Whether by desire or necessity, giving birth without an epidural can seem like a challenge even for women with the highest pain tolerances. It can be intimidating to even think about giving birth without pain medication but it is very possible. Every day, women give birth without an epidural or pain medication all around the world! I want to share with you some of my best tips for how to give birth without an epidural. You got this, mama!
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This advice about how to give birth without an epidural is so close to my heart. We all take such a crazy nose dive into motherhood. It is filled with so many big emotional highs and lows and giving birth can be such a big scary thing. I have given birth twice and each time was a completely different experience. Each birth story, just like each child is different.
My first birth
With my first child I was on bedrest for two weeks before I gave birth. I was absolutely miserable. I had walked so much that I tore a ligament in my leg. Why did I do this? I had horrible sciatic pain and was told by a chiropractor that the more I walked the more it would help to reduce the pain.
Yeah, no. I walked myself into the ER at 36 weeks pregnant. Oh wait, I couldn’t walk. I was wheeled into the ER by hospital staff. If you think tearing a ligament seems minor, let me remind you that it can put NFL players out of a game for the rest of the season. When the doctor told me I had tore a ligament, I told him it seemed more than a pulled muscle. He let me know that there is a huge difference in tearing a ligament and pulling a muscle. It was the MOST pain I’ve ever been in and that includes giving birth without pain medication and passing a kidney stone.
I was in so much pain that it was causing my blood pressure to spike. I barely moved from the couch for two weeks before being induced due to my blood pressure and the amount of pain I was in. My doctor had recommended that I get an epidural in hopes that it might help lower my blood pressure.
Everything went very smoothly despite the fact that I still had a very difficult time walking after birth and that my son had a NICU stay due to severe jaundice. The actual birth part wasn’t so bad. I pushed for about thirty minutes and I was never in any sort of pain besides my leg.
My second birth without pain medication
With my second baby, I was given no choice in the matter. I had become extremely ill with what my OB thought was gallstones. It was realized a few weeks later that I had a severe and deadly form of preeclampsia called HELLP syndrome. This form of preeclampsia is extremely rare but can be both deadly for mother and baby. It was a very scary situation.
I was induced at 36 weeks without an epidural. Yes, WITHOUT an epidural. Let me remind you that being induced causes your contractions to be way more painful than the baby coming on their own. That day I saw my OB I was in rough condition. I had barely eaten anything for weeks, even drinking water was incredibly painful. I would collapse on the couch in tears after eating. The doctor realized that my blood platelets were dangerously low. So low, that I had to go directly to the hospital. I asked if I could go home and get my hospital bag and come back and I was told NO, don’t even stop at the front desk to check out, go NOW.
As soon as I got there, it was a completely different experience from when I had my son. With my first, I had waited for about an hour and then met with a financial representative to go over my insurance and then taken to my room. It was about another hour before the party got started. With my daughter, I was literally rushed into a room and set up with an IV and steroid shots. Right away, I met with the maternal fetal specialist on call and they began an induction.
Let me tell you I was in no way prepared for the words, “you will not be able to have an epidural, your platelets are becoming dangerously low.” It was scary but in the end I think it is all about your mindset.
I want to share with you what helped me get through those painful contractions! It is totally possible to do this. In fact, you probably won’t know what to think of this but after having one birth with an epidural and one birth without one, I would choose to give birth without one if I ever have another baby.
If you can, if it’s something you want to do. During my birth, it was out of necessity. I had to decide it was something I had to do. Like I said, I was in shock for a few minutes. I think I went through some stages of quick grief over not being able to have an epidural. Shock, anger, bargaining, sadness, and then I accepted it.
I had to carve out the right mental space and deal with it! I accepted it and I decided that I would just have to deal with it the best I could. Decide what you want to do and stick with it.
Know what to expect
If it is your first birth, the more information you have about giving birth, the better. Talk to your friends who have given birth before and ask them what it’s really like. Watch videos on YouTube on the birth process. Reading birth stories may also help a lot too.
Something kind of off the wall that helped me was watching My Crazy Birth Story on TLC. I’m not a huge reality TV person, but I ended up watching every episode available when I was on bed rest with my first baby. I could barely walk so I had nothing better to do than to watch really crazy TV shows. I figured if those women could give birth in the strangest situations, like in a diner or at a supermarket I could most certainly give birth in a hospital!
Pick a mantra
Pick a birth mantra for yourself. Some good examples are:
- I can do this.
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
- With every contraction, I’m that much closer to be done.
- With every contraction, I’m that much closer to holding my baby.
- I am a strong.
- I am safe in my doctor or midwife’s care.
My personal mantra was, “It’s only pain and it will pass.” Repeat this mantra over and over! Have your significant other, support person, or nurse help you to remember to say your mantra between contractions.
I know it sounds incredibly cliche but really, you need to breathe! If you don’t, you could end up hyperventilating which isn’t good. Breathe deep and be mindful to breathe. I personally liked to breathe in deep through my mouth then push the air out of my nose for a few minutes. Then I’d switch and breathe in from my nose and exhale from my mouth. I’m not a breathing expert or anything but it helped me be mindful about getting enough oxygen.
Stay hydrated and eat well
Have you ever noticed how little kids start to go crazy when they are hungry or thirsty? They are quick to become moody and cranky with tons of tantrums.
When you’re pregnant your body is not only supporting you but it’s supporting your baby. Be sure to keep up your strength by eating and staying hydrated in the days before delivery. When you go into labor, food and drink (besides maybe a little water or ice chips) is not allowed until after birth and even then it can take awhile for food to be brought to your room.
Having a positive attitude is key. If you begin to become frightened and let fear take over, it’s not going to help anything. You are in charge of your feelings and attitude. Keeping calm and being positive is one of the best things you can do. Don’t let the pain cause you to panic! It’s only pain and it will eventually pass. The pain is only temporary.
The peanut ball is a great tool. I had used one with my son (my first baby) that I ended up ordering one on Amazon so that I would be sure I had one when I had my daughter. Be sure to ask your doctor or labor and delivery nurse if they have one you can use during birth. I’m a big believer in using one, both of my babies came out after only 20 to 30 minutes of pushing.
If you are a believer, prayer is key! I truly believe that motherhood is a gift from above. Having a child gives us a little glimpse into how God feels about us since we are all his children. Things weren’t always smooth for me between my two births: I tore a ligament, was on bedrest, had a deadly and rare form of preeclampsia, and a newborn with severe jaundice and NICU stay. Despite all these crazy things, I put my hope and trust in Jesus. If you are a believer, pray and pray some more. Have your church family pray over you and your baby.
Would I do it again?
I’m not sure what the future holds for adding to our family but I truly and honestly believe that if I have another baby that I would do it without an epidural. I had a much faster recovery the second time around. It also wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It wasn’t even the most pain I’ve ever been in so don’t let the movies scare you.
If you enjoyed this post about how to give birth without an epidural, you might also like:
- Encouraging five day devotional for moms
- How to get things done when you have a baby
- Six things that surprised me about motherhood
I love to hear from my readers
Have you given birth without any pain medication before? What is your best advice for others on how to give birth without an epidural?
Are you going to be giving birth without an epidural or pain medication? What other questions do you have? Feel free to comment below!