Motherhood, Pregnancy

Secrets for Having a Natural Birth – Even if You Don’t Have a High Pain Tolerance!

Tips for having an unmedicated labor from a mom who's done it twice!

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Whenever I tell people that I had both of my babies at home, the response is usually something like, “Wow! That’s amazing! I could never do that.”  I’m not gonna lie, it makes me feel good to hear.  But I always want to tell them that I’m really not that amazing for having a natural birth.  I don’t believe that it made me some kind of super mom.  I also don’t have a high pain tolerance, so it’s not like I’m just really tough.

The truth is, I couldn’t imagine having a baby in a hospital or with pain medication.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with having an epidural if you need it.  I believe that all women deal with labor in different ways and you have to do what works for you!  I’m not any better than a woman who chooses to have an epidural.  Having a baby is hard work no matter how you do it!

The reason I couldn’t imagine going the more “traditional” route with my birth is because having my babies at home gave me so much more freedom.  I could birth in a way that worked for me.  I didn’t have to be hooked up to machines or give birth in a position that wasn’t comfortable for me.  Because I was at home, I was also able to move around as much as I wanted and eat and drink whatever I wanted.  During my second labor, I actually had my husband order pizza for me because I was starving and it sounded so good!  No one told me what I had to do, and so I was able to work through labor in the most comfortable way for me.  It wasn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to birth.

The experience I had was amazing.  I was so comfortable and it was just a really peaceful and relaxed way to bring my child into the world.  Honestly, I feel like I had it so much easier than most women.  I didn’t even feel like I needed pain medication.

Now, not everyone is able to have a home birth like I did – or even wants to have one.  And that’s completely okay!  But if you would like to try for a drug-free birth, in or out of a hospital, I have some tips for making that happen!

Preparing myself for a natural birth was key

A lot of women think that they would never be able to have a natural birth.  But it’s completely possible.  I did it!  And it’s not because I’m just really tough or can handle a lot of pain.  It’s because I was prepared.  If you really want to try for a birth without any pain medication, you’ve got to prepare yourself for that!

Childbirth classes are invaluable

Taking a birth class is a really great way to get ready for labor.  There are a lot of different methods, so do your research to figure out what method sounds like the best fit for you and your spouse.  My husband and I took Lamaze classes and I loved it!  In these classes, you’ll learn about what your body will go through during labor and what you can expect.  You’ll also learn ways to handle labor and work through your contractions.  In many of the classes, your spouse will learn how to support you as well.  You’ll both gain valuable tools to use during the birth, even if you do decide to get an epidural!

Perspective is everything

I’m a firm believer that your perspective is extremely important.  Throughout my whole pregnancy I focused on shaping how I viewed labor and birth.  Instead of thinking about the pain or what could go wrong, I chose to think of birth differently than most people probably do.  Most people talk about labor in a very negative way.  Yes, it can be painful, but that pain doesn’t last forever and it’s a pain with purpose.  I watched a lot of peaceful births on YouTube during my pregnancy, and I also read birth stories that focused on the beauty of the experience.  It’s so important to view birth positively if you want a positive experience.

Books I recommend

Preparing for what’s going to happen when you go into labor and give birth will help you mentally deal with the pain.  Even if you don’t take a class, there are so many really great books and resources to get you ready for birth.  For me, labor was mostly mind over matter.  So preparing your mind to deal with labor is so important.  I really liked this book when I was pregnant with my daughter.  Although I didn’t follow the method to a T, I used a lot of the techniques discussed in the book.  I’ve also heard AMAZING things about this course, and I will definitely be getting it for my next pregnancy!  The births that women talk about having with this method are incredible!

I also just want to mention that if you plan on breastfeeding, this book was a lifesaver for me, and one that I referred to several times after my first baby was born!

Tips for having a natural birth from a mom who's done it twice!

The tools I used during labor

There were several things I used during labor to make me more comfortable.  Some things helped take my mind off the contractions, while others helped to get baby in a good position and cut down on the length of my labor.

  • The right mindset.  

    This was the most important tool for me during my labor.  The biggest challenge of labor for me was mental.  I had to focus my energy on staying calm and letting my body do the work instead of tensing up or fighting my contractions.  I also tried to keep in mind that the contractions were a good thing.  They were what was getting my baby out so I could meet her!  I didn’t let myself think, “oh no, here’s another one!”  Instead, I tried to stay as positive as I possibly could.  I made an effort to not even think of the contractions as pain.  It may sound crazy, but the way you think about your labor can make all the difference in your pain level.

  • I had a rhythm.  

    After several contractions, I started to have a certain method of coping with them.  Once I felt one coming on I would start to breathe deeply and evenly.  Every woman has a different way to deal with their contractions, so you have to figure out the breathing pattern, sounds, or movements that work for you and keep doing that.  When you’re focusing on your rhythm, you won’t be thinking about the pain.  You’ll also stay more relaxed which will help your labor progress more smoothly.

