So you think you have a “low threshold for pain” but really want an unmedicated birth. Your friends are rolling their eyes and people seem to doubt you. Never fear! Many people who “hate” pain have succeeded in having an unmedicated natural birth! It can be done!
Birth pain is different
You’ve probably heard it before, but birth pain is different than your regular pain that results from injury.
Pain in childbirth has a purpose because it works as a warning signal letting you know that your baby is coming soon. It also helps you know what positions are best to help your baby get out of your body. If one position hurts, try another one; it just might feel better and it may work better too.
If you are planning a natural birth, it helps to think of birth pain as a message rather than something to be numbed. “What is my body telling me?” is the approach that is most helpful.
Birth isn’t always painful
It may sound like hippie nonsense, but not all women describe birth as painful. No, we didn’t just make that up.
Some words that are used to describe the sensations of childbirth include: intense, strong, powerful, pressure. And while it is true that many women use the word, “pain” to describe some of the sensations of birth, this isn’t universal. The experience of labor and childbirth is really unique, and it can be hard to find vocabulary to describe it fully. While there is nothing wrong with considering birth painful, there is also no reason to assume that it is always so.
Natural ways to reduce pain
There are natural things you can do to reduce the pain of childbirth to manageable levels.
- Using water- Consider using a water source, like a tub or shower to decrease tension and pain.
- Counter-pressure from your partner- Pressure on pressure feels great!
- Hot packs- Hot water bottles or even a simple warmed rice sock placed where you feel tension can help.
- TENS- A TENS unit is considered safe for childbirth, generally, and can help reduce pain.
- Relaxation scripts- Listened to or read by your partner, these are so helpful for mental relaxation.
- Visualization- Picturing your “happy place” or imagining your body working does work!
- Movement- Staying still while pregnant just doesn’t feel good. Movement can work a baby down.
These and many other things can help you feel less pain as you labor. Your childbirth class and your doula can help you with countless other coping tools. There are more ways to reduce pain than an epidural. Many more!
Sure, something as cheesy as “visualization” doesn’t sound like it can help reduce the pain of childbirth, but you would be surprised. It can make a huge difference.
You can learn these things, we promise. These are simple tools that you probably already have experience with.
Do pain medications really prevent pain?
Countless people rave about how well epidurals work, and they are generally incredibly effective. They do not, however, work 100% of the time.
In addition, sometimes avoiding pain in labor with medications seems to increase other interventions, like assisted delivery or cesarean section, which can lead to greater postpartum pain. In this way pain can be moved to a later date, but not denied. It can help to think of pharmaceutical pain relief as a great tool to diminish pain in the moment, but it isn’t necessarily a perfect solution.
Building Your Team
In many ways, perception of pain is just that: perception. Our emotions and our overall feeling of safety can have a huge effect on our perception of not just pain, but the entire experience of childbirth.
So, consider your team. Your birth team is made up of all the people who help, support, and cheer you on through this entire process. It includes, but is not limited to:
- Massage therapist
- Childbirth educator
- Supportive loved ones
- Friends from your birth class
Take a moment to close your eyes and envision a birth experience where all these people are cheering for you, supporting you, and believing in you.
That’s a beautiful thought, isn’t it? No matter what happens with your birth, you will know that you had a team of people on your side. Doesn’t that make you feel better already? A great birth team can provide, not just practical support, but can help you experience birth as a positive, even if it is difficult.
Believe that you can do this.
Part of your birth team’s role is to believe in you! Know that their belief in your ability is based on experience working with women and constantly seeing what they are capable of.
We believe in you, and we hope you are confident as well.
Can you have a natural birth when you hate pain? Absolutely!
Learning how to cope, shifting from fearing birth to embracing birth, and having a strong, confident birth team, can all work together to make the seemingly impossible a reality.
You can have an amazing birth! We believe in you.