Mindfulness for Pain Management during Labor

Author: Lauren Frick

Kimberlee Bethany Bonuru, of the Walden University, explains that effective pain management (natural/pharmaceutical) during Labor is essential for a woman to have a positive birth experience. Pain is influenced by psychological aspects including confidence, self-efficacy, labor knowledge, and prenatal anxiety. Additionally, many women experience fear of childbirth (Foc), and this mindset (due to adrenaline) directly influences the level of pain perception in which they feel. Thus, it is essential to source means of relaxation that will influence pain management.

Mindfulness which is taught in yoga, meditation, and martial arts, always emphasizes being in the present moment. It is a secular practice being non-religious. The utitilization of mindfulness as a form of pain management helps to increase the awareness of physical sensations and helps individuals differentiate physical experiences from emotional/mental ones. Midwife and best-selling birth/motherhood Author Kathy Fray, who is well experienced in attending labors of women using these Hypnobirthing-type methods, calls this “Meditative Labor” explaining “it’s about the Woman allowing her Contractions to ‘wash over’ her, instead of ‘take over’ her”.

According to the 2012 National Institutes of Health study, about 21 million US adults practice yoga, and among them 80% are female and of reproductive age. The best practice for teaching women mindfulness through yoga is via asana (physical), pranayama (breathing), dhyana (meditation), and yoga nidra (deep relaxation). The practice of these aspects of yoga increases the woman’s physical strength, aides in relaxation of the mind and body, creates a feeling of calm, and improves self-awareness. In turn, the woman experiences reduced pain perception and increased comfort during labor. Ideally the woman sees the pain they are experiencing during labor as a sensation that comes and goes, and actively utilize their breath to work through the most intense moments.

It is best for a yoga course to have an extended duration (10-20 weeks) in order to effectively teach the integral aspects of mindfulness. Classes ideally emphasize sisterhood, incorporate strategies for labor, help boost the women’s confidence, and prioritize learning.

Mindfulness techniques help women interpret their pain differently because they are able to separate their physical experiences from what is going on in their mind – Fray describes this as “the woman ‘finding her center’ so she is able to ‘zone-out’ and ‘separate’ from her pain”. Bonuru explains that women can be aware of their bodies (increased self-efficacy) and are confident in themselves (knowing how to breathe through the pain) thus women’s pain perception can decrease.


Bonura, K. B. (2018). Just Breathe: Mindfulness as Pain Management in Pregnancy. International Journal of Childbirth Education33(1), 6–9. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxynw.uits.iu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ccm&AN=127211603&site=eds-live