Natural Childbirth used to be the only form of childbirth. Since epidurals and pain relievers came along, natural and unmedicated births are no longer the norm. However, natural births are slowly back on the rise! If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re considering (or set on) having a natural childbirth. Not to worry, these tips and tricks can help to ease your mind, and prepare you for your journey ahead!
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What is a natural birth?
The definition of a natural birth sometimes differs, as people have different perspectives. But generally, a natural birth is a vaginal birth that is unmedicated, meaning no pain medications or epidural.
Understanding how an unmedicated birth works, and being prepared will make the whole process so much less stressful.
In this article you will find:
- benefits of having a natural birth for mom and baby
- tips for having a natural birth
- techniques for managing pain & relaxation during labor
- stories and tips from moms who have gone through a natural birth
Natural Childbirth Benefits
Benefits for Baby
There are a lot of great benefits for babies that are born through a natural birth.
- The baby isn’t exposed to pain medications – Pain medication also enters into the babies bloodstream and affects them the same as it does the mom, causing them to possibly feel disoriented and drowsy, and it causes the heart rate to lower. It’s also been said to cause a weakened immune system in babies.
- Your body decides when the baby is ready – Of course, if you NEED to be induced early for medical reasons, it’s got to be done. But a natural birth focuses on letting your body and baby come when they are ready. Medications that forcibly induce labor tend to put stress onto the baby because the medication forces contractions that are coming more often than they normally would, and that’s a lot for the baby to take. It’s better to wait for the body to labor like it wants to cause minimal stress on mom and baby.
Benefits for Mom
There are also a lot of benefits for moms when they choose to have a natural birth.
- You feel in control – You know exactly how your body feels because you aren’t numb. You can feel the contractions, and you know when and how to push. Whereas when your numb, you aren’t able to feel any of that, you just push when they tell you too. If you’re pushing too forcefully you’re also more likely to tear. You can also get up and walk around, or do whatever you need to do to get more comfortable, rather than being stuck in a hospital bed.
- No side effects from medications/epidural – Studies have shown that mother’s who are medicated during labor are more likely to end up needing a c-section, which results in a much longer recovery period. They’ve also shown that mothers who do not use the epidural are less likely to have a perineal tear.
- Epidural anesthesia is said to lengthen labor – specifically the time in which you’re pushing. If you aren’t able to feel your body and know what it needs, you will be delaying the process by not doing your part to get through labor.
Tips for Having A Natural Birth
- Get a good midwife or doctor– First, what’s the difference between a doctor and a midwife? They both deliver babies, but doctors typically deliver in hospitals. Midwives generally focus on natural, unmedicated births with women who have low-risk pregnancies, either at birthing centers or home births. Ask for suggestions from local Facebook pages, or find reviews on google to find a good doctor or midwife!
- Get a doula– A doula is a birthing coach. She does not deliver the baby, she is there to provide you with support before, during, and after childbirth. Through emotional and physical support, and helping to keep you educated through the process, she’s the one who will encourage you to keep going when things get tough!
- Get educated– Getting educated on natural birth, and learning about all of the many benefits can really help you feel more confident in your choice. I highly recommend the movie “The Business of Being Born.” It completely changed my view on natural birth and gave me the assurance that an unmedicated birth was what I wanted for my next child. You can purchase the double DVD set on Amazon, or you can try the 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime video, and rent it on there for a couple of bucks! I suggest watching it as soon as possible because it will help you go through your pregnancy more confident in your decision!
- Take classes– A birthing class can make all the difference in the world when it comes to making it through a natural birth. You can search for local birthing classes, or you can try an online prenatal course. The benefit to an online course is that you and your partner can do it at a time that’s convenient for both of you. My friend Hilary offers an online prenatal course that is packed with information! You can check it out here, and watch a video that talks about the course, and if you scroll down you can see exactly what the course offers in each lesson!
- Talk to other moms– Talk to friends that have gone through it. If you don’t have any friends that have had a natural birth, look for groups on facebook, there’s a TON of them that are full of great advice.
- Stay hydrated– It’s important to stay hydrated during labor because it will help keep your energy up and lessen the fatigue. Hydration is also said to help shorten the overall length of labor.
