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Labor movements
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Modern medicine has made great strides in the quest to make childbirth safer, easier and less painful. However, many experts are revisiting more traditional and low-tech approaches as well. Here, a look at three holistic practices that help bring babies into the world.

Using a doula

Greek for “woman who serves,” a doula is a birth assistant for the laboring mother, serving as advocate, coach and information source. A doula can explain medical procedures, offer massage, suggest positions to ease pain or facilitate pushing, aid communication with your doctor and help begin breastfeeding. Research shows women who receive such support are less likely to need pain relief, vacuum extraction, forceps or a cesarean delivery. Look for a professionally trained and certified childbirth educator to serve as a doula.

Hypnosis

Hypnotherapy, or hypnosis, is used in medical settings to induce a state of extremely focused attention, similar to the concentration you might experience when absorbed in a good book. Hypnosis affects how your mind communicates with your body through nerve impulses, hormones and body chemicals and allows you to become deeply relaxed. Using hypnosis during childbirth can reduce pain and shorten labor. People under hypnosis remain awake and alert. To use hypnosis, you should attend several sessions with a licensed healthcare professional who practices the technique.

Birthing balls

The ability to remain upright and move about during childbirth eases delivery because gravity helps the baby descend and changing positions can change your pelvis’ size and shape. The use of a large, rubber ball on which a laboring woman sits, rocks, bounces or drapes herself can help her shift her weight and position more comfortably. Practice with it during your pregnancy and be sure to have a partner nearby for balance and support.