The endless stream of questions starts the moment you find out you’re pregnant. When will my baby be born? Who will my baby be? What will I name my baby? Eventually, all parents start to think about their birth options. For some, the idea of an unmedicated birth sounds best. I’m often asked “how can I achieve a natural birth,” and while there’s no guarantee, there are certain ways to prepare that may help you have an unmedicated birth.
First, some terminology:
I rarely refer to unmedicated birth as “natural birth” because I’ve found that there are so many individual definitions for what that means. There’s no universally accepted medical definition of “natural birth”, so I won’t be using it here.
Unmedicated birth – a birth without the use of epidural anesthesia
Medicated birth – a birth with the use of epidural anesthesia
We could split hairs here and talk about the use of other pain medications like nitrous oxide and IV fentanyl, but I don’t see a need for that in this context. Have no idea what those are? Check out my post on medicated birth choices.
How to Have an Unmedicated Birth
So you’ve decided that you want to have an unmedicated birth — awesome — but now you need to know how to do that. In many ways, the way we give birth today isn’t inclined to support parents who choose low intervention, unmedicated labors.
Step 1: Find a Supportive Medical Care Provider
Unmedicated labor is one of those things that is best supported by a medical professional that is accustomed to unmedicated labor, and unfortunately not all ObGyns or family medicine doctors see unmedicated births often, nor do all of them know how to support it.
But how do I know if my care provider is supportive of my choice to labor without medication? I’m glad you asked! Here’s a handy worksheet designed to help you ask relevant questions to help get you started. It’s free! You should be able to download it right from this link to take to your appointment with you. These questions will help you determine if the care provider and place of birth you’re considering will be helpful in your journey to have an unmedicated birth.
Step 2: Educate Yourself on Physiological Birth
I really do not say this lightly: please invest in a good quality childbirth education course. If that’s the only way you prepare, please do it. Understanding the process can help you so much in the process. Most hospitals do have childbirth education courses, but I would encourage you to seek beyond the hospital walls. Most hospital curriculums that I’ve found are lacking in many areas and spend a good amount of time just explaining to you what is “protocol” or typical course of care at their institution.
May I suggest the one-on-one course that I helped develop? It’s a condensed childbirth education course, but it dives deep into the physiology of labor so that you can better understand it.
Step 3: Seek Qualified Support
Your partner’s support is unparalleled. They love you like no one else does, but when it comes to supporting you in labor, sometimes they need a little more help. Hiring an unbiased support person who has seen birth and understands the process can be invaluable to your process.
Not only will a qualified doula provide you with emotional and informational support, but they know tried and true ways of supporting you physically. This physical support is incredibly important when it comes to your desire for an unmedicated birth.
Step 4: Prepare Your Body & Mind for the Journey
I don’t believe it’s any surprise to you to hear that labor is a physical feat. Some scientists compare it to endurance sports like running a marathon. You use your whole body to birth your baby! Sometimes, people are surprised to learn that as much as birth is physical, it is mental. Preparing your mind for labor is something many don’t consider.
While preparing your body physically to give birth is more cut and dry, preparing your mind to give birth is a little more ambiguous. I encourage you to practice with your breath and to work on relaxing each small part of your body through discomfort (check out the ice cube test).
While people have unmedicated births everyday without utilizing all of these suggestions, I do think it’s a good idea to prepare as much as you can. It can feel like the odds are stacked against you if you’re planning a low intervention birth between finding a supportive care provider and gaining access to good information. No matter where your birth takes you, ride those waves. You are strong and capable no matter how your baby makes their entrance, and remember that your feelings are always valid. You’ve got this!