Any healthy woman who has a low risk pregnancy can work towards a drug-free birth if that is what she desires. However, it does take time and effort to prepare yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Additionally, I really do think that all women need to have a mental plan on how they will deal with pain, even if they intend to have pain relief during labor.
I have had a natural birth in a hospital, and one in a birth center. Here are the biggest pieces of advice that I can give to any mother who is curious about pursuing a drug-free birth!
I have a few links throughout the article for affiliate links or websites. This is at no cost to you at all.
Have a plan… But be flexible
A birth plan is a beautiful thing, as long as you realize that it can never be set in stone. You do need to have a clue of your preferences for labor, birth and postpartum care; however, do research and educate your self on the various options in case Plan A becomes unattainable.
Here’s what I’m trying to prevent by writing this article: imagine a woman who just says “I don’t want to feel a thing! Hook me up to those pain meds as soon as I walk into the hospital!” But then she’s progressing too fast, or the anesthesiologist is running late, or misses, or the epidural wears off, or it makes the laboring mom too ill to use, or the baby is born on the way to the hospital… the list goes on. I don’t mean to scare anyone of course, but I do think that it’s wise to consciously find a way to deal with pain, should their Plan A fall through.
With my birth center baby, I actually have some early labor signs before she was full-term. I could not deliver at the birth center if I was not at least 37 weeks, and I panicked because I had not mentally prepared myself to ever give birth in a hospital again.
Let me put it this way: you should have an opinion about pretty much everything, but also be aware of the other options.
Get a supportive care provider
I’ll be honest, I am very partial to midwives! For me, that is the way to go – I feel like I get much more personalized care, I am listened to and really truly understood. But not all midwives are fantastic, and not all obstetricians are bad.
You do need to trust your care provider, and feel like they know you and your wishes for birth. You definitely do not want someone trying to twist your arm while you are in the emotional, exhausting struggle of active labor. You want to good trusting relationship with whoever will be overseeing your birth – it is proven that women can actually reverse their progress if someone comes in to the birthing room whom they do not like!
Surround yourself with supportive people
And I do not just mean in the birthing room. There will probably be people in your life who will try to tear you down, belittle you and tell you that you cannot have a natural birth. Whatever their motivation is for being this way, you do not need that negative energy and that personified doubt around you.
If you feel like educating them on why you’re doing what you were doing, throw any book by Ina May Gaskin at them. Otherwise, you should seriously consider avoiding them until after the birth (or at least avoiding the topic of birth if you do have to interact with them).
Your husband, your mom, your sister-in-law… No one should be in the birthing room unless you want them there. Period. I don’t care whose feelings you will hurt or what anyone else has to say. This choice should be yours and yours alone. (You can inform your midwife or labor nurse of your guest list, and they will play bouncer for you so that you do not have to feel like the bad guy).
Truly surround yourself with people who have the supported, positive energy that you want. Think of the cultures who celebrate birth, where women of the village surround the woman giving birth and smile at her. They are encouraging, excited, and proud of her! Imagine how much easier your labor can be if you are warmed by the sunshine of your loved ones.
It really worries me when I hear mamas say “I’d like to have a drug-free birth but I’ll just wing it and see what happens.” If you feel passionately about (at least trying) to go through the birth experience without drugs, you need to mentally prepare yourself. It’s honestly not something you can likely do by just showing up and having the desire.
Read, girl. READ. Devour anything you can by doulas and especially midwives – and if you don’t have a lady crush on Ina May Gaskin by the end of it all, I’ll be amazed. Seriously – she’s a game changer, y’all, and she’s lit a fire under my butt to try to help more moms.
You can also read books about pain-free birth, the history of birth, birth in cultures around the world, etc. Go crazy.
Watch videos. Look up hypnosis birth videos, Ina May Gaskin lectures (swoon), “The Business of Being Born”, anything and everything you can find. If you’ve never seen a video of a gentle Caesarean birth, look that up too – crazy cool!
Learn about the different pieces of information which will shape your birth: your OB/midwife’s delivery record, percentage of C-sections, etc; your hospital’s C-section rate and policies for labor and post partum care; read about the risks associated with induction, the epidural, a water birth, forceps, etc. You should feel like a pseudo-expert… and remember, this affects you as well as your unborn baby. It’s up to you to get informed.
Look Into A Birth Class
If you’re never given birth before, I highly recommend that you take a face-to-face birth class (with your partner, if possible). You’ll learn all kinds of terms and facts which will help you on your big day.
If you’ve given birth before, you might do well to just buy an online/at-home course and do it yourself. This depends on you and your comfort level; for my particular situation being a working mom with a 2-year old, this is what I chose to do and I don’t regret it.
