Childbirth is amazing! I think a lot of women want to have a natural birth and I believe that most women totally can! That being said, it can sometimes be challenging in a hospital setting. This is going to be such a great post because I’m a labour nurse who has worked in multiple settings. I know what works and what information is helpful. Read on!
I plan on compiling everything I’ve seen and done that helps women get through the pain of contractions so they are able to have a natural birth in the hospital!
I have witnessed and helped women numerous times to give birth without an epidural.
As a labour and delivery nurse, I’m often assigned to those patients specifically because the charge nurse knows how much I love supporting women that want to have a natural birth!
I believe all women are powerful and able to have the birth they want if they have the knowledge. I also believe that we need to ELIMINATE FEAR from childbirth.
It is nothing like what you’ve seen in the movies. Push those horror stories out of your head and learn what giving birth naturally actually means! It’s not scary, and it’s completely attainable.
This post is going to dive deep into all of my precious knowledge so that you can rock your natural birth!
So sit back, relax and soak in all the awesome tips on how to ROCK your natural birth.
Disclaimer: Find out from your health care provider if the advice given in this post is right for you! All the recommendations given in this post are only meant for healthy pregnancies with no known risk factors.
Your Body’s Natural Response to Labour and Birth
Ok, just a little technical information to start with.
So your uterus needs to contract so that you can dilate and get your baby out. Unfortunately, those pesky contractions can be pretty painful and uncomfortable. The good news is, is that labour is only about one day in your life (at the most). You can do this!
Watch this childbirth educator explain how contractions dilate your cervix, it’s really neat!
Did you know that your body has natural pain relief system?
Yep! You read that right. Your own body produces something that’s called endorphins and that substance can create a euphoric like feeling after each contraction. If you are able to soak it all in, the next one will be less painful. Isn’t that magical!
Your body was MADE for birth. Never forget that.
If you want to read up on what labour actually feels like, I wrote a neat little post on that, you can find it here.
Three Fun Stages of Labour
You will go through different stages of labour. Early labour typically isn’t crazy painful and it is much easier to cope with contractions at that stage. Easy peasy!
Active labour is more intense, but fear not, just read on and learn how to cope. I know you will be able to ROCK your natural birth.
Towards the end of that active labour stage, you will go through something called transition. Now that’s the part you’ll need to prepare for the most!
A lot of women say they want to quit at that point and get the epidural, but you’ll keep going! I know you can do it.
It most often doesn’t last long, and before you know it, you’ll be pushing your baby out.
Early labour, active labour and transition make up the first stage of labour.
The second stage of labour is pushing! That’s the fun part, you’ll be so close to meeting your baby by then! Most patients I have that don’t have epidurals say this part feels really good because you’re finally doing something productive. Also, you’ll most likely have a VERY strong urge to push (feels like you’re having a big bowel movement, which is normal!), and it’ll feel good to give in to that urge.
Lastly, you’ll go through the third stage of labour, which is delivering the placenta. Don’t even think twice about this part. You’ll be in bliss with your baby in your arms! The placenta is mushy and squishy and most moms don’t even feel when the placenta comes out.
Alright, now for the juicy part of this post, how to cope with contractions and have an awesome medication-free natural birth!
Are you pregnant and wanting to breastfeed? Read my comprehensive eBook, all about preparing for breastfeeding during pregnancy!
Prepare Yourself for a Natural Birth
It is so very important to be prepared for what’s to come. Almost all the women I’ve helped achieve a natural birth have been well prepared beforehand. Lots took hypnobirthing or other types of birth classes. Some had read books on childbirth.
I totally recommend using meditation during your pregnancy. Not only will it help you relax and get prepared for motherhood, but meditation will also be great for you to cope with the labour contractions! I really recommend the app Expectful, it’s an awesome tool for meditation during pregnancy and labour, and even when you’re trying to conceive!
I think it’s really helpful to read birth stories as well. No two births are alike, but if you read tons of birth stories, it’ll help to get you accustomed to what birth might be like for you.
Reading articles like this one is a great start in getting prepared for your natural birth.
They came in prepared for all the different scenarios. Most bring a birth plan as well!
Related content from Babytalk:
Birth Stories With Babytalk <—- This is a super cool category. I wrote my input in some birth stories for additional learning!
Yoga is really helpful. Not only are the poses awesome to help baby down the birth canal, but yogic breathing (also called “ujjayi breath”) can also help with pain control during contractions. But you have to practice it beforehand for it to be useful!
Contractions in Early Labour
The beginning of labour is an exciting time. Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for is here! Your baby is coming.
