Inside: Learn how to manage labor pain naturally and how to have a drug free childbirth.
Labor set in.
Where’s the gas??!! I need the gas NOW!”
My poor husband frantically ran out of the delivery room to find the doctor and get me some laughing gas to take the edge off.
See, I wanted to have a drug-free labor. But when my body told me, “push! It’s time to push“ and the doctor told me “Nope. You’re not ready.” and then left… I came to the realization that if I didn’t take the gas, I was going to push this baby out my butt (or at least rip all the way to my butt- which the doctor calmly explained to me would happen if I started pushing before I was ready).
It turns out, my body was right.
One contraction after the doctor left, my body knew it was time to push.
By the time my husband could round the doctor up and bring her back to my room, before they even had the chance to get the gas, the doctor quickly changed her mind.
“No time for gas. It’s time to push!”
(But this wasn’t news to me. My body already knew.)
45 minutes of pushing later and we held our sweet sweet son in our arms.
And all the pain of labor? Gone.
(Okay, the pain was very much still there, but the pain was the last thing on my mind as I was holding my baby in my arms for the first time ever.)
Can I be completely honest here? This isn’t some article filled with lots of nice sounding words and sentences that tell you how to have a pain free labor. There was pain involved. But thanks to the things I share below, I was able to allow my body to work with the pain rather than against it so that we could get through this whole labor thing as fast as possible.
The Problem of Being Afraid of Giving Birth
Long before I went into labor, I had the pleasure of speaking to one of the sweetest ladies I knew, who was also a doula.
She helped me calm my nerves and crush my fears when it came to labor and delivery.
I actually got excited about my fast-approaching labor.
After talking with an experienced doula and doing hours of research on labor and delivery, I learned two things:
- I wasn’t the only one who was scared to give birth
- Being afraid of giving birth can actually slow the entire birthing process down
Which means, when you’re in that delivery room the last thing you want to be thinking is, “I can’t do this,” “this is too painful,” “make it stop,”.
How Negative Thoughts Hinder Labor
Negative thoughts aren’t healthy at any point in your life – but they are something you particularly want to avoid when you’re in labor.
“I can’t do this. The pain is too much. This is too much for me to handle,”
“It hurts so bad. I can’t do this!,”
“I don’t know what to do! What if something goes wrong?”
If any of those thoughts start to creep into your mind while you’re in labor, your body can HALT the process.
Your body can say, “nope. This doesn’t seem like it’s a good idea. We’re going fight it and sloo-oo-ow this down.” And then it can flat out halt the labor.
“Negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can create chronic stress, which upsets the body’s hormone balance, depletes the brain chemicals required for happiness, and damages the immune system.” – Source
On the other hand, find assurance in the fact that if you were to go unconscious, your body could deliver this baby all on its own.
Your body knows what it’s doing.
Which is why it’s so important for you to work with your body, not against it.
When I went into that L&D room, I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that my body knew what to do. I knew I didn’t have to worry and as long as I followed the advice I got given, everything would be okay.
6 1/2 hours from start to finish and I was holding a beautiful baby boy.
Not too shabby for a first time mom.
The Effects of Using Pain Medication While in Labor
Using drugs, whether it be an epidural, laughing gas, or a narcotic are common practices during labor and delivery. However, there are some downsides to using them.
- Slows labor
Using drugs will likely make you drowsy and can interfere with the natural progress of labor, prolonging the process.
- Can lower baby’s heart rate
An epidural can lower your blood pressure during labor, causing your baby’s heart rate to drop. If the baby’s heart rate doesn’t return back to normal, this can be cause for concern.
- Makes pushing more difficult
Having an epidural can cause pushing to be more difficult, which could result in needing interventions like forceps or a C-section.
- Respiratory distress
Some studies suggest that in the baby’s whose birth moms had an epidural during labor are more likely to develop respiratory distress after birth requiring the infant to need oxygen.
- Nausea & vomiting in the mother
- Transmitted to baby
Some pain meds given during labor can be transmitted to the baby, which can cause side effects. This varies by the type of pain medication given.
Either way, both learning how to manage labor pain naturally or using pain medication during labor will have their pros and cons. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.
For me, it was a no brainer.
