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When I first got pregnant I knew that I wanted to attempt to have a natural childbirth. By natural childbirth I mean no epidural.
No I didn’t have superhuman strength. No I wasn’t crazy.
The truth is, I wanted to have a natural childbirth because I was scared of the giant needle or having any bad side effects to the drugs.
If you are reading this I am assuming you too would like to have a natural childbirth. Let me tell you it can be done. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it can be scary. But, I honestly think that if I could do it twice, you can too.
Here are the things that I think really increased my odds of having a natural childbirth.
1) Finding the right doctor
I switched doctors when I was almost 6 months pregnant. I loved my doctor, but when I mentioned I wanted a natural childbirth he wasn’t exactly encouraging. He told me that the majority of the deliveries he performed were medicated and that it can be tough giving birth without an epidural. Ya think?! I then read reviews online about my doctor and the reviews about him relating to labor and delivery were awful.
My husband helped me look for a new doctor. It took awhile since most doctors want to start seeing you from early on. Eventually, we found a great practice of doctors who were very encouraging and wanted what I wanted.
Inquire early on about how your doctor (s) feel about natural childbirth. Some can even give you helpful recommendations to prepare for a natural childbirth.
2) Doula/Supportive SO
To this day my husband still amazes me. He has such a high physical and mental pain tolerance. I can be a baby at times. However, he talked me through the births of our daughter and son like a pro.
With the birth of my daughter I had a machine hooked up to me that showed the rise and fall of each contraction. We did a lot of visualization exercises. Imagine you are walking up a steep mountain where the hardest part is the peak of each contraction. Knowing when the pain would subside and that I would be getting a small break worked wonders.
If you don’t have someone that can support you during your natural childbirth or if you want extra support you can hire a doula. They are birthing coaches that can offer advice, guidance, and support before, during, and after labor. This was not covered by my insurance and I felt confident with my husband there with me.
3) Breathing Techniques/Birthing Class
With the birth of my daughter I signed my husband and I up for a free birthing class at the hospital. Being informed can be a powerful tool. We watched a bunch of videos and did a few breathing techniques. The class was extremely boring. My husband actually fell asleep, a few times. However, I knew I wanted to educate myself as much as possible and didn’t want to regret not going. With my son’s birth we didn’t go to any classes.
4) Reading books on natural childbirth
I purchased two natural childbirth books from Amazon that had some of the highest reviews. One was Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally and the other was Natural Childbirth: The Bradley Way.
Reading these books I learned that there are 4 stages of labor. The 1st stage is the time frame from when labor starts until the cervix is dilated to 10 centimeters. The 2nd stage is once the cervix is completely dilated and the child is born. The 3rd stage is the delivery of the placenta and the 4th and final stage is recovery.
Stage 1 consists of 3 phases:
Early labor: When labor starts until the cervix is 4 centimeters dilated. For me these felt like mild stomach cramps.
Active labor: When the cervix dilates from 4 to 7 centimeters. The contractions come more frequently and last longer.
Transition: Going from 7 to 10 centimeters. This phase can be the hardest and most painful phase. It is where many feel like they are hitting a wall and fear sets in. This is normal and can be a good sign because it means you’re almost at the finish line.
5) Avoid negative people/negative stories
People will tell you you’re crazy, you can’t do it, or that they make medicine for a reason. Ignore them! I even had a few men tell me their stories and how painful childbirth is, as if they gave birth themselves.
Channel the negative energy and prove them wrong! That’s exactly what I did, twice. Remember, this a choice that you are making for yourself, not for anyone else.
When I told the nurse I was going to try to have a natural childbirth she said “Oh, you don’t have a doula? It’s going to be real hard”. But, as I got further and further along she started cheering me on. She told me “You got this!”
My first labor was about 19 hours total (don’t worry it’s not painful that entire time) so the nurse actually ended her shift, but stuck around because she wanted to see me succeed.