Techniques for Managing Pain During Labor
- Movement– Movement is so important during labor, and it is one of the reasons a natural labor is so beneficial. When you have an epidural, there is no moving. No standing up and walking, no using the bathroom, nothing! Being able to move helps relieve the pain, and you can move through the contractions to help the intensity. Here are some movements that women often do to help with the pain of labor:
- bouncing on a birthing ball
- rocking back and forth on all fours
- Water Immersion– Many women swear that water immersion is the key to getting through labor. Not only is being in water relaxing, but it helps a lot with the pain. A warm bath can do wonders. If you don’t have a bathtub, you can also just sit in the shower.
- Heat/Cold– Heat and cold are great for pain management, especially if you’re experiencing back labor. You can alternate between heat and cold to see which you prefer. You can try a warm rice sock, water bottle, or heating pad. For cold, you can try one of the soft gel ice packs that don’t get too cold.
- Massage– Physical touch is important during labor. Not only does it help you to be less tense, which helps reduce the pain, but it also distracts from the pain.
Techniques for Relaxation During Labor
- Breathing – Breathing is always the first thing people think about when it comes to giving birth. While that sounds silly, because it’s something we naturally do every second of the day, there are so many techniques and strategies when it comes to breathing during labor that are so beneficial for getting through a natural childbirth. – This article goes over a bunch of breathing techniques for each of the different phases of labor.
- Yoga/Meditation – Yoga and meditation are relaxation techniques, as well as pain management techniques, that many women practice through their pregnancy. A lot of doulas will help you practice these techniques beforehand so you can be ready to apply it during labor.
- Aromatherapy– Aromatherapy has been known to help with relaxation. A lot of women use essential oils in a diffuser, on their bodies, or even just to breathe in from the bottle during labor. Certain essential oils are known for their relaxation powers.
Natural Birth Stories – 10 Moms Share Their Experiences
You will hear from moms who:
- always wanted a natural birth
- did NOT want a natural birth but had one anyway
- moms who didn’t get an epidural but opted for minimal pain medication
Stories from moms who always knew they wanted a natural birth:
Lauren from Simply Well Balanced says:
“Having a natural, unmedicated delivery was something I always looked forward to attempting. When my first baby was discovered to be breech at 38 weeks, I was devastated. I did everything I could to try to get her to turn, but she stayed firmly in place and was delivered via C-Section at 40 weeks. Living in a rural VBAC ban area this meant that I would be forced to have subsequent C-Section deliveries.
I did my research and learned everything I could about VBAC deliveries and opted to travel two hours in labor to a large city to deliver at a supportive hospital. It made all the difference. Not only was the hospital equipped to handle any emergencies, but my labor nurse was also a natural VBAC mom and helped so much along the way. I also hired a doula who had given birth to 3 unmedicated VBAC babies herself.
Being surrounded by people who are familiar with natural labor was a huge part of the success. They were supportive and were able to tell me that everything I was experiencing was normal. I suggest having at least one person in your delivery room who has experienced multiple natural deliveries to be your advocate during the process. Most medical staff are quick to intervene when it isn’t necessary.”
Sheena from Laptops and Naptimes says:
You can read her article on natural birth tips here!
Stacey from Milkology says:
“My water unexpectedly broke when I was 36.5 weeks pregnant. At the hospital, they gave me Pitocin to induce and speed up labor. I was given Pitocin around 2 pm and my daughter was born 7 hours later at 9:22 pm. After the Pitocin, I felt the contractions come on strongly right away. Those 7 hours I completely lost track of time and went into another space. It was the most primal feeling I ever felt. The pain was intense and felt like waves of the worst period cramps you could ever feel. I made guttural noises and sounded like an animal at times. Usually, I’m conscious of how I am, how I look, how I sound, and how I appear to others but that whole time I didn’t care at all. It was almost like I was having an out of body experience and my body took over.
The best advice I can give is to get into a warm body of water asap! My midwife drew me a deep bath when I was transitioning into the pushing stage and it was amazing the difference and how much relief it gave me! It still hurt but it took the pain level down several notches. After going through a natural birth you’ll have SO much respect for your body and what it’s capable of!”
Eva from Happy Blogging Mom says:
“The moment I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I have decided that I want to have a natural home birth. To be on the safe side, I took a midwife to guide me through the birth.
The home birth was an amazing experience for my husband and me! It is one that we will never forget! We are so grateful for such a beautiful experience of giving a natural birth at home!
My tip for you is that if you decide to give a natural birth is that you must listen to your body! When you are having contractions, try to let them be and connect to yourself and don’t fight the pain!
The moment you will start listening to your body, the contractions will seem a little less painful.”
