woman nursing her baby after having a natural childbirth
Doctors Epidural Being Pregnant

How to Have an Unmedicated Birth in Five "Easy" Steps

By Katie Wadland

I'm often asked about how I managed to have an unmedicated birth. So in lieu of a journal entry presenting every gory detail of my ten-hour delivery, I can summarize all you need to know about my birth into fourteen chronologically-organized thoughts I had during the whole ordeal:

  1. Oh yay! I think contractions are starting! Or is it a cramp? Well, let’s start timing anyways.
  2. Alrighhht, these are getting regular..and definitely contractions, these are definitely contractions…
  3. Okay, getting stronger, but I can handle this. Why does everyone freak out about childbirth?
  4. Well, these are getting annoying. I can sort of see why people get epidurals…
  5. Only 4cms???!! Waaaaaaat the fuuuuuck?!?
  6. Okay, this sucks, this sucks, this is really starting to suck…
  7. noooooo…nooooo.
  8. Nooooooo Noooooooo
  9. NOOOOooo NOOOOOOooo
  10. Aaaaaaah Damnit, no! I don’t want to do this anymore. I take it back!! Can’t you just pull her out?
  11. No seriously, pull her out, now. I give you permission. NOW!
  12. You want me to do WHAAAT??? What’s the ring of —-
    (Waaaaaaahhh !!! Waaaaaaah !!!)
  14. Okay, well I guess that wasn’t that bad….

Now for all my epidural-loving friends, let’s reread this title before your ambush begins. It is ‘How to Have an Unmedicated Birth in Five Easy Steps,’ not ‘Why I Think You Should Have an Unmedicated Birth’ or ‘Why Every Way Besides the Way I Do Things is Wrong.’ I’m not here to judge.

I actually don’t care how you choose to push or pull or squat your babies out, I’m just here to share my experience and what I feel helped me to give birth without medication. So put down your pitchforks (or IV poles as it may be) and read on, if you’d like. Here are five steps to help you achieve your unmedicated birth:

1. Decide to do it

Number one most important step in having an unmedicated birth? Decide to have an unmedicated birth. Not like decide this is what you want to try. Commit. Decide this is THE way, barring unforeseen medical complications, you will birth your child. If your birth plan includes words like ‘I’m going to try an unmedicated birth, but if the pain gets unbearable, I’ll consider the Epidural,’’ you’re 99%* more likely to end up with an epidural. Because spoiler alert, the pain is unbearable. (*Statistic not yet researched, but I’m 99% sure it’s true.)

2. Prepare yourself

Learn about labor. Go to a class specifically designed to help you achieve an unmedicated birth or a hypnobirthing class. Find a way you are comfortable coping. Meditation, music, praying to some cosmic labor god, whatever. Learn what to expect as labor progresses, what the pain is actually going to be like, so when the going gets tough, you don’t get going..to the anesthesiologist.

3. Get a professional

Some people have doulas, others a midwife, or maybe it’s your husband who can be your rock. I had midwives for each of mine, and I can’t imagine doing it any other way. Doctors are often there for the end, to catch the baby, or intervene in an emergency, whereas midwives are there for the whole delivery. It’s what they do. And they kick ass at it. Never have I trusted or depended on a complete stranger more in entire my life. There was a moment in each of my labors when the pain transitioned to complete and utter panic. These women kept me calm and in control and from freaking the total fuck out.

4. Let everyone know

Tell your nurse when you walk in the door that this is your birth plan. Along with my midwives, my nurse was with me for almost the entire labor and delivery. I found that if they know you want to go unmedicated, they are very supportive – and more present than they would be otherwise.

5.  Know your body

Know how your body works and why it’s important to relax. The more you relax, the more effective your contractions and the sooner this shit show can end. Let that motivate you. Know that your body can do this. Know that your body is made to do this. Know that the vast majority of births are uncomplicated. And have faith in yourself that you can do this, and even though it’s awful, as soon as that wild little child is out, the pain ends in an instant like magic. And all you’re left with is baby!

I birthed two healthy girls without pain medication with these thoughts in mind. I loved both of my labors. If you want an unmedicated birth, believe in yourself and believe me – you can do it!

Related: Why Everyone Deserves a Doula

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