If the notion of natural childbirth (NCB) conjures up hours of writhing in pain without any means of comfort, read on. NCB is how your body is designed to birth babies, and for most women, it’s an experience they both endure and learn to respect for the rest of their lives.
In the strictest sense, NCB means laboring and giving birth without the use of pain medication or an epidural. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re left to cope with the discomforts of labor all alone. Other, non-drug pain relief includes hydrotherapy (using water in a shower or tub), massage/touch, breathing, visualization, meditation, position changes and hypnosis, and these are all used to assist laboring women.
Finding a provider who is supportive of NCB and these pain relief methods as well as a birth partner skilled in offering this type of support (such as a doula) can be instrumental in helping you achieve labor and birth without medication.
Non-drug pain relief techniques are effective because they interrupt the sensory pathways to the brain that communicate pain. These methods also offer a way to regain control of what is happening to your body.
If you’ve ever labored with a baby, you may have felt a loss of control during labor and that can make the experience frightening. Feeling out of control can create anxiety, stress and fear, which all initiate the release of catecholamines, the primary hormones responsible for what is known as our “fight or flight” response.
Catecholamines have actually been shown to intensify the experience of pain or discomfort during labor!
Non-drug pain relief methods can help you remain calm during labor, inhibiting the release of catecholamines and thus making your labor discomforts more manageable.
Pain without harm
Labor pain is unlike any other type of pain in that it’s not in response to harm. It doesn’t mean something is wrong – in fact, its presence can be reassuring that everything is quite right. Keep this in mind if you choose natural childbirth. Remembering that the discomfort you’re feeling means that your body is doing what it is supposed to do will help you to remain calm.
NCB is most successful when you have the right support. Take the time to find a supportive birth environment, provider and partner (this may be your significant other, a friend or doula). Some childbirth education classes are specifically geared towards NCB such as hypobirthing and the Bradley method.
Remember that every woman and every labor is different. If you end up needing pain medication try not to think of it as a failure. Giving birth can be an empowering and rewarding experience whether or not medication is used.
About the Author
: Janelle Green, RN, BSN, is a master’s-level student in the nurse-midwifery program at the Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies. She is an expert advisor to Health4Mom.org and Healthy Mom & Baby magazine.