Katie from Katie Goes Platinum says:
“I had my first son in 2001, using the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth,
Unfortunately, my doctor wasn’t on board. She had a very bad attitude and refused to even discuss my birth plan with me. She kept making remarks about how I “had to have my baby on the due date”, as she had a ski vacation planned that weekend. I was afraid that she would break my waters without my permission, so on the baby’s due date, I canceled my appointment. She called me all afternoon and I refused to pick up.
She went on her ski vacation, and I went into labor later that night. The next day, I checked into the hospital and met the on-call doctor. He sat down and read my birth plan, and he did everything he could to make sure my birth went smoothly.
The only thing I wasn’t prepared for was the pain – I knew it would be painful, but I had back labor and it was INTENSE. I grabbed my husband by the lapels at one point and said “GIVE ME THE DRUGS” (just like they said might happen), but it was too late. I’m glad, as my son was born healthy and the pain was over the moment he was born!
I highly recommend the Bradley method to expectant mothers who are thinking of going natural. It gives you the information you need to make informed choices about your childbirth.”
Natasha from The Artisan Life says:
“I had an amazing, empowering natural birth with my now 18-month-old.
My biggest piece of advice for anyone who wants an unmedicated birth is to prepare. Giving birth is natural, but preparation is still important! My mom is an OBGYN and she always says that preparation is essential for anyone who wants a natural birth. Because of her advice, I studied Hypnobabies while pregnant in 2017.
Because of Hypnobabies, I had an incredible natural birth experience in a hospital. Pushing was physically intense, but thanks to my Hypnobabies tracks and queues, I was never in pain during my birthing time. I was literally walking around minutes before I started feeling “pushy” and wondering if I was “making enough progress” (I declined cervical checks due to ruptured membranes) – that’s how comfortable I was! My contractions, or “pressure waves” in Hypnobabies lingo, simply felt like a tight squeeze around my abdomen. I truly have no idea what people mean when they say contractions are painful. I can’t recommend Hypnobabies enough.”
Christina from Raising Biracial Babies says:
“Both of my kids were born at home. I had planned home births for both of them. They were pretty quick labor and deliveries and I had no issues during pregnancy, delivery or postpartum. Some of the best things about having a home birth was only having a couple of people with me who I knew very well during my deliveries, and not having to go anywhere. I gave birth in my bedroom and recovered in my bedroom. I chose to have a home birth because I wanted to give birth with people I trusted in an environment I was comfortable in.
To prepare, I had a midwife I trusted, took a natural childbirth class, had a doula, and read a lot of childbirth books. I believe that if you want to have a home birth, you need to be low risk, be knowledgeable about your choices for pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and have the mindset that you can give birth naturally, (instead of fearing something will go wrong). I also think it’s important to have a realistic plan for if something does happen and you need to be transferred to the hospital. I was very happy with the birth of my kids and would do it again in the future.”
Christina also has an article having a natural birth that you can check out!
Stories from moms who did NOT want a natural birth and had one anyway
Libby from Because Mom Says says:
“While I never planned to have a natural childbirth, that is how things turned out when I had my son 7 years ago. I was a first-time mom and wasn’t sure what to expect but I knew I was planning on a medicated birth.
My son was late, and I was scheduled to be induced a few days after his due date. As I laid in the hospital bed my contractions began and I instantly knew all the pain I’d been warned of. Shortly after, nurses came in to administer my epidural.
About 30 minutes later, the pain was growing in intensity, and I was starting to think this epidural thing a joke. The nurses returned and checked on the epidural. It was then that they informed me it had migrated to a blood vessel and they would need to remove it and try again. This occurred 2 more times, until it was concluded that my body was just not going to accept it.
I had not prepared for a natural birth, I knew nothing about having a natural birth or how I was supposed to tolerate the pain! While my labor was certainly not pleasant, had I been prepared it could have been so much easier.
My advice, to any expectant mother, is to prepare yourself for a natural birth! Although you may not plan for it, you will be so thankful to be overly prepared, in the event something like this were to occur!”