I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I knew I wanted to at least give a natural labor and delivery a shot.
Even though I tried to prepare myself as much as possible, I knew I still had no idea what I was getting into. What I learned during my natural labor and delivery shocked me – the part I thought would be the most painful part of labor was actually a relief.
And the part that I thought would be a breeze? It hurt like no one’s business. (Hey- no one said natural and drug-free childbirth was easy.)
The Most Painful Part of Labor (and why it’s really not that bad)
Going into labor, I assumed that the contractions would be the part I could breeze through. I knew they’d be painful, but I was well equipped with all my tips on how to manage labor pain naturally, so I’d be good.
The part of labor that terrified me was actually pushing that baby out. of. my. body.
That part didn’t sound fun.
To my surprise, I quickly learned that labor contractions? They’re not a walk in the park. And the pushing part? PURE RELIEF.
Thankfully I was equipped with the best labor advice ever receive so I was ready to face the unexpected, and I was able to face it with as much of my dignity intact as humanly possible. (Which isn’t much, in case you’re wondering.)
How to Speed Up Early Labor
Walking is the best thing you can do for speeding up labor.
And then walk some more.
I’m convinced the only reason my labor was so short was that I didn’t stay in bed like a couch potato. I got up and walked – for hours upon hours until I was just about ready to push.
The odds were stacked against me:
- First-time mom
- Early (baby definitely didn’t want to come out yet)
- Induced labor
There was very little chance of my labor being quick and easy. In fact, my husband made it his duty to ask just about every nurse in the hospital how short the shortest induced labor they had seen was.
The answer was 8 hours.
My labor beat the odds by 1 1/2 hours and I truly believe it’s because I walked everywhere I could, for as long as I could, dragging my IV monitor alongside me.
“Women who use upright positions and are mobile during labor have shorter labors, receive less intervention, report less severe pain, and describe more satisfaction with their childbirth experience than women in recumbent positions.” – NCBI
If you really want to speed up your labor, be active. (But do be careful that you don’t tire yourself out too much – since you’ll need energy for pushing.)
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How to Cope With Contractions Naturally
Getting my labor going was the fun part. My anticipation was so high I felt ready to explode (or perhaps that was just the baby intruding the birth canal…), there wasn’t much pain at this point, and I knew soon we’d be holding our sweet baby in our arms.
What I forgot about was the in-between. You know, the part of going from early labor to giving birth.
Thankfully, I knew how to handle the contractions and as each one came, I focused on the fact that the contractions were bringing us that much closer to meeting our sweet baby.
Here are a few tips you can use to handle contractions (because yes – contractions are painful).
1. Don’t fight the pain
Contractions in early labor are a breeze compared to once things really get moving.
I remember thinking, “Wow. This is it? This isn’t so bad after all.”
Ha! It wasn’t so bad after all because all I was experiencing were the minor early labor pains. I had no idea what was coming up ahead.
Hard labor hit, and I finally got it. I finally got why every woman says labor is so painful. They weren’t wrong, I can tell you that much.
I clenched my hands, scrunched my eyes shut, and tightened my jaw. Everything in my body screamed, “STOP IT.”
The contraction made me panic. The pain persuaded me to think that this was something I couldn’t handle.
And then I remembered the stuff I had learned. How negative thoughts could slow down labor. How even if I didn’t know what I was doing, my body knew. How each contraction was my body’s way of bringing my baby into the world.
So I un-scrunched, un-clenched, and un-tightened. I let my whole body go limp. (As limp as possible while my abdomen tightened more and more until it felt like an army of raging soldiers were about to burst out.)
Reminding myself that if I were unconscious (and partially wishing I was unconscious), my body could deliver this baby all on its own. It didn’t need me or my panic.
I packed the negative thoughts to the back of my mind, ignored the fear, and with each new contraction, I found something to focus on so my mind wasn’t dwelling on the pain.
2. Let Your Hands Loose
The typical labor scenes you see in every TV show have it all wrong. (You know, the ones with the woman screaming at the top of her lungs that she can’t do this and squeezing the bedrails so hard she leaves an indent?)
Clenching your body when you’re in pain is a natural response, but clenched hands mean… your body is not relaxed.
And when your body isn’t relaxed, you’re hindering the labor.
