What’s with the comb?

What’s with the comb?

We were thrilled to attend the Hagerstown Birth and Babies Fair earlier this March. This year we added 150 small black combs to the goody bags handed out to the attendees. You may be wondering just what combs have to do with birth and babies…


In many cultures around the world, laboring women will grip wooden combs to help them cope with the sensations of labor. We find that two plastic combs, like the one in the photo, work¬† just as well. The laboring mother can hold the combs as shown above, and squeeze during a contraction — if it feels a little uncomfortable, you’re doing it right! The combs work on a few levels to provide relief and comfort:

BONAPACE METHOD — Creating discomfort elsewhere on the body releases endorphins that decrease the perception of labor pain. Sterile Water injections and TENS units work on the same principle.

GATE CONTROL THEORY — This theory says that the brain can only pay attention so many sensations at once. Pressure on the nerve pathways of the hand reach the brain faster, and crowd out the abdominal pain signals.

REFLEXOLOGY AND ACUPRESSURE — Meridians, or energy pathway, weave all across our bodies, including the palm. Pressing on these pathways allows healing energy to flow. The acupressure points across the palm, at the base of the fingers, correlate to the uterus which may help labor progress. We find that while in labor we tend to stimulate these points without thinking; by holding hands with our partners or doulas, by gripping bed rails, bed posts or the edge of the tub, tugging on a rebozo, or clutching the bed clothes, but that using combs is the most efficient way to do so intentionally.

PSYCHOLOGY — Because the laboring woman is in control of the the combs, she may feel less out of control of the sensations of labor.

BREASTFEEDING — Our friend Megan of Blue Ridge Breastfeeding reminded us how useful a comb is after birth, too! Dragging a comb down the breast can be an effective way to break up, or even prevent clogged ducts. These combs might be a little sharp for this practice, and we suggest one with wider and more blunt teeth.

We carry combs in our doula bags as one of many tools to help our clients through labor. If you’d like to learn more about how doula support makes birth a positive and empowering experience, CLICK HERE!