  • A birthing ball.  

    For most of my labor I bounced on a big exercise ball.  This helped so much with the contractions and also with the position of the baby.  Positioning is really important in labor.  If your baby isn’t in a good position it could make labor last a lot longer and make it way more painful.

  • Music.  

    Listening to music that made me feel calm and relaxed took my mind almost completely off the contractions.  I had a playlist of worship music that I listened to.  Listening to that music made me focus more on praising God and thanking him for my baby and I didn’t think so much about the pain.

  • Focus on relaxing.  

    During my second labor I really focused on keeping my hands open and my jaw relaxed during my contractions.  If you’re tensing up these parts of your body then you’re going to be tensing other parts of your body too.  And when you have tension, labor is going to hurt so much more.

  • Move as much as possible.  

    Moving is very important when you’re in labor.  I tried to get up and walk around as much as possible.  Swaying felt really nice too, and it helped get the baby in a good position.  Like I mentioned before, I was also on my birthing ball a lot.  It was so comfortable to be able to roll the ball side to side or in circles or just bounce.  Contractions weren’t bad at all when I was sitting there.

  • Birth affirmations.  

    Some of my favorites are “you can do anything for one minute,” “this will not last forever,” and “it’s not pain, it’s progress.”  Saying or reading Bible verses and birth affirmations helped a ton.

It is completely possible to have an amazing natural birth experience, and it’s not selfish of you to want one.  A birth without any drugs or interventions is extremely beneficial for both mom and baby.  I’m so thankful I was able to have my babies at home.  However, if you need any interventions, it doesn’t mean that you “failed” at all!  I’m so glad that women are able to birth the way that works best for them (whether that’s with pain medication or without!) and that doctors have the resources to step in when things don’t go as planned.

Are you planning to have a natural birth or have you already had one?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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35 Comments

  1. Andrea

    This is more than great advice! Absolutely fantastic! I´m sharing this to my friends who dread a c-section (apparently it´s ¨in¨ because that´s what most doctors recommend even though if you don´t need it…dreadful, I know). This post will help my expecting friends a ton! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Bethany

      I’m so glad you found it helpful, Andrea!

    2. Laura

      Hi Andrea — I’m not sure where you live or where your friends are going to the doctor, but if any doctor is recommending a cesarean section that is not medically necessary, they (your friends) should switch doctors. I am an Ob/Gyn in the Southeastern US and would absolutely never recommend a cesarean delivery unless I thought it was safer for the mom and baby. That’s absolute against how we are trained and I’m sorry your friends are experiencing that.

  2. This is great! My last child was natural and it was such an amazing experience! Alot of prep and reading helped!

    1. Bethany

      It’s amazing how much preparing can help! 🙂

  3. These are great tips! I so wanted to try and have a natural birth but ended having to be induced because of preeclampsia and my midwife strongly advised me to get an epidural to help keep my blood pressure under control! Maybe my next baby I can try natural!

    1. Bethany

      I’m so glad you’re okay! I’ve had friends who had preeclampsia and it can be a scary thing. Epidurals are definitely useful in those kinds of situations!

  4. Jen

    As a labor and delivery nurse, I am always amazed at the strength some women have to carry out an unmedicated, natural birth. You present a lot of good tips here for those interested in going that route. That being said, giving birth – whether natural, medicated, with an epidural or via c-section – is a miracle in itself and should be celebrated equally. What matters most is that you got your child here healthy and that you remained healthy in the process.

    1. Bethany

      Absolutely! Birth is a complete miracle no matter how it happens. 🙂

  5. Eyn

    I completely agree! I had my first born at a hospital without an epidural, but still felt confined and restrained and uncomfortable! My daughter was a home water birth and such an amazing experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world and would totally go that rout again! 💜

    1. Bethany

      I had my first baby in the water, but my second was born in bed (he was in a weird position coming out, and needed a little help from the midwife, so it was easier “on land”). It’s amazing how much the water helps with pain and being able to move more freely. I definitely preferred a water birth more!

      1. Sandy Gganer

        In a water birth, The baby doesn’t inhale water? That is something I have feared.

        1. Bethany

          Since the baby is surrounded by fluid in the uterus, when it’s born into the water it’s kind of like a much bigger uterus. The baby is doing all it’s breathing through the umbilical cord until it’s out of the water and the air hits their face.

  6. These are awesome tips! I had both babies in hospital naturally. Maybe it’s because I used to work as a nurse, but I felt safer there. Absolutely every mama should do what feels right to her. We also have a midwife-based system here in New Zealand which is generally geared more towards natural deliveries. So, I think that helps a lot. 🙂

    1. Bethany

      That’s so great that you were in a place you felt safest! I know a lot of women feel more comfortable in a hospital setting when they give birth. It’s so important to give birth the way that works best for you! 🙂

  7. I did give birth in a hospital all four times, but I also have never had an epidural. I also find that moving around is KEY! It makes all the difference in the world. With my first I was at a hospital where they basically confined me to the bed the whole time, it was awful. I was maxed out on Pitocin and in labor for 19 hours. With my other though it went a lot better, I was at hospitals where they were a lot more willing to let me labor my way.

