I’m going to share with you 10 tips for how you can have a peaceful, natural childbirth, even if you have a low pain tolerance.
But before I do, I want to start by sharing something you may not already know: Every method of birth is natural childbirth. No matter how you bring your baby into this world, it’s 100% a natural way to do it.
Modern medicine has come such a long way and helps mothers daily deliver their babies safely. At the end of the day, a healthy mama and baby is always the goal. The method of bringing baby into this world is just part of your unique journey.
But if you have a low-risk pregnancy and are able to avoid unnecessary interventions, you may wish to achieve an unmedicated childbirth. You’ll likely begin to see this differentiation between unmedicated and natural as you research more on this topic. So in the spirit of celebrating all birth being “natural,” I’ll use “unmedicated” for the rest of this article.
How I was able to have a peaceful, unmedicated childbirth and how you can, too
When I found out we were pregnant, I was on a mission to do one thing: have an unmedicated childbirth. My mom had three and was ultimately my inspiration for considering that path for myself. But she has a way higher pain tolerance than me. I knew it was going to be a challenge and I wanted to be prepared.
I hated the thought of having an epidural for a few reasons personal to me. Something about getting a needle in my back and not being in total control over my body during delivery didn’t sit well with me. Having the freedom to move around and birth in the position that felt best appealed to me. I also wasn’t a fan of the risks, or that one intervention could potentially lead to other interventions. Last, I was quite terrified to rely on an epidural. If it wore off late in the game I feared I’d be worse off than if the labor pains were a slow build. To keep my anxiety at bay, I needed to “prepare for the worst.”
So I set out on a mission to prepare myself for an unmedicated childbirth. There had to be some way to manage the pain effectively! I was going to find it.
… And did I mention I usually have a low pain tolerance? A very low pain tolerance. Because that’s an important point to mention. (I promise that if I can do it, you can do it, too!)
How I was able to have a peaceful, unmedicated childbirth with a low pain tolerance
Thanks to a dear friend’s recommendation and her wonderful birth experience which still leaves me in awe and with chills, I chose a hypnobirthing program called Hypnobabies. In the past, hypnosis tracks were key in managing my IBS-related travel anxiety. I was (mildly?!) confident hypnosis would be a good choice for pain management during my delivery. In any case, I was willing to give it a shot.
Regardless of whether hypnosis is your cup of tea, I learned 10 key takeaways from my experience and planning. I hope they help you, too.
Here are my 10 tips to help you achieve a peaceful, unmedicated childbirth
- Decide to do it. Before you can prepare yourself for an unmedicated childbirth, you need to commit to it. Think about your motivation for doing this. Why is it important to you? Is it for health benefits? To prove to yourself that you can? To avoid medical intervention? Knowing why you want to have an unmedicated child birth is where the preparation begins.
- Believe you can do it. This sounds so simple, but in the end, it will be all about willpower. Regardless of your usual level of pain tolerance, you CAN do it. There will be a moment when you are staring your birthing time in the face and you will feel a sense of panic. You’re going to wonder whether you can make it the distance. This is normal. But in that moment, you need to pull strength from deep within yourself and believe you can do it. You can, mama!
- Find a healthcare provider that will support your goal. Discuss with your OB/GYN or midwife early on your goal of birthing unmedicated. This will help you gauge how the practice generally approaches unmedicated births. You should not feel pressure in any way from your medical staff to birth your baby in a certain way. If you sense that your healthcare provider is unsupportive or leery of a first time mom’s capability to deliver without intervention, consider finding a new practice.
There’s one thing your OBGYN wants you to know about aiming to deliver unmedicated: Have a plan!
- Take a preparation class. At my annual OBGYN visit, I brought up this blog post and asked the doctor who delivered our little nugget what she recommends to a mom considering an unmedicated birth. Her answer? Prepare. “Ideally you want to be in the best shape you can be when you get pregnant. You want to be healthy enough for pregnancy to avoid risk factors that could lead to induction or other interventions. But if you’re already pregnant, then come prepared. Whatever method you choose for your unmedicated birth, take a class and come prepared.”
I wasn’t surprised to hear her say this based on my experience. The first thing the on-duty OBGYN asked when I arrived and handed her my birth plan was what type of birth class I had done. Apparently many moms show up to the hospital wanting to have an unmedicated birth but do no such planning for it.
Not preparing for labor is the equivalent of showing up to a triathalon with no prior training expecting to win first place. You cannot expect to (easily) achieve something for which you do not prepare.
In labor, ignorance isn’t bliss. Hypnobirthing, the Bradley Method … whatever path you decide is up to you. But choose something so you at least know what to expect!
