually find what's right by following your body's unique cues.
-Rock on a birthing ball. Or roll, bounce, sway, or whatever your instinct leads you to do. The idea is the same as dancing: Baby gets to maneuver around as needed, and women everywhere swear by the comfort they get just sitting on one! A doula knows some great moves to show you, and can help you stay stable and strong as you work to bring your precious baby earthside.
-Spin that baby! Yes, there is a site you can go to to learn some pretty fantastic tricks that can, potentially, help a baby to maneuver into a more favorable position, just in case it isn't already there; and to keep your body optimally loose and relaxed, so Baby stays in the best position possible. There are no guarantees in life, taxes, and birth, of course; but Spinning Babies has helped many women. You can take a look at the techniques yourself; and some doulas have also been trained by the founder herself, so you get extra assurance that you are doing things right. If this interests you, just ask your doula if she is trained in Spinning Babies techniques.
-Wrap yourself up in a rebozo! These cozy, colorful scarves, used in many Hispanic cultures for a myriad of purposes, can help you wiggle, jiggle, and shake your way to a great birth. Using one of these super-long cloths is definitely a partner activity, and your doula may know some tricks to make it even more comforting and fun for you. You can ask your doula if she is trained with a rebozo.
And a few things just simply require some training, and are best when done by a doula who knows her stuff. A couple of examples which are featured by Wise Path:
-Have you ever seen a TENS unit as part of a physical therapy or a chiropractic schedule of treatment? Many people don't know that the warm tingling sensation of a TENS unit, when properly applied to just the right area of the back, can be employed as a great distraction from the discomforts of labor for many women. In fact, in some other countries a TENS unit is a standard labor tool! It's known for being a very safe choice for almost all women. In the U.S., it is just beginning to make an appearance in the birthing room, and it should ideally be shown to you by a trained provider or doula, for optimum safety.
-Reiki: This gentle, subtle energy technique is said to have originated in Japan, and has since spread to worldwide practice. It requires a specialized training, and practitioners are rather uncommon; doula Reiki practitioners are even rarer! But Reiki is an excellent, safe way to help encourage a feeling of calmness, peace, and centeredness in a labor. It's a wonderful addition to the birthing repertoire.
There are so many tricks and techniques out there, and the key is really that some will work at different times better than others. So, consider some of the different services that are available in your area; then figure out which ones seem the most important for you; and then find a doula that can give those things to you! In other words, find your own unique mojo, and the right unique doula will be there for you.