Whether or not you take the class in person or at home, you’ll be given tasks to do as homework. You must do these if you want to be successful! The whole point is that you’re training your brain, essentially rewiring it to handle pain sensations differently than before. This will melt into how you physically respond to pain, but it won’t work unless you make it a habit. Listen to those meditations, do your hypnosis, read the passages. (I’m a teacher and actually enjoyed most of my classwork when it came to my birth hypnosis!).
The birth classes will cover topics like the stages of labor, dilation and the thinning of the cervix, helpful positions for labor, and most importantly, ways to combat the pain. You’ll quickly learn that it’s literally 95% a mental game.
I get frustrated sometimes with the thought that we need to mentally prepare ourselves to do something which our ancestors did on their own out in the woods; however, I do think that you need to have some tried-and-true tools in your arsenal when you start going into labor.
There are many different classes which offer pain relief and coping mechanisms; from hypnosis like HypnoBabies and Blissborn, which is what I did; to natural birth classes like Lamaze which include pain management in their course. Do some quick Googling, read some reviews, and pick what works for you.
Visualize and Listen
I’m a visual person even though I’m a music teacher, and really wanted some visualizations (both mentally, and on my phone) to help me see myself dilating, and my baby coming down to meet me.
We chose to name our daughter Lily, and so I found a gorgeous YouTube video of various flowers opening in a time-lapse. In the weeks before her birth, I watched these daily and imagined my body opening up effortlessly. I even made an opening-up motion with my hand, which I didn’t realize until my husband pointed it out!
A playlist of worship music, or just your favorite feel-good tunes, can also be beneficial. I even had some comedians’ stand up recordings on my phone! I was ready to laugh and smile as I welcomed my baby into our world.
Find what videos, photos, and music makes you feel happy and relaxed; that’s the type of stuff you should gravitate towards.
Be sure to download any content you have onto your device, so that you can access it without having to be hooked up to wifi.
Write a Mantra… Or Two
I think the absolute number one tip which really helped me was having a mantra and clinging to it when I felt weak.
A mantra is a word or short phrase, easily memorized and repeated over and over, which turns into a kind of chant. Your mind focuses on it over and over, and you concentrate on this instead of what’s going on down there.
I found lots in the books I read and in my class, and wrote them all on notecards. I’d look over them once or twice a day, and had them in my birth bag for my husband to grab (like that was going to happen amidst the chaos!).
Some of the mantras I embraced:
- You can do this.
- You were made to do this.
- Come on Baby.
- I’m so ready to meet you.
- I am in control.
- When I am not afraid, my body opens.
- Breathe the baby down and out.
- Instead of saying “ohhhhh”, say “ooooooopen”
The last one, “disconnect”… oh man, I still use that to this day – to help me get through migraines and other hardships I’m faced with. It was like a one-word command, telling my mind to just cut itself off from my body. Stop receiving pain signals, everything is fine. It’s not the pain that something’s wrong, it’s the pain of a human being exiting your body.
As soon as I’d utter the word, I’d immediately feel my pain decrease. It was there, but it was like it had blurred and faded, almost like I was seeing it from an out-of-body experience or looking through frosted glass.
Closing Thoughts From My Experiences
I liked taking the class at home and having the recordings to use at will; I found myself looking forward to each evening when I got to shut myself away in the quiet and practice my hypnosis.
However, I’ll admit that when I got into early labor, I didn’t think to start my hypnosis recordings. By the time I was really uncomfortable, Hubby and I were in survival mode and so I ended up not even using the hypnosis itself!
I did, however, really really utilize my mantras, specifically the word “disconnect”, and my lily flower visualization. You’re honestly in pain and it’s hard to concentrate or listen to anything complicated or detailed. You’ll find your body desperately seeking something simple and pure, almost primitive, to guide it through each contraction.
I’ll also say this… don’t try to go pain-free to prove anything to anyone. You don’t owe anybody that. If this is what you want to do for yourself and your baby, then damnit you do it. But don’t you dare let anyone pressure you to go through with this if it scares you, and don’t do it to spite anyone. The “I’ll show them!” mentality is not the way you want your baby to come into this world.
And on that note… your baby is still being affected by everything you do, all the way up until the umbilical cord is cut. It is your birth, yes, but it’s theirs too. Try to keep that little heart in mind as you make your birth preparations.
I hope this has been helpful in showing you how doable a pain-free birth really can be! You can also check out my related articles:
Here are some of those classes I was talking about (* indicates I’ve personally used this!):
And here are the books and videos I recommend (the books are affiliate links):
The Business of Being Born* (website and documentary)
Tell me: has this helped inform and inspire you?
If you’ve already given birth, how was your experience?
Let’s help each other!