Many mamas are adding “birthing combs” to their hospital bags for pain management. Learn what a birthing comb is, and how to use it, in this article.
If you haven’t added a comb to your hospital bag, you may want to add one — and it’s not for your hair! More and more mamas are adding “birthing combs” to their hospital bags for pain management… but I know what you’re thinking, mama! What’s a birthing comb and why do you need one?
We’ll also all of your questions here:
- What is a birthing comb?
- How do birthing combs work?
- What kind of birthing comb do you need?
What Is a Birthing Comb?
A birthing comb is a regular ol’ hair comb. What makes it a “birthing comb” is how you use it. Any comb with teeth (not a brush) will work. Some mamas like the feel of a smooth plastic comb, while others like the natural feel of a wooden comb.
When you hold a comb, keep the teeth pointing just below where your fingers meet your palm. When you feel a contraction coming, close your fist around the comb and let the teeth press into your palm. Use as much or as little pressure — whatever feels the best to you.
While this won’t take away your contractions, it does give you something to focus on — a distraction.
Why Do Birthing Combs Work?
There are a few reasons why birthing combs work:
The first reason is that it’s simply a distraction. Studies show that distractions can help ease both pain and mental stress during labor. While distraction methods didn’t have any clinically significant impact on length of labor, it did dramatically reduce “perceived stress during labor” and that’s something to celebrate!
Birthing combs can also help manage pain because the teeth hit an acupressure point on your hand.
Watch this video to see how to locate your hand pressure points:
3. Gate control theory
The third explanation for why birthing combs work so well is because of “gate control theory of pain.” According to this theory, your mind can only process so many physical sensations at once. The “gate” refers to your nervous system that either allows pain signals into your brain or denies pain messages into your brain. Obviously, we are trying to close the gate to those painful labor contractions!
The idea is that if you’re experiencing painful sensations, then non-painful stimulation can help “close” the pain gate. In this case, the contractions are your painful sensations, and the comb is a non-painful stimulation that helps close the gate, so your brain focuses on the comb rather than the contractions.
In other words… by using a birthing comb, the comb forces your mind to feel something other than just contractions.
Can You Use a Birthing Comb for Labor?
Yes! Birthing combs can be easily incorporated into any birthing plan. Whether you’re at home, in a birthing suite, or in a hospital setting, combs are easy to use.
Fun fact: some mamas may even use birthing combs in other situations to help mitigate pain naturally! One mama shared this story:
“I used a birthing comb during my first few breastfeeding sessions when I was dealing with chapped nipples and bleeding blisters. The comb gave me something else to think about!”
How Can I Ease Labor Pains Naturally?
Holding a birthing comb is just one of many tools you can try during labor. What works for one mama may not work for you, and what works for you at one minute may not work later! That’s why I recommend having an arsenal of natural pain management tools and strategies at the ready. This includes:
- Hypobirthing strategies
- Tennis balls
- Birthing balls
- Breathing exercises
- Shower (the heat and pressure can feel amazing!)
- Labor tub
- Practicing visualization
- Listening to music (rock, classical, spa sounds — whatever works for you!)
Your doula or midwife may suggest additional techniques. You can also read this article for additional guidance on managing back labor.
What About You?
Have you used a birthing comb before? Share your experiences below.