That’s why what I’m going to say next is pretty hard. IGNORE those contractions.
If you are able to cope relatively well and can continue on with your day, do just that and ignore that anything is happening!
If you want to avoid interventions in the hospital, you must stay home as long as you can.
Move around. Do housework, go for a walk, do some laundry. Do whatever you’d like to keep you from focusing on those early labour contractions.
Stay at Home!
Stay at home as long as you can and keep yourself busy. Move around and stop during a contraction if you need to.
Staying at home is better because you are more relaxed in your own environment, you’ll actually dilate faster. This is because of something Ina May Gaskin calls the “sphincter law”.
You are more comfortable going to the bathroom in your own home because there is no threat to your safety at home! The same goes for birth. The cervix is a sphincter, just like your anus (sorry to get so technical here, but it’s important!). So if you feel safe, you’ll dilate more easily. This is why animals in nature go somewhere discreet to birth! Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Oh, and if you’re wondering who Ina May is, she’s a super smart wonder-midwife. Read anything she’s written on birth, the woman is a wealth of knowledge!
While you are labouring at home, do anything that helps you cope with the pain of labour. Lots of women love taking baths or showers. The water can be very soothing and relaxing.
Others go to sleep, or at least just try to rest! Get comfy in your bed and keep ignoring those contractions!
Honestly, it’s best for you to just listen to your body and do what works best for you.
Do yoga stretches.
Go for a walk.
Bounce on a yoga ball.
Just move around and get into any position your body tells you to. This will help with the descent of your beautiful baby into the birth canal (your pelvis).
Learn more about natural birth from another labour and delivery nurse and doula on Mamasoup! 5 Things Standing Between You and a Natural Birth
Scenarios Where You Must Go To The Hospital:
There are some scenarios where you absolutely HAVE to go to the hospital. Every provider has different guidelines, so follow whatever yours has told you.
The following are scenarios where you must go to the hospital as soon as they happen:
- Notice leaking and you think your water broke and:
- you are GBS positive
- it has a brown or green tinge
- it stinks.
- Have constant pain instead of contractions that come and go.
- If you have excessive bleeding (some can be normal at the beginning, it’s called bloody show).
You can always call the hospital you are delivering at if you’re not sure whether to come in or not!
Going To the Hospital For Your Natural Birth!
Once the pain is absolutely unbearable, it’s time to go to the hospital.
Your health care provider will most likely tell you to come when your contractions are 4 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute and have had this pattern for 1 hour.
I’d argue that you’d want to wait until you have extremely painful contractions with that pattern! Not just any old early labour contractions.
There’s a bit of a balance of not going in too late. If you are having your first baby, you most likely will have more than enough time (usually). If you’re having your second or third baby, you might need to come earlier.
Ask if you’re allowed to go back home if you are not dilated at least 3-4 (for your first baby). Then continue doing what worked at home.
Try not to get upset about being sent back home. If you really want to avoid interventions and pain medication, it’s best to spend the least amount of time in the hospital!
All about hospital interventions: Interventions During Your Labour and Delivery
If you wait until you absolutely can’t cope anymore, you most likely are in rip-roaring labour and they won’t send you back!
Natural Birth Plan
Have some version of a birth plan. This will outline your wishes for the health care team at the hospital. Even if you have clearly stated your wishes to your provider, there is no guarantee that your own doctor or midwife will be present for the birth.
A birth plan will be a fast and easy way for everyone involved in your to know your plan. It will be put on your chart and you or your team won’t have to repeat themselves over and over again.
Write it out clearly, or better yet print it out!
Want to know how to write a great birth plan? Make The Perfect Birth Plan. A Step by Step Guide
Your Own Personal Space
Once you’re admitted make sure your support team knows that you need to make the room your space.
Bring things that can make the room more personal. For example, you could bring pictures of your other children or printouts of birth mantras to hang on the wall. Stuff like that can work as focus points for you during contractions.
It’s great to have your own pillow or blanket as well. Familiar things will help you relax and make labour easier. Your body won’t react to the stress of being in an unfamiliar place (again, your cervix will dilate faster in what your body considers a “safe” environment)
Most hospitals have the bed as the centrepiece of the room, this doesn’t mean you have to get into bed as soon as you get there. Only use the bed if it is helpful for YOU.
If moving around helps to ease your pain, keep moving! You don’t even have to stay in the room if you don’t want to. Walk in the hallways or sit on the toilet!
Ask for props that you might need, such as a yoga ball or peanut ball.
