Skip to main content

How Can a Birthing Comb Help With Labor Pain?

Squeezing a comb while giving birth has been said to reduce labor pains through acupuncture techniques. How does a birthing comb work and can it help with your childbirth experience?
How Can a Birthing Comb Help With Labor Pain?
Updated: April 5, 2023
Table of contents

Giving birth is one of the most amazing experiences a woman can have, but it can also be very challenging. By far the most difficult part of childbirth is the pain and discomfort associated with labor. 

Throughout time women have employed different methods of pain relief to help them get through labor and delivery.

One such strategy is the birthing comb. Believe it or not, gripping a comb is used as a way to help laboring women cope with the pain of contractions.

Ahead, we dive into exactly how a birthing comb is used and how it works.

Related: ​​9 Natural Labor Pain Relief Techniques


What Is a Birthing Comb?

A birthing comb looks just like a hair comb, but it is used for a very different purpose. These handheld tools are intended to apply pressure to acupressure points that help to relieve labor pain. They usually have two rows of teeth and may have a curved handle.

How Does a Birthing Comb Work?

In the Hospital, Close-up on a Woman in Labor Pushing Hard to Give Birth, Obstetricians Assisting, Spouse Holds Her Hand. Modern Maternity Hospital with Professional Midwives.

Birthing combs’ teeth apply pressure to specific points on the body that are thought to help relieve pain and promote relaxation. A birthing comb, along with other pain management tools, may help you get through labor and delivery more peacefully and without the use of the epidural.

You can press the comb against points on your hands, feet, and back. The idea behind the birthing comb is based on acupressure, a traditional Chinese medicine technique.

Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, which uses needs to stimulate certain parts of the body. However, while acupuncture uses needles to puncture the skin, acupressure simply presses down on the targeted areas for similar results. 

This difference is beneficial to a woman in labor because you do not need a professional to apply the pressure — you can do it yourself or have your partner do it.

That being said, be sure to consult with a certified practitioner ahead of time. There are some points that pregnant women should avoid putting pressure on.

While birthing combs are based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, there is no conclusive proof that acupressure works. It could be a placebo effect — thinking that the birthing comb will work might help lower your perception of pain. 

Or, it could be that gripping the comb or feeling its pressure simply distracts you from the pain. Whatever it is, many women claim that the birthing comb helped manage their labor pain.

How to Use a Birthing Comb

Let’s walk through the steps of using a birthing comb during labor:

Meet With a Practitioner

Don’t just grab a comb and throw it in your hospital bag. It’s important to learn how to use a birthing comb before attempting this method of pain management.

A practitioner will help you learn where and how to apply pressure. They will also go over important safety information and help you choose a comb that’s right for you. 

You may find a practitioner in one of your childbirth education classes, or you can seek out a traditional Chinese medicine doctor who specialized in childbirth.

Learn the Acupressure Points

After showing you the combs, your practitioner will teach you about the acupressure points to know when you’re giving birth.

The most common pressure points are on the palm of your hand at the base of the fingers, between your thumb and index finger, the ankle, the shin, and the lower back.

Each of these points is supposedly connected to another point in the body where you may feel pain or discomfort during childbirth. Applying pressure to the points is supposed to relax the area of the body that it is connected to.

Practice Applying Pressure

Pregnant woman with massage ball in white underwear on pink background, pregnancy concept

Practice using the teeth of the comb to massage yourself before you actually go into labor. Have your birthing partner practice as well.

This is important not only so that you can get used to using the comb and learn how to do so in a comfortable way, but also so that you already know what to do when it’s time to use it.

Labor is extremely difficult and you can’t know exactly how you will react until the moment arrives. Both you and your partner may find yourselves unable to use your logical brain power during this time, so it will be very helpful to already have a toolbox of pain management techniques in your birth plan

Adjust as Necessary During Labor

When the day comes, bring the comb and try using it as you find your contractions becoming less bearable. Try out the different pressure points and see how your body reacts. 

Don’t worry if the first pressure point you try doesn’t seem to help or makes things worse. Let your body tell you what you need and apply more or less pressure as needed.

Partners — stay calm. The person you are assisting is experiencing something unpredictable, even if it is not her first time giving birth. 

Don’t be caught off guard if she gets upset at you when you try to use the comb — it’s not you, it’s the experience. Remain supportive and flexible to the birthing person’s needs.

How to Choose a Birthing Comb

There are a few different kinds of birthing combs on the market. Here are some tips for choosing the comb that’s right for you. Remember, you don’t necessarily need to buy a comb specifically marketed for birth. A plain old hair comb will do if it’s the right one for you.

What to Look For

When shopping for a comb consider the following:

  • Comfortable Grip: Look for combs with thick handles made of non-slip material. Hold onto the comb before buying to get an idea of how it will feel in your hand. You want it to be as comfortable as possible. This will help you have an overall positive birth experience.
  • Material: Do you want a wooden comb or a plastic comb? You will only know the answer to this by holding a few different combs in different materials.
  • Number of Teeth: Get your doula’s or your practitioner’s advice on whether your comb should have many teeth or just a few. It may depend on your specific pain management needs. If possible, try out combs with more and less teeth and see which types feel best when you massage yourself.
  • Recommendations: Talking with other people who have used birthing combs during their own birth experiences is probably the best thing you can do if you want to figure out which comb to buy. Although everyone’s experience is different, word of mouth is always helpful.

Empower Yourself to Manage Labor Pain

A birthing comb is one pain management tool that is best used in combination with other ways to stay calm and reduce your pain perception. Also consider using breathing exercises, hypnobirthing, meditations and visualization.

Learning everything you can about how to have a positive birth experience will help to make that a reality. Just remember that you never know exactly what will happen at any birth and both your and your baby’s safety is the most important thing.


Elisa Cinelli

About Elisa

Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based… Read more

Subscribe to Family Education

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.