Amy from The Purple Monarch says:
“I was pregnant with my 3rd son and some kidney issues were noticed during the ultrasounds. It was monitored closely but for the most part, everything seemed okay so I could deliver at my hospital. I ended up being 6 days overdue so I had a routine ultrasound to make sure it was safe to continue or if I would need to be induced. At the ultrasound, they found that his kidney condition had deteriorated so I was going to have to be induced at a different hospital with the best NICU in the area. I was scheduled for an induction the next morning but my water broke that night. We got to the hospital and things were progressing really fast. I felt like I was in triage forever. I was already begging for an epidural. I had had an epidural with my other 2 boys and had never planned on not having one this time. Of course, it seems like time moves so slowly when you are in labor and it felt like I was in triage forever. When I finally got up to the delivery room they had paged the anesthesiologist and by the time he was placing the epidural, I could literally feel my body pushing the baby out. The first epidural was not in the right spot so he had to take it out. By this time the baby was just coming out. I wanted him to try to put the epidural in again but they told me there was no time. I was panicked because this was not the plan but I took a deep breath and told myself that this was real life and this was happening so I was going to have to dig deep and just do what I needed to do. I closed my eyes the whole time and managed to find a strength I never knew I had. Unfortunately, I birth large babies and this guy was the biggest yet. At 10 lbs 3 oz he was TOO big and his shoulder got stuck. This can cause nerve damage to the baby if they don’t correct the shoulder positioning and get him out right away. I think they have a minute until things can go downhill. All I remember is the doctor yelling to start the time and just a rush of people coming in. A nurse was on top of me pushing on my belly and the doctor was trying to move the baby and guide him out. Panic and fear rushed over me. I had no idea what was happening. Luckily they got him out and he was ok. I was just so happy he was here and this birth was over!
My advice to a mom who wants to have a natural birth is to have good tools for managing her labor. Be prepared and practice the techniques beforehand. You want to stay as calm as possible. Don’t be me and panic, BUT you have to be mentally prepared for things to not go according to plan. You never know how things are going to go.”
Amy also has an article on creating a birth plan that you can check out!
A story from a mom who had the best of both worlds:
DaLynn from DaLynn RMC says:
“I consider all three of my first children to be natural births, even though they were induced because of my chronic high blood pressure. With my oldest, who is now 20, I was barely 19 years old. I’d done my research, though, and I knew that IV medication was an option. After a sleepless night, I had a half-dose of demerol at 6 am so I could sleep between contractions. They say a dose lasts for four hours, and my son wasn’t born until after 2 pm. I’d missed the last childbirth class the night before, which had upset me because it was the social party. The doctor had a good laugh with the nurses, because my three good pushes resulted in a healthy baby boy, and he was amused that I’d really wanted to go to that last class. I guess he thought I didn’t need it!
With my second son, I’d been induced for two full days the previous week with no results, and again all day the previous day with no result. With all three births, they did break my water, and within a half hour we had a baby. This baby had the cord around his neck so his heart rate would drop with each contraction. I was loud, and the nurses were annoyed; they finally convinced me to get a half dose of Demerol. Mid-push, the third of maybe seven or so pushes – they’d slowed me down because of the dropping heart rate – she pressed the Demerol through the IV. Baby’s head emerged and they cut the cord, nicking him with the scissors in the process (because it was so tight, they said). One more push and baby was here. A moment of wiping him down and they moved me to a bed with wheels. Halfway through moving to the bed, that Demerol hit. My legs went out from under me and if my mother hadn’t pushed the wheelchair under my butt I’d have landed on the floor! I’d been fine up until that, and even the nurse said, “Oh! There’s that Demerol! I was wondering….”
My third son, same song, second (third?) verse. I was induced all day with no results. Day 2, I insisted that the doctor break my water. He did – and then he left the building to go to lunch. He almost didn’t make it back before the baby was born. The nurse would’ve handled it just fine. I’d said, “If I can’t push now, I might need a little medicine.” She checked me and said I was dilated to a 9 and that she’d get the IV, and then I pointed out that I was pushing at an 8 with both of my other children. She moved into high gear but the foot of the bed was last on the list, and here came baby’s head! The doctor ran into the room, still putting on his gown. He got one glove on but yanked the other sleeve down over his hand to catch my third healthy baby boy – a 9lb 1oz chunk!
My advice to moms who want a natural childbirth? Do your research. It’s not all or nothing. You don’t have to do natural or epidural. There are plenty of in-between options. But if you truly want a natural birth, learn all the coping methods you can. Teach your coach the methods, and help coach understand that (he) must be strong and help you when you want medicine. Pain makes you do things that you wish you hadn’t — but have a code word for the case that he needs to give way and let you do what you need to do. TWO keys to natural childbirth, ladies:
- Be committed. Be educated. Be smarter than your nurse. 😉
- Have a great coach. Mine was my mother. I’m glad hubby was there and he did great, but my pain coach was definitely my mom. She was amazing. I couldn’t have done it without her. “
We hope these tips, tricks, and personal birth stories can help you through your natural birth journey!
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