Something I did each time a contraction came on was focus on keeping my hands loose. I held my husband’s hand so that I would realize if I started to squeeze or clench my hands.
When your hands are loose and relaxed, you know your body is too.
With relaxed hands and a relaxed body you’re allowing the labor to progress naturally and as quickly as possible.
3. Do Something
Until you’re at the point in your labor where your contractions are so painful that you can’t be out of bed, be doing something at all times.
The best way to make labor less painful without drugs is to distract yourself.
For me, this meant bouncing on my labor ball (I strongly recommend bringing a labor ball with you to your delivery. They can also be used throughout your pregnancy to help position baby for labor) to help baby move into the birth canal while my husband rubbed my back.
4. Find a Focal Point
I searched my labor and delivery room until something caught my eye. The clock on the wall jumped out at me, so each time I felt a contraction come on I would fight everything in me that made me want to shut my eyes, and I looked at the clock.
I wasn’t timing my contractions… I was simply watching the second-hand tick, tick, tick.
Finding a focal point is an important step to relaxing during labor and allowing your body to do what it knows how to do.
It doesn’t matter what you focus on. It could be a rip in your husband’s shirt, the doctor’s glasses, you could even let your mind wander to somewhere outside the hospital to a happy memory.
The point of this excise is to take your mind off of the pain and find something else to think about.
5. Take a Shower
Taking a bath is a commonly recommended practice to ease early labor pain while you’re still laboring at home.
And taking a shower is just as good of a way to ease labor pain after you’re at the hospital. Most hospital delivery rooms should have a shower in them (you can always ask before you go in to deliver to ensure they do).
Sitting on a stool in the shower and letting the warm water run down my back and abdomen worked wonders in helping ease labor pain, plus it gave me a moment to rest from walking around or bouncing on my labor ball.
Doing something other than laying in bed is a good way to help labor progress and take your mind off of it.
How to Help Contractions Progress + Why This is Important
Being active during labor in the form of walking, gently bouncing on a birthing ball, or slowly swaying with your partner isn’t only a good way to take your mind off the pain, it also helps alleviate some of the discomforts and helps labor progress quicker.
“Walk around as much as possible between contractions. Walking helps the baby to move down into position and push on the opening of the cervix.” – We Have Kids
Studies have been done that show women who either walked around or were simply in an upright position during the early stages of labor had labors that were an average of 1 hour and 22 minutes shorter than those who labored in a recumbent position.
The women in the upright position were also less likely to get an epidural or a C-section.
The same study goes on to state:
“Women who use upright positions during labor have shorter labors, receive less intervention, report less severe pain, and describe more satisfaction with their childbirth experience than women in semirecumbent or supine positions.” Source
When I hear women talk about how grueling their labor was, and then they follow it up by talking about how once they got to the hospital they didn’t leave the bed once… well, the studies speak for themselves.
Now I know that you could be active and do “all the right things” and still have a horrible and long labor. That’s true.
But, chances are, if you are active during the first stage of labor particularly, your chances of having an easier labor are significant.
How can I relax during labor?
The best way to relax during labor is to remember to breathe.
There are many different breathing techniques for labor. I used The Bradley Method breathing techniques to help ease pain and keep my breathing controlled during contractions.
The Bradley Method, aka the Husband-Coached Childbirth, is one of the most popular childbirth methods around, and for good reason.
It emphasizes the natural process of labor and a woman’s body and how to trust the body during labor and delivery. It also teaches couples to work together through deep breathing and shows your partner how they can support you in the delivery room.
Check out The Bradley Birthing Method here.
How can I make labor less painful
Manage your labor pains naturally and ease the discomfort by allowing your body to do what it was created to do. Don’t fight the pain, instead, when you feel a contraction coming on remember to relax your body parts as your abdomen tightens.
Walk around and be active to help labor progress quicker, and when your legs get sore sit on your labor ball and gently bounce and roll your hips from side to side to help baby work its way into the birthing canal.
How to Manage Labor Pain Naturally & How to Have a Natural Childbirth… Your Turn
I’d love to know – if you’ve given birth, what was your experience like? Were you satisfied with your labor and delivery? What was the best way to ease contractions and speed up labor that worked for you? Feel free to share your tips with everyone below!