Here’s a related topic: The Peanut Ball. A Miracle Tool That Will Shorten Your Labour.
To Doula or Not To Doula
I totally recommend hiring a doula. They will advocate for you when you can’t and know all the tricks of the trade to get you through difficult contractions. The nurses know how to do this as well, but often times they are very busy, doing other tasks as well. Doulas focus on you primarily!
Also, you will know your doula beforehand, which will make you more comfortable and make your labour easier.
Want to know how to find the doula for you? Read this great post right here on Babytalk: Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Doula
Who to Invite?
You probably don’t want a ton of people in the room. Only invite people to your labour that you are extremely comfortable with.
Quick question. Who would you be comfortable having a bowel movement in front of? Are you thinking of your aunts best friends boyfriend?
Cool! They can come 🙂
Remember the sphincter law. Your cervix is a sphincter and you must be comfortable enough for that sphincter to open up easily.
Tips and Tricks to Have a Natural Birth in the Hospital
Ask to avoid too many cervical checks if possible. Many places will want to check your cervix every 2 hours. Try to delay those as much as you can, they are not really necessary unless your birth is taking SUPER long or there are some issues with your labour like excessive bleeding, or your baby’s heartbeat is not good.
If possible, ask to be intermittently monitored instead of continuously. If you are having a low-risk birth, that is usually standard, but every hospital is different.
Some places will want to put an IV in your arm as soon as you get there. Sometimes this is standard procedure, but it’s worth asking if they can wait or if they can put in a saline lock so you don’t have to walk around with a pole!
This will allow you to walk around more and be in positions that come intuitively to you.
I definitely recommend the use of water! Baths and showers usually relax women and they tend to dilate faster in the tub once they’ve reached about 5-6 cms. Also, it’s been shown that water decreases pain. So don’t hesitate to dive in!
If there is no tub, a shower can work really well too.
Use the showerhead to massage your lower back!
Focus and Relax for a Natural Birth
Relaxation is key. If you want to vocalize, do it. Do whatever comes naturally to you. Find something to focus on during each contraction.
You might keep your eyes open and focus on a certain thing in the room or you might keep them closed and focus on a mantra or affirmation that you learned before your labour. You’ll know once you’re in labour! Follow your instincts.
If you’ve been practicing meditation, this is when it will REALLY help. Don’t forget to download the Expectful App (if you use this link you’ll get a 14-day free trial! whoop!)
Contractions will hurt, but try to just focus on one contraction at a time. The anticipation of pain can make it more painful.
Believe it or not, most women who successfully deliver without an epidural are able to sleep between contractions!
Read more about how to focus and relax during labour here: The Best Way to Cope With Contractions During Labour
You Only Need to Get to The Peak!
Each contraction has a peak. Think of them as climbing a mountain or doing a very difficult exercise. Get to the peak and then it will get better from there.
Enjoy the break between contractions. Don’t talk if you don’t want to. You’re not there to entertain anyone. REST as much as you can between contractions.
Your contraction won’t last for more than a minute, typically. You can do anything for a minute right??
Get through one contraction at a time, don’t overthink things!
Transition, YOU’VE GOT THIS!
I’m not going to lie, most women ask for an epidural when they are 7-10 cms. That’s usually how I know they are in transition.
Just be aware that this might happen to you. Everything you were using to cope before might not work and you might need to change it up.
You might feel like NOTHING is working. Keep in mind that transition usually doesn’t last long and you will be pushing soon.
Work through it! I know you can and I believe in you!
Coping With Pushing
Pushing might be the most rewarding part up until now!
Most women describe it as if they are actively doing something, and they feel relief.
You might want to try different positions to find that relief.
That’s the best thing about not having an epidural, you can get out of bed and move around to find the most comfortable positions for your body.
Or better yet, use the bed. Get on all fours, or raise the head of the bed and lean up against it.
A lot of doctors like you to push in the lithotomy position. That’s basically you on your back with your knees bent, feet in the air and pelvis open wide.
You might like pushing in this position, but it’s usually not the one that comes naturally to women.
Like I said, go with the flow of your body. You will know when the time comes.
Don’t beat yourself up if you do end up needing pain medication. We can only do what we can with the information we have at each moment in time.
Childbirth is not a competition. It’s the most beautiful thing you’ll ever experience, regardless of what happens during the delivery, because it’s the day your baby was born!
Be kind and don’t talk down to yourself.
You are having a beautiful little baby. You’re bringing new life into this world. It’s the most magical thing on earth.
I’d love to hear from you guys. Did you have a natural birth? What helped you get through it? Comment below 🙂