I have never really been a good patient. I make a big deal out of minor ailments, I pass out with needles, and I don’t tolerate pain very well - but I had all natural labor by choice, and I would do it again.
I have also had two epidurals in labor, and these experiences were enough to motivate me to go without for my third baby. Neither of those needles was the life-saver I expected them to be.
Studies show that the use of epidurals in labor is on the rise and that as many as 71% of pregnant women in the United States use an epidural or other spinal anesthesia during labor(1). That’s up by 10% since 2008.
I’m sure that many, even most of these epidurals go great - mine just didn’t. Twice. Plus, there are other risks to consider. I had had it and I was determined to go without for my third baby. I had heard a lot about natural labor before, but I wrote it off in fear of hearing horror stories from women I knew that had done it, the portrayal of labor in movies and television, and about 28 years of built up fear of giving birth. I’m here to tell you I did it, and you totally can too.
My reasons for doing so are my own, and I am not here to guilt or convince anyone out of an epidural, I don’t judge you. I am you. I am only here to tell you that if you do want to have natural labor - you totally can!
From one mom to another, I’ve compiled this list of my best tips and advice for going all natural.
#1 - Very important - get the Nitrous Oxide
Not all hospitals in the U.S carry this, so be sure to ask about it. It is a much safer option for mom and baby during labor with little very minor side effects like nausea and dizziness. It does not require fetal heart rate monitoring. It does not inhibit the body’s release of oxytocin, so it does not stall labor. In fact, it could even make labor progress faster because it relaxes the patient. Since the gas is self-administered, patients can easily decide how much they want to take and when they want to stop. The effects easily wear off within 5 minutes(2).
The Nitrous really helped me get through labor, but it doesn’t completely take the pain away. I still felt pain but it makes you relax and you feel a little less aware of the pain.
#2 - Practice yoga breathing
This is also very important. I did yoga all throughout my last pregnancy and this alone helped prepare my body for labor. During labor, I was able to slow my breath and center my mind after all that practice from my yoga and meditation sessions. Plus, yoga is extremely beneficial to your health outside of labor, see my post on 40 Benefits of Yoga Practice.
#3 - Make sure everyone knows your plan
Getting everyone on the same page prior to the big day will help you gather a lot of support that will help you get through. I’m pretty sure my hospital set me up with a natural labor specialist for my nurse because she was fantastic. They also put me in a room with a birthing tub should I be interested in using it.
#4 - Know your reasons
I once had a very wise midwife tell me that in order to go through with all natural labor, moms need to be pretty motivated in their reasons for doing so. If you don’t have that motivation, you won’t feel that the pain is worth it.
#5 - Know that just when you think you can’t do it anymore, you’re probably almost done
Everyone gets to a point in labor where they feel like they just can’t do it any longer. It’s usually the point in labor when things have progressed so intensely and mom’s don’t know that they’re almost at the finish line. When I was at the end of my labor, I thought ok this I can do - but if it gets any worse I’m screwed. I asked for a check and I was fully dilated.
#6 - Don’t be afraid of pushing
I was afraid that pushing would feel worse than the contractions, but it didn’t. Pushing took away all the pain in my stomach and back. Because of this, I found pushing to be a huge relief.
#7 - Push like you mean it
Don’t mess around. You have to push really hard to get that baby out. Just go for it and it will happen quicker than you think.
#8 - Let go of your fear
Honestly, the nitrous helped me with this a lot by relaxing my mind. I may not have been super quiet the whole time - but I was peaceful and I wasn’t afraid. This mindset is huge for helping labor to progress quicker.
#9 - Believe in yourself
Know that you can handle whatever this labor might throw at you, that you are mentally and physically strong, and you’ve got this.
#10 - Don’t beat yourself up
If you do choose a labor that you didn’t plan on, don’t beat yourself up about it. This is tough and hard to predict exactly how you will feel or how it will go.
The Bottom Line
I hope this post has helped to support you if you are hoping to have a natural labor. My natural labor was by far my best and if I were to have another baby, I would 100% do it again the same exact way. Comment below with your questions and ideas, I promise to be straight with you.