6) Read or listen to success stories
A coworker I spoke to had both medicated and non-medicated births. She said her last birth she had an epidural and she wished she hadn’t. She said she experiences occasional back pain where she had the epidural. Now I read numerous studies and personal anecdotes and there were a lot of differing views. However, her story was enough to make me say I’m going to try real hard to have a natural birth.
One of my friends just had her second natural childbirth, in her car! Totally gangster right?! I’m not recommending this obviously, but just sharing to show that people do have natural childbirths. Ask around your friends and family to get inspiration, but only if they are positive stories.
7) Explore alternative pain-coping techniques
Visualization exercises: Think of yourself in another place and calm your mind. Endorphins start to kick in and can help numb the pain. At one point I was even half asleep through the contractions.
Bradley method: It is a 12 week course that focuses on partner support and the process of preparing one’s body for natural birth. I didn’t take the course, but read about some of their techniques.
Lamaze: Focuses on breathing techniques, relaxation techniques, pain management, etc.
Acupressure: I found a guide online about pressure points that can help block pain. I used this with the birth of my son. It helped at times. Whether it was a placebo effect or not I’m not sure.
Position changes: Squatting is supposed to help the baby move down the birth canal. I actually had the bed positioned upright like a lounge chair. You want your body to work with you, not against. When experiencing a contraction do your best to keep your body loose. Don’t tense up at all if you can help it.
Walking: In reality I wasn’t able to do this much because I had monitors hooked up to me. Let your doctors and nurses know your intentions early on and they can better accommodate you.
Massage: Have your partner or doula give you a massage to help you relax or breathe through the contractions.
Kegel exercises: This is the exercise that helps to strengthen your pelvic floor. There’s a very good chance your doctor will tell you about them. I attribute these to me having such an easy time pushing. During both of my labors I pushed for no more than 15 minutes. My babies came out so fast the doctor told me to stop pushing both times.
8) Make a birth plan
A birth plan has important information such as who yo want in the delivery room with you, if you plan on having medicine administered which ones, if you want to do skin to skin, breastfeeding, who is cutting the umbilical cord, etc. Use this to write down what you ideally would like to happen.
One of the biggest things for me was writing down that I do not want any medicine and if I change my mind I will be the one to let the hospital staff know. You would be amazed how many times I was asked if I wanted an epidural and had to explain multiple times I wanted a natural birth. It’s easy to say no to medicine when it’s not constantly in your face.
9) Labor at home for as long as possible
With my daughter I went to the hospital when the doctor told me to come in. My contractions were every 5 minutes, but once I reached the hospital it was like they got stage fright. I only had about 3 once there. I ended up going home and returning the following night when I actually gave birth.
It’s much easier to relax at home and therefore labor progresses much faster. With my son I stayed at home for a few hours and even went out to dinner beforehand. By the time I arrived at the hospital I was 5 centimeters dilated with little pain. The nurses were very impressed.
If you are worried about having the baby at home or in you car just call your doctor. They usually tell you when to head to the hospital. See my packing list for the hospital here. You can even bring your own books, music, or anything else that will make your labor more comfortable.
The woman I shared a room with had the epidural and a C-section because her baby was in a bad position and was not progressing down the birth canal. She suffered a bad allergic reaction to the medicine and was constantly complaining of being itchy all over her body. She told me how lucky I was that I could walk around. I felt bad, but I certainly didn’t feel lucky at the time. My body felt like it had been run over multiple times by a truck. My arms and legs were jello and I did not feel like walking around at all.
I’m not telling you this to scare you. I am telling you this so that you know no two labors are the same. I’ve read and talked to people who have had epidurals with no side effects and said they felt no pain and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Others said the epidural numbed the pain so much they had a hard time pushing.
The human body is capable of a lot more than we give it credit for. Whatever you decide do not put too much pressure on yourself. As long as you and baby are happy and healthy is ultimately what matters.
In the end I was very happy with both of my deliveries. Having a natural childbirth wasn’t the easiest thing to do, but with various coping methods and a positive mindset it is achievable.
Share your questions or concerns below and I’ll do my best to respond.