For me, I was fine without this stuff until 8-9 cm, then it was suddenly bad enough that I don't think anything would have made a huge difference . . . but here are my two cents :) I was in the birth tub FWIW, the way James was positioned I couldn't sit on the ball or rock or sway or any of that -- nothing where I was at all seated. So my biggest advice would be have a back-up coping/positioning plan!
- Cold washcloth on my face felt really good and was kind of distracting, in a good way.
- Light touch massage helped a lot in the beginning, helped less but still helped at the end. DH was running his fingers down my side or on my shoulders or arms - the way you touch someone to give them the shivers, just very light with fingertips. Apparently this occupies some of the pain receptors so that they can't register pain, and helps release oxytocin. I liked it, and it was something DH could do that was useful, kept him close, and wasn't tiring. Also it never got annoying, so that was nice!
- Water in a squeeze top bottle would have been great, we used a big cup with a straw but DH said that I was never really in a good position to drink from the straw, it kept bending closed or the end would be out of the water or he would almost spill the water on me trying to angle the cup so that I could reach. Nice for this water to be fridge cold but not ice cold.
- MW gave me one of those sports candies right at the end, I think you can get them at Sports Authority, or maybe Target - they have sugar and electrolytes and are pretty flavorful, dissolve quicker than a normal hard candy. Mine was raspberry or something, it tasted SO good at that moment.
- Someone was massaging my feet between contractions and it helped me relax and get to the point where I was somewhat asleep between being raging contractions. Looking back I really can't believe that was possible, but it was! amazing human body! Not a true massage, more like slow, firm squeezing at the body of the foot, where the arch is, and squeezing the heel. It felt amazing when any other touch was awful.
- What didn't help me at all was counter pressure on my low back, it just intensified my pain and the MWs kept trying it and I kept saying 'don't touch my back!' Lighter circular massage on the whole back was ok, just couldn't have any pressure.
I'm so excited for the new mamas and I am really looking forward to hearing birth stories from the soon to be new mamas!! lots of luck and good vibes to you all!