As you start to near your due date you will find people prying with questions. One of the questions I got hit with recently is if I plan to do a natural birth or try for one of the various pain med options. I began to think about what a natural birth might feel like.
Are you also thinking about doing a natural vaginal birth?
If you are anything like me, the thought probably makes you uncomfortable. Someone in my family has been trying to convince me it is all fine and “the body has all this natural stuff that kicks in where you stop noticing the pain”. I have watched birthing videos before, and I’m sure I recall varying screaming levels for each birth, so I’m skeptical of her claims.
I became pregnant a year earlier than expected, I was planning an epidural birth if I’m honest as my mother made comments about delivering my brother and said it helped a lot doing the epidural when compared to doing a natural birth for me.
What my mom did wasn’t her original plan as my brother came early. They were trying to see if they could stop or slow down the birth to give my brother more time as he was in the dangerous early preemie range. They gave her different meds more so she could sleep as the whole experience was very hard on her and her labor went on twice as long as when she had me.
I am also a bit concerned as I’m older, and it has a chance of being a high-risk delivery, though so far my tests have all come back negative for any pregnancy problems. I am dreading if they decide to do a c-section delivery as I really don’t want to be trying to care for a newborn while recovering from that procedure.
The general theme seems to be that some part of the birthing process will hurt no matter what you go with.
It also seems that the experience of labor is different for each woman and they report the experience of the pain differently.
I even talked to a woman who said her labor pain felt a lot like regular menstrual cramps though also reported having little to no nausea or much in the way of annoyance from being pregnant. Meanwhile, my pregnancy has been pretty miserable and I’m totally unsure what the pain will feel like.
For research and options sake, I was curious what is out there to know about having a good natural birth in case I decided to go with that option.
Pain Relief for Vaginal Births
Online Childbirth Class
The hospital folder I brought home had a couple sources for where to sign up for new parent classes. I have the option of several different online courses and one of them is specifically about “Childbirth”.
The thing is women and their birthing experiences are very different. Some women have very complicated births and some have zero issues and everything works out fine. You never really know. The nice thing about the classes is they teach many techniques to help with labor pain and are often covered by insurance.
Currently, the classes are mostly found online as the pandemic precautions haven’t gone away yet.
A recommendation my sister-in-law gave me and something she did herself was to find a doula. Doulas are professionals that exist to assist women with childbirth. They often are around earlier in the pregnancy and help support moms through their labor process.
The general idea is doulas help reduce stress and help reduce pain during the process. They are a different worker than a midwife as a midwife can deliver your baby while a doula is more there to coach you and support you.
Prepare Mentally and Emotionally
This is where the idea of a doula comes into play as they can help you mentally prepare, though you can also prepare yourself alone. It helps to talk to people with a wide range of professional experience. If you seek out groups where people relay their labor and birthing stories you will find yourself with an overwhelming amount of them talking about how traumatic it was for them. This skews the perception a bit as often the people with good birthing stories might feel less of a need to chime in whereas the women highly affected will feel the need to share and warn women.
This all reinforces whatever ideas you will have going into your own birth and your experience, so be sure to get as much info and viewpoints as you can going into your birth.
Help With Water via Pool or Tub
Another thing my sister-in-law used for her med-free birth plan is a birthing pool. My understanding is most hospitals will allow labor while in a bathtub, though they will want you out for the birth. They use the tub to help relax your body and help with the pain.
Her original plan was to do a water birth at her home. She had a pool filled with water and was pushing until at some point it became clear something was wrong so she went to a hospital. Many women go for this option and report a more positive birthing experience in cases where the baby doesn’t need any special help.
Another recommendation said to help is the use of heat packs or heat pads. They are said to help with the pain in the mid and lower back region while you are experiencing contractions. The women report placing the heating aid directly to the area getting hit with the most pain.
Walk Around or Move
A tip some mothers relayed to me as well as advice in my delivery section from my hospital folder says that it helps to walk around during early labor.
Light exercise such as walking or swaying back and forth with a partner were what some women tried.
Though it helps to be fairly active BEFORE going into labor as it helps keep the muscles in a better state for pushing as well as health metrics in more ideal numbers.
I’ve been preparing by walking, using some weights, doing couch exercises, doing low-intensity yoga ball moves, and light stretching and core strengthening.
It can be tough to work through the fatigue some days or any of the other symptoms, but every bit of it helps.
Listen to Your Body
Part of picking a good hospital to deliver involves asking or instructing ahead of time your expectations of your birth. A good hospital will be more inclined to assist you and let you try out different positions. A lot of women don’t like laying on their back the whole time.
This is also where it helps to have a discussion about your birth plan where you relay your expectations ahead of time. You want to avoid care providers who will try to strongarm every step of the delivery or will try to throw in unnecessary and unwanted procedures or treatment.
Sit Upright When Laboring
Some hospitals or birthing facilities will have some overhead bars that women can hold onto. Many women report a more comfortable pushing position is either standing up or squatting while holding onto something.
They report that the process of pushing seemed easier than the usual pushing on the back thing and can bear down more easily.
Breathe Control During Labor
Some women swear by the stuff they learned in Lamaze class where they do this rhythmic breathing method. I’ve heard some other women used deep breathing techniques they used from yoga class. The key here seems to be focusing on your breathing in some way where you take deep breaths and release out in a way that helps you relax.
Get a Back Massage
An option in my birthing book suggests that you get your partner to offer a lower back massage to help calm and relieve some of the pain.
During delivery might not be the best time as a lot of women feel generally cranky from the pain. It is said to help though and might help calm you and your partner some since many partners dislike seeing their person in distress.
Find Informational Medical or Mid-wife Videos
Something that helps with prep work is educating yourself from good sources. Many reputable sources can be found either from hospitals or mid-wives who showcase different birthing stories. Many such videos cover women who gave birth in a variety of settings and in a variety of ways.
Watching such videos can help give you more confidence in deciding how you want your own birth to go. Some things require medical expertise and some things instincts may do a better job assuming no outside complications.