If you would like to give birth without medication, there are many natural ways to cope with the pain and challenges of labor. Women who seek out natural childbirth intuitively understand that the challenges of labor are not mistakes in need of a remedy. Rather they have a purpose – to literally transform you – on every level of your being. They turn you into a parent, give you the power, self-reliance and confidence to care for a newborn, permanently attach you to your baby, and allows you to be the parent you want for your child as she or he grows up. And yet, with the ever-ready epidural waiting around the corner, having a toolkit of coping skills and techniques is essential to achieving the birth experience you are looking for.
All methods of reducing and coping naturally with pain in labor are based on a single premise: the more secure, safe, supported and relaxed you feel, the less pain you will have, the more manageable the pain you do have will be, and the greater your satisfaction in giving birth will be.
From Dr. Grantly Dick-Read’s 1942 classic, Childbirth Without Fear, to the more recent interest in self-hypnosis for birth, we have come to understand that fear and stress in large part generate the experience of pain of labor. In short, the hormones of fear – our fight-or-flight hormones – inhibit the production and flow of oxytocin, endorphins and other hormones of birth. Oxytocin – and endorphins, nature’s opiates – are the very hormones that cause effective contractions, and also reduce your pain and stress, calming you and your baby. Labor medications interfere with the production and flow of these supportive hormones. Natural methods of pain management support their production and bring you all of the benefits packaged in these little chemical wonders.
Given our understanding of the reasons for pain in labor, here are some ways to help you naturally cope with in labor:
- Choose a provider who shares your values and supports your plans to give birth naturally
- Choose a place to give birth where you will not experience unnecessary interference in the labor process – a quiet, warm place that feels safe to you
- Make sure you have the continuous company of your partner and support people during labor
- Consider a midwife or doula who will also provide you with continuous one-on-one support
- Spend lots of your labor in water – a shower, or even better, a warm birth pool
- Walk around freely during your contractions, follow your body’s lead and assume positions such as hands-and-knees, side-lying or squatting
- Comfort yourself by rocking yourself in a rocking chair or gently bouncing on a birth ball
- Listen to soothing music
- Breathe rhythmically and deeply through contractions, some women like to moan softly with their outbreath
- Learn and practice a form of self-hypnosis, a method of deep, deep relaxation, during your pregnancy. Engage a self-hypnosis coach for your labor, or use self-hypnosis tapes intended for labor.
Some women are able to achieve what they describe as a pain-free labor. Whether a pain-free labor is what happens for you or not, if you make use of the above suggestions and methods, you will most assuredly have a more comfortable and satisfying experience as a result.