Gripping a comb during labour could help ease the pain of childbirth

Could a comb help ease the pain of childbirth? [Photo: Getty]
Could a comb help ease the pain of childbirth? [Photo: Getty]

From hypnobirthing to having an epidural, tens machines to gas and air, women have some tried and tested methods to help ease the pain of childbirth.

But a little-known pain relief hack is lighting up the Internet after birth photography and videography company, Fox Valley Birth and Baby, shared the tip on their Facebook page.

And all that is required is a fine-toothed comb.

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“Did you know a comb can be used during labour?!” the post reads. “And no its not for your hair.”

They go on to explain that when it is gripped in your hands, a comb can help hit acupuncture points there.

“It also plays into the gate control pain theory,” the post continues. “This theory states that the brain can only focus on a select number of sensations. Because the nerve endings are closer on your hands they reach your brain faster. Helping your body forget about the contractions.”

According to the company, the best way to hold the comb is to make sure the teeth hit at the base of the fingers, across the palm of your hand.

While it might sound like a strange way to help alleviate the pain of labour, many users took to the comments section to offer their own experiences of using a comb or something similar.

“This is true lots of doulas use this. I am training to be a doula now and I hear many doulas using it as counter-pressure,” one user commented.

“My doula gave me a little plastic hedgehog with sharp spikes to squeeze ... it was the most helpful thing during the whole labour!” another woman agreed.

“It totally worked with me! I had my second baby completely naturally just by breathing evenly, moving and gripping a comb through out my labour,” yet another new mum offered.

“I wanted my sister to dig her nails into my arms when I was in labour because it distracted me from the pain,” a fourth user shared. “I think that idea is true. Because it really helped.”

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Many other women also commented to say they wish they’d heard of the hack during their own births, while many mums-to-be said they would definitely be adding a comb to their hospital bag.

“I wish I'd have known this when I was having my son I laboured that quick with him the pain was unreal,” one woman wrote.

“WOW!! Wish I knew about this when I had my first son!! Due another little boy in October and a comb will definitely be packed. Thank you for the info,” another mum commented.

What the experts say

Turns out using a comb for pain relief has some expert backing too.

“Gripping a comb during labour may, indeed, help mothers to cope with the sensations of labour,” explains Liz Halliday, Deputy Head of Midwifery at Private Midwives.

“According to acupuncture and acupressure specialist, Debra Betts, there are points along the crease where the hand meets the fingers that, if stimulated, release endorphins into the body that help with pain relief.

“A comb, placed into this crease and squeezed, may assist women in increasing endorphin release and therefore aid the body’s natural response in producing endorphins in labour to offset any pain mechanism,” she adds.

Halliday says other theories explore the idea that the body can only pay attention to a certain number of stimuli at one time, and so, providing more stimuli may distract from any pain sensations.

“Pressure on nerve pathways from sensitive areas such as the hands may travel to the brain faster than those from the abdomen and thus over-ride the sensations of labour by overloading the brain with sensations,” she continues.

“Finally, the control that the woman feels over exerting pressure on the comb may have a psychological effect, making her feel more in control of the sensations of labour.”

As illustrated by the comments in the post, women seem to have reported that the comb technique is effective and according to Halliday as the woman is in control of how often and how hard she squeezes it, the comb is unlikely to cause any harm.

“For centuries women have used distraction techniques in childbirth, such as squeezing an object or someone’s hands, biting down on something, breathing techniques and coping strategies such as colouring, counting or tracing a maze. This represents another distraction technique that some women may find helpful,” she adds.

For those wanting to give it a go Halliday recommends using a blunt comb to avoid any injury.

“Start early in labour and only use the comb as long as you find it helpful. It is certainly another option to try and may be effective for many women.”

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