Hi, friends! Boy! This is a big topic, so I was extra careful about being sure that I was ready to write this article and fully answer your questions. So let’s talk about how to give birth without an Epidural.
If you’re new to Mama Fearless, you should know that this topic is very personal for me, as I gave birth to both of my boys in the hospital without any medications or interventions.
This was, for me, my definition of “natural birth.” If you’ve read about 5 things to avoid if you’re planning a natural birth, you know that I am a huge believer in mamas defining what natural birth means to them, and sticking to it.
For me, natural birth meant giving birth in a hospital, med-free.
So let’s talk about how you can manage those contractions without an Epidural.
How to Give Birth Without An Epidural
Please note: The focus of Mama Fearless is not to esteem one method of birth over another. It’s focus is to help mamas feel confident in whatever method of birth they choose.
Also note that these tips are not a guarantee of successful natural birth, only ways to help manage contractions and labor based on my own experiences.
I’m an affiliate marketer, which means I’ll make a commission via your clickthrough or purchases at no extra cost to you.
First of all, is it possible to give birth in the hospital without an Epidural?
Second, should you do it?
I don’t know. That’s a decision for you to make between you and your doctor or healthcare provider.
I’ll say this.
It’s common to hear that hospitals strongly advise mamas to receive an Epidural during labor.
It’s also common to hear that hospitals manipulate labor so they can perform c-sections, for whatever reason.
Let me just start by saying that I am no doctor or healthcare provider. My only credentials are that I am a mother who gave birth to two babies in less than 2 years.
But let me tell you this as well. I never had a single person at the hospital “pressure” me to have an Epidural. I never had a single person pressure me or try to administer Pitocin during my labor.
Cesarean is considered major surgery. It comes with a lot more risk than vaginal birth.
A physician would be foolhardy to lean on a healthy, laboring mama to have a c-section for no reason because if something were to go amiss, it’s forever recorded in their history as a doctor–and it’s forever recorded in the history of the hospital.
So do I buy into the theory that all doctors are evil and will intentionally do something that will hurt you or put you at risk for no reason?
And this is important for you to think about to feel comfortable laboring in the hospital.
But that’s just my two cents. So I’ll sip my coffee and move on now.
What Does It Take to Give Birth Without An Epidural?
There are two important factors that I feel play into being able to give birth without an Epidural.
The first is mental preparation. This is so, crazy crucial in my opinion.
The second is knowing what to expect. This doesn’t mean having too much information (I feel like that will work against you).
What’s important is having enough knowledge to understand how the laboring process works–from your perspective.
In my opinion, you don’t need to know every minute detail of what’s going on “down there” while you labor.
In fact, I strongly feel like this can potentially work against you, too, and take your focus off of what matters.
Instead of focusing on all the details, focus on your instincts and on the things you can totally control.
10 Tips to Give Birth Without An Epidural
Here a 10 things that I found so important and helpful when it came to giving birth to my sons.
Was it easy? Not really. It was work.
I didn’t understand everything and had to ask questions sometimes, but I wasn’t afraid. More on that later (it’s super important).
1. Feel Prepared
I spoke earlier about mental prep. That’s the majority of the preparation. But more than actually being prepared is feeling prepared.
The difference is that you might have everything it takes, but you need to know that you have everything it takes.
Take time to learn a little bit about what to expect during labor.
When those contractions hit, you need to be able to recognize them and not be afraid of them.
This also means feeling physically prepared.
If you get to delivery day and then frantically start thinking, “Oh no! Am I strong enough to do this? I didn’t do anything to physically stay strong! Can I do this?” you’re going to lose focus.
No, you don’t necessarily have to be able to run a marathon or contort into a pretzel to give birth, but you do need a measure of physical strength to confidently labor.
Basically, don’t spend your entire pregnancy on the couch.
2. Feel Confident
Is it possible to have a fearless labor and birth experience?
Giving birth is the most natural feat of womanhood.
Your body was designed to do it, and it doesn’t require a vast number of degrees or a stack of books to accomplish it.
Your body automatically has the tools to labor and have that baby.
Think about that for a second.
It’s one of the oldest processes in the history of mankind. Before there was ever a doctor or university or hospital, there were mothers.
I am so thankful to have doctors and hospitals! But that’s a nice, added perk.
Your body knows exactly what to do. It’s a painful process, but it’s not pain that means something is wrong. It means everything is right and normal.
The discomfort is your body working and laboring for that baby.
Understanding this will take your mind to the next level of confidence and will launch you into a different, better place to give birth.
3. Birthing Ball
I used a birthing ball during both pregnancies and labors. This doesn’t mean that I was a fitness guru (I wasn’t) or an expert.
A birthing ball is a great way to align your hips and pelvis during pregnancy and do low-intensity exercises.
I actually labored on my birthing ball.
It was a comfortable place to sit when those contractions came and making circular hip movements gave me a lot of relief.
I spent my labor on the birthing ball next to the bed and didn’t get in the bed until it was pushing time.
4. Stay Upright During Labor
An important factor in laboring is using all natural resources available.
One of those incredible, free resources is gravity.
Let gravity help you move that baby down and into position.
Stay upright. You can even ask the hospital staff to incline your bed so that you’re not flat when it’s time to push.
5. Calm Atmosphere
Stress, fear and anxiety have the ability to literally change how your contractions feel. I learned this firsthand.
Contractions fall into a natural rhythm that grows in intensity. Because it’s a rhythm and it is natural, it’s manageable.
But the second you start to feel stressed or anxious, the natural rhythm is thrown off. This causes your contractions to feel disjointed and choppy, which is harder to deal with.
