Tips for an Unmedicated Labor

I responded to a Tweet ( if you have no idea what I’m talking about) yesterday from St. John Medical Center, asking for stories from folks who had been cared for at the facility.

Memories of my son’s birth there, just 19 months ago, came flooding back to me. Although the delivery didn’t go exactly as I’d planned or hoped, it was still a wonderful experience, mostly because of the care I received from the hospital’s nursing staff.

(And also because, in the end, I got to take home a beautiful, healthy baby boy. That, too, made up for the fact that I didn’t get to birth him naturally, as I’d wanted.)

Natural birth was a feat I knew would be extra difficult given my OB’s insistence on inducing labor. I was 12 days overdue, and a fetal weight estimate taken two days beforehand had Isaac weighing in at nine pounds, 10 ounces (his actual birth weight, coincidentally). The doctor worried that, if we didn’t induce, Isaac would continue to grow and a c-section would be unavoidable.

In the end, Isaac was delivered by c-section anyway. But, until that point, the nurses at St. John were respectful and supportive of my desire to give birth naturally, helping me manage the pain without pressuring my to have an epidural.

After 12 hours of unmedicated labor, I did have the epidural. Five hours after that (two of which were spent pushing), I was wheeled into the operating room. Isaac just wasn’t ready to come, and I found myself wishing I had refused to let my doctor induce — or had at least insisted we wait a couple more days.

Not everything went according to plan, but I’m joyous that my son was delivered safely and proud that I was able to resist medicine as long as I did. I think these days, with so many doctors insisting on induction and so many unnecessary c-sections, it’s difficult to give birth naturally in a conventional facility.

But, I thought I’d share some tips I found helpful in making it as long I did during my natural labor. Hopefully, expectant mothers hoping to stave off medication will find them helpful as well.

1. Hire a doula.

A doula is a trained, certified caregiver who assists women during natural labor and delivery. In addition to your spouse or partner, a doula can help you manage pain and encourage you to labor and deliver naturally.

I was lucky that a close friend of mine, studying to become certified as a doula, was willing to be present during my labor free of charge. Otherwise, doulas can cost upwards of $500. Doulas still studying for their certification oftentimes will provide their services at a discounted rate. Doulas will meet with you before your labor to discuss your birth plan and your expectations for delivery and practice pain management techniques with you.

Having the extra support during my labor was invaluable, both for me and for my son’s father. Especially if your medical insurance will pay a hefty portion of your prenatal and delivery fees, a doula is well worth the cash.

2. Have a birth plan.

Your birth plan outlines your goals and expectations for your labor and delivery. Specify if and when you want medication, your preferences for monitoring, your preferences for atmosphere (if you want the lights dimmed, music playing, etc.) and whether or not you want to receive visitors. Make sure your partner is aware and supportive of your plan, in case he or she needs to speak for you.

Give a copy of the plan to your doctor and all of the nurses caring for you, so they know and understand your wishes for that day.

But, don’t expect your delivery to go exactly as planned. Things can happen that are out of your control. If something doesn’t go according to plan, try not to let it upset you too much. Remember, the ultimate goal is a safe and healthy delivery of your little bundle of joy.

3. Know when to say “no.”

The top two priorities I listed on my birth plan were that I didn’t want to be induced, and I didn’t want constant fetal monitoring (constant fetal monitoring inhibits mobility during labor, and mobility speeds labor and alleviates pain). In the end, I succumbed to both, mostly because I didn’t think I could tell my doctor no.

Many times, your doctor knows best. Other times, you do. I wish I had forced my doctor to delay induction, even if just for two days. I also wish, after the fetal monitoring proved Isaac was healthy and fine, I had insisted the internal monitoring device be removed.

4. Insist on breast-feeding immediately after birth.

Immediate skin-to-skin contact helps a baby and mother bond, and immediate breast-feeding greatly increases the chance of success with long-term breastfeeding. Most hospitals know this and allow the mother to immediately breast-feed after birth. Be sure yours does.

If you have to have a c-section, request the baby be brought to you as soon as possible afterward to breast feed and not be given any bottles or pacifiers in the interim.

What are your tips for enduring a natural labor and birth?

And, if you’re wondering why anyone should want to birth naturally, I’ll have a list of reason for you tomorrow. 🙂

Categories: Natural Mom