5. Surround yourself with positive birth stories. Hypnobabies has a concept called the “Bubble of Peace.” It sounded so silly to me at first, but I came to rely on it as my delivery time neared. I didn’t need to hear horror stories other mamas were (too) eager to share when I told them I planned to deliver unmedicated. When someone scoffed and commented, “Let’s see how long you last!” it was easy for me to smile and nod. I accepted the experience as her own and didn’t let it define how my experience was going to be. I would read positive birth stories from other hypnobirthing mamas to reinforce my decision.
6. Think about and identify your anxieties. What about labor and delivery is most scary to you? Make a list. Once you have identified what about the process is making you anxious, you can tackle each source of anxiety head-on. My big fear factor was being a patient in a hospital. But birthing centers were pretty far away and being near a NICU in case of emergency was my preferred option. Once I identified this fear, I committed us to a tour of the L&D unit at the hospital. I was able to ask questions, see the actual Mother/Baby Unit and visualize the process for when we arrived. Once I took the tour, interacted with some staff and saw firsthand the unit, it was no longer a source of anxiety. (My postpartum care nurses were absolutely amazing.)
7. Change your perspective. How you frame something in your mind makes a difference. Another thing I grew to like about Hypnobabies (though I found it rather odd at first!) is it eliminated scary vocabulary. Good-bye L&D language we’ve grown to associate with pain and negativity. For example, “contractions” that you get through become “birthing waves” that you ride through. And labor becomes “birthing time”. It is, after all, YOUR TIME to shine!
Reframing the scary terminology we associate with birth allows us to reprogram in our minds how an unmedicated childbirth can be. We clear space to envision for ourselves a positive experience. Think about the words that scare you about L&D and see how you can rephrase them to be more positive. Continue to use that adapted terminology throughout your pregnancy and leading up to your birthing time.
8. Listen daily to an affirmations audio track. It’s easy to get swept up in day-to-day anxieties throughout pregnancy such as waiting on test results, counting fetal movements and those last precious days before baby arrives. A daily affirmations track was extremely helpful in supporting and encouraging my positive mindset leading up to my unmedicated birth. I can say wholeheartedly that my nine months pregnant were the least anxious I have been in years; thanks, in part, to a daily affirmations track. The specific track I used is not available for individual sale. It was part of the home study course. But if you are interested, it’s available within a package of pregnancy tracks here. (I do not make a commission from sales of this program or track. This is my personal experience and recommendation.)
9. Make a (fluid) birth plan. There are A LOT of decisions to make during labor and delivery, and afterward for the immediate care of your newborn. You will want to research and discuss these with your partner in advance. Do you want delayed cord clamping? Will you accept pitocin? Is it your preference to have intermittent monitoring so you can walk around during labor? In what position would you prefer to push? Do you want your little boy to be circumcised and do you know the pros/cons? Are you strep positive and will you need to arrive at the hospital early to get started on antibiotics? Do your homework, but be willing to go with the flow as your birthing time progresses.
Sticking 100% to your plan may not be realistic and can cause you more stress depending on the situation. Originally I did not want to accept any pitocin (oh the horror stories I heard!), but after 2+ hours of pushing, I wanted the baby OUT. Mere seconds after I agreed (but before any significant amount was pushed through my IV), she decided she was ready to come out. (Yes, a positive pitocin story!) Don’t know where to start with your birth plan? You can download my free checklist coming soon!
10. Have a good support system in place. A supportive birth partner (be it a significant other, doula, or your mom) is secondary to believing in yourself, but still helpful for those moments of self doubt. In addition to your healthcare provider, make your plan to deliver unmedicated known to your support people. Explain why it’s important to you and clearly request that alternate methods not be discussed (if that’s your preference). I must give a shout-out to my Hubby who was extremely supportive of my decision. He was so supportive that he sat through the pain management sections of our birthing class so one of us could be educated in case I changed my mind. This allowed me to leave the room and focus on my “Bubble of Peace.”
If you find yourself without a support person cheering you on during your pregnancy, please reach out to me throughout your journey. You can reach me below in the comments section, or via email, or on social media (however you prefer). Every mama deserves to feel supported in accomplishing her dream delivery
One thing to remember as you near your birthing time is that the safety of you and your baby is paramount. There is no trophy for going through labor unmedicated. And, regardless of how extensively you prepare, you ARE NOT a failure if you decide to change courses based on your individual circumstances.
You are bringing a human being into this world and sometimes your little one has a different plan. So give yourself some grace throughout the process. Your birth story will be uniquely yours no matter how your baby arrives!
I love to share my birthing experience using Hypnobabies. There is so much to say about it that I’m dedicating a separate blog post to the topic. Drop me a question below in the comments section and I’ll answer it in that post!