Are you sure I can have a birth without an epidural?
First, let’s dispel the myth that women giving birth “naturally”, i.e. drug free (which usually means without an epidural), are some sort of heroines. Every woman who has given birth is a heroine, the circumstance of her birth irrelevant to the testimony of her heroism. Women who give birth without drugs can do so by utilizing natural tools which allow us to relieve the pain. It is a myth to think that drug-free births are more heroic, rather, they are usually the result of a myriad number of means of simply feeling the contractions less. Drug-free births still feel the contraction intensity via pressure, a sense of movement, and “highs”. We know we’re in the midst of a contraction, but we can minimize the pain, even not feel it at all at times. And to top it all off, some women even get to a state of pleasure (yes, you read it – pleasure).
So back to the question: Are you sure I can have a birth without an epidural? The answer is: Very. Strong. Likelihood. The reason is that, thankfully, there are TONS of techniques to use to minimize, and even eliminate at times, the feeling of contractions. Here they are:
DISCLAIMER: The below does not apply for women on Pitocin or any other drug which creates artificial contractions.
Achieving Natural Birthing
Here are ways of feeling mostly pressure/intensity with contractions, as opposed to pain. Using these techniques, many women even feel pleasure. (Yes, that kind of pleasure.)
The Three Basics
-Physical state of relaxation, using a relaxation technique
-Physical, emotional, and technical support throughout the labor (partner, doula, parent, supportive medical staff)
-Being in tune with exactly what YOU feel is best for you and your baby.
-Relaxation techniques – always starting with the relaxation points as a focus. You might change which ones help you the most, or you might focus on just one. A key aspect is to drop your shoulders.
-Hot water bottles
-Hot water via the shower (for 2nd births and beyond, shower only in the place you plan to give birth! The shower can really speed up labor and next thing you know, you’re pushing in the shower.) The shower is often THE PLACE TO BE. Its warmth, massage qualities, and rhythm of water flow help many women dilate easier.
-Direct pressure and/or massage on the place you feel contractions
-Being in the optimal position for YOU (could be on the ball, leaning on a chair, all fours, etc.)
-Visualizations (the “image” you love to look at; it gives you pleasure and makes you feel relaxed)
-Vocalization (moaning, singing). A tip: Avoid screaming, unless it’s at the very end, when things are most intense (9-10 cm) as it might help you to release tension, but otherwise it raises adrenaline. Release with one or two screams, and then, ideally, get back into the relaxation focus.
-Voicing any fears you might have – release them, and you’ll feel free to move on.
-Prayer. Certain verses that speak to you. Make them rhythmic for you – a mantra.
-Music. Many women bring along their audio files with relaxation mantras or music they love, etc.
-Smiling. What? Yes, the act of smiling in itself releases the pleasure hormones endorphins and serotonin. Try it now. Then frown. Which one actually makes you feel good?
In short, any combination above can alleviate most of the feeling of the contraction such that you can get through it without drugs. It is often most intense at the very end (called “transition”). Many women ask for an epidural at transition, but if you’ve gotten that far, most likely you can just keep going when you maintain the Three Basics (see above).
Just have those supporting you trained to not take no for an answer, and to keep supporting you in the ways that you know are best for you, and to remind you of all of the above techniques. It’s great to practice with them beforehand, as a laboring woman is not expected to remember A THING.
And in most cases, once you are fully dilated (around 10cm) and you feel the urge to push, you won’t need to try to relax anymore, and you’ll have something to channel the contractions into – pushing!
Here’s to using various techniques to achieve easiest birthing, all the while coupled with tapping into our God-given strengths.