Keeping your contractions feeling like big, rolling waves instead of a bumpy road will make a massive difference.
6. Stay Home
During our hospital tour before I gave birth to my first son, the nurses put major emphasis on this.
They reminded us over and over to wait until contractions reached a certain frequency before coming to the hospital.
Here’s what I learned from my own experience. My first son was almost born at home, and my second son was born less than two hours after I arrived at the hospital.
My first labor was spent mostly at home, the second mostly at the hospital.
Because I knew my labors were fast, we went in sooner with my second son.
Labor with my first son, at home, was by far smoother and more relaxed.
I was in my own space where I was most comfortable, with no interruptions or distractions.
When your contractions start, stay home until you reach the point where your doctor advises you to go in.
It’s usually the 4-1-1 rule (contractions are 4 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute over a period of 1-hour).
Every woman is different. Follow your instincts, and work with your doctor.
7. Less People Around
Again, I got to experience labor two different ways, and let me just say this:
Having less people around is significantly more relaxing.
During labor with my first son, I was home with my husband, my mom, and my mother-in-law. That was it. Things were quiet, smooth and very relaxed.
Because I had a short labor and almost didn’t make it to the hospital, we decided to go in a little sooner with my second.
Nurses filed in and out of the room, taking care of paperwork (even though I’d pre-registered), asking questions, drawing my blood…
It was frustrating.
My labor was an hour and forty minutes long at the hospital with my second son, and all of it was spent with multiple people in the room, going in and out.
Because I had one birth under my belt, I felt better able to handle it without it getting to me, but it required a little more work.
I’ll be honest and say that if my labor had gone on for a little longer, I would probably have been throwing people out so I could have some peace.
8. Feel Strong
Okay, so yes I’m talking about physically, but more than that, I’m talking about inward strength.
Contractions get pretty intense. You need to feel stronger than your labor, mentally and emotionally.
It’s important that you feel like you’re on top of your labor, even as things go on outside of your literal control.
Let me explain.
You can’t control the frequency and intensity of your contractions. But you can stay on top of them by being totally accepting of them as they come and determined to get from point A to point B.
Learn how to channel your emotions to work for you, not overwhelm you or take off in tangents of fear.
9. Follow Your Instincts
There comes a point during labor where it’s all you, girl.
You need to just shut everyone out and be totally in tune with one person–yourself.
This is a deeply spiritual experience. I felt so close to God during this part of my labor. It transcended a place beyond words or literal thoughts.
I reached a place where I was inside myself, taking things one contraction at a time.
This is so important when it comes to doing things naturally. Imagine folding into yourself, focusing only on you and your body, quietly and serenely.
It’s possible, and it’s the game changer.
How to Give Birth Without An Epidural
10. Manage Your Contractions
You can’t control your contractions but that doesn’t mean you lose control of everything.
While your body does its thing, just stay calm and focused and on top of your contractions.
Think of your contractions like waves. They start small and then swell and peak before fading over the sand.
Relax your body and float over those waves until you feel your toes brush the sand, and then enjoy your break before the next one comes.
Here are some tips for managing contractions.
Do not hold your breath!
Remember I said that labor finds a rhythm? Your breathing is part of that.
No matter how tight those contractions get, breathe, breathe breathe, sister!
Don’t try to escape.
You can’t outrun your contractions. They’re tight and painful but normal. Endure with open acceptance.
You will be totally fine through the discomfort. Remember, nothing is wrong. Everything is right.
3. It’s Only Temporary
Each contraction comes and goes. It will not stay forever.
Don’t lose sight of that or panic. Don’t become afraid of it.
Just understand that this is an intense process to get your baby in your arms–one step at a time.
4. 30-Second Focus
Don’t allow your mind to reach out beyond right now. Take each contraction as it comes.
Don’t worry about what happens after. You’ll have time to focus on that later.
5. Do Whatever You Need to Do
Walk, roll your hips on the birthing ball, lean over the bed, roll your neck, grunt and groan, cry, anything.
Nothing is off limits!
Don’t try to control that part of yourself. Don’t force yourself into a box of expectations. Labor is purely instinctive.
6. Remember That YOU’RE In Control, and Let It Go
This is not a time to be a control freak.
Be confident enough to just let your body do what it does.
This is where mind and body meet and create harmony, not battle.
7. Allow Quiet
Allow quietness in your physical environment, but also inwardly.
Shut off the “nervous chatter” of your mind.
Keep the actual noise in your house or room to a minimum, too.
8. Allow Calm
Turn on soft music that you enjoy or the sound of the ocean, something that brings tranquility to your atmosphere.
You’re part of that tranquility as well. Practice mind over matter and put yourself in that place of ultimate peace.
Prayer is a powerful tool during this part of labor.
9. Visualize Every Contraction.
Think of it as a mountain. You climb it, it reaches its peak, and then you descend.
I personally visualized my contractions as warm waves. I rode them out, relaxed my body and floated on them and then my toes brushed the sand until it was time to do it again.
This doesn’t totally take away the discomfort, but sees you through it instead (and yes, more relaxed = less painful).
10. Think OPEN
Visualize OPEN, feel OPEN.
Avoid things that instinctively close you up. Your mind, hips, and pelvis needs to be open to allow baby to descend.
If something instinctively makes you feel “closed” or “shut”, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally, avoid it.
Use the birthing ball, walk, stand, move in ways that make you feel “open.”
There You Have It
And that’s my advice on how to give birth without an Epidural. It’s totally possible, even in the hospital.
Just remember–you’re mama. No one else can do what you can do for your baby.