'Birth comb' hack to alleviate pain during labor is unsubstantiated

By: Sophie Perryer
May 3 2024

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'Birth comb' hack to alleviate pain during labor is unsubstantiated

Screenshots of social media posts claiming use of a comb during labor alleviates contraction pain. (Source: Instagram/TikTok/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict False

There is insufficient evidence to definitively link the use of a "birth comb" with any reduction in pain during labor.

Claim ID 1a4666fe


On September 27, 2023, a social media user describing herself as a maternity commentator, posted a screenshot on X (formerly Twitter) of an Instagram post by the SASH maternity unit at East Surrey Hospital. The post detailed a "labour hack" known as "The Birth Comb," in which a person giving birth holds a comb in the palm of their hand to cope with the pain associated with contractions during childbirth. 

The reshared X post was seen over 223,000 times, and generated 137 comments and 998 likes. Similar posts detailing the use of a comb during childbirth have also been shared previously on TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook

The original SASH post, which was deleted but subsequently reshared on October 4, claimed that maintaining a tight grip on the comb triggered acupressure points in the palm of the hand. This action allegedly triggers the brain to produce endorphins, hormones associated with pain relief.

In Fact

The “birth comb” is one of a number of non-chemical interventions to reduce labor pain that have gained traction in recent months. In January 2024, the U.K.’s clinical guidelines body The National Institute for Healthcare and Excellence (NICE) produced updated guidance on the administration of sterile water injections as a method to relieve back pain during labor. These injections were heavily criticized as “pseudoscience” by several publications and medical professionals, while the Obstetric Anaesthetists Association raised an objection against the guidelines on the basis that there is not a confirmed theory on why the method relieves pain.

In a statement to Logically Facts, a NICE spokesperson confirmed: "The NICE guideline on intrapartum care does not include birth combs." According to NICE guidelines, midwives and nurses should not offer any form of acupressure as a pain relief method during labor. 

The Nursing and Midwifery Council, which is the independent regulator overseeing nurses and midwives across the UK, declined to comment but directed Logically Facts toward its code of conduct, which calls upon its members to “make sure that any information or advice given is evidence-based”. 

We were not able to find any credible peer-reviewed studies drawing a definitive link between the use of a “birth comb” as an acupressure device and pain relief during childbirth. A study published in July 2023 in the Switzerland-based Healthcare journal noted: “A Cochrane review found there is insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of acupressure for pain relief.”

SASH’s post cites the “pain gate control theory” as the methodology for this pain relief. This theory, which was posited by two scientists in 1965, suggests the brain can only process a certain amount of pain or sensation at once and, therefore, can “close the gate” to a certain level of pain if a different sensation is transmitted more powerfully.

Some aspects of the original "pain gate control theory" were criticized as incorrect and more up-to-date and accurate science is now available. One of the original authors of the theory said: "The least, and perhaps the best, that can be said for the 1965 paper is that it provoked discussion and experiment."

The verdict

There are no specific, credible scientific studies that directly link the use of a "birth comb" during childbirth with reduced contraction pain. The "gate control theory" cited as the pain relief method is also outdated, and some aspects have been refuted by newer, more advanced science. Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.

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