    1. Bethany

      Moving really is so helpful! That’s awesome that you were able to labor your way. Unfortunately at the hospital where I live they are very one-size-fits-all when it comes to birth. I wish it was more like the hospitals you were at! They are very forceful when it comes to interventions and the c-section rate is through the roof here!

  8. This is really good advice I wish I had read this prior to giving birth! In our case, I don’t think my husband could handle a home birth 🙂 I feel like I got an epidural for him! But if I ever get a second chance, I will likely go the natural route

    1. Bethany

      Thanks so much for reading, Ashley! I think a lot of husbands feel nervous about home births, and having all the staff at the hospital is very reassuring, which is awesome! 🙂

  9. Before my first child 4.5 years ago, I took 12 weeks of Bradley Method classes. They were amazing classes and I learned so much. I planned on my childbirth going naturally, but at 23 hours of vomiting, I finally required IV fluids and took an epidural. I delivered 45 minutes later. But my nurses in the hospital were amazing and so accepting of my birth plan.

    Second time around I was very hydrated and ready. It was a fantastic and drug-free delivery! Each time I was lucky enough to get nurses and doctors that were absolutely supportive and amazing!! Thank you for sharing this. I truly believe that more people should explore how powerful our bodies can be!!!

    1. Bethany

      23 hours! Wow! I’m sure I would have taken the epidural at that point too. It’s awesome that we have tools like that to help, especially when things don’t go as planned. And it sounds like you had a great support system in the hospital staff as well! 🙂

  10. Alina

    Excellent tips! I had my first baby in the water. Now I am ready for my second baby, in the same way. Thanks! Women are just made to do this

    1. Bethany

      That’s awesome, Alina! I loved my water birth so much! Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful second birth. <3

  11. I had two natural births and what helped me going through the pain was not focusing on it. It helped that my husband was making me laugh in between the contractions and that I was able to re-position myself as much as I liked.

    1. Bethany

      My husband was making me laugh during my labor too! I actually have a picture where we’re both laughing during one of my contractions. It helped take my mind off of the pain! 🙂

  12. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your tips! I, too, had a natural birth and pretty much every tip you shared is what I’ve been sharing with my friends who are thinking about having a natural birth, but I love how clear and concise your suggestions are. I will definitely be sharing your post with them!

    Xo,
    Whitley

    Classy Sassy

    1. Bethany

      Thank you for reading, Whitley! I hope the tips help your friends have the birth they’re hoping for! 🙂

  13. Norene

    How do I go about having a home birth.

    1. Bethany

      The first step would be to find a midwife in your area that attends home births. Thankfully, I knew a couple who had a home birth before and recommended an awesome midwife to me and my husband. If you don’t know of anyone in your area, Facebook might be a good place to start your search. Where I live, we have a homebirth facebook group full of people who will offer suggestions for providers. Once you find a midwife, they’ll be able to offer you advice for the steps you need to take from there!

      I hope that helped you, Norene! I’m not a professional, but if you have more questions about home birth, you can email me at messyblessedlife.com. I’d be happy to answer them as best I can from the personal experience I’ve had with home birth. 🙂

  14. Jenna

    I’m pregnant with my first and would like to have a natural birth. I am not “granola,” but after watching The Business of Being Born and realizing how far we’ve gotten away from what our bodies are designed to do, I really shifted my focus on wanting a natural birth. I’m petrified of being forced to do things during labor that I’m not comfortable with or having interventions that I don’t want. I read a quote online that was very powerful and made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my desire for empowerment:

    “Having a baby is hard enough. No woman should be asked to do anything else while she is having a baby. She shouldn’t have to renegotiate a birth plan, argue with her care providers about the evidence supporting her decisions, or advocate for her baby. She also shouldn’t have to comfort her husband, or reassure her mother or educate her sister. Everyone around the birthing mother should attend her like the queen she is.”

    Thank you for posting your tips about how to have a natural child birth (and for mentioning you do not have a high pain tolerance). I like to follow a plan and have steps I can work through so I appreciate your suggestions. I’m going to look into hypnobirthing and definitely Lamaze. My mom was a Lamaze teacher and recently told me that I need to practice breathing NOW (just got to 20 weeks). But as we all know, starting anything can be scary. Just like I tend to struggle starting a new exercise program, I’ve found myself avoiding the first steps to practice for labor. I am going to order the Ina May book you recommended and I’m sure that will be a great starting point.

    1. Bethany

      Thank you so much for your comment, Jenna! Things really changed for me after seeing The Business of Being Born too! It was so eye-opening! I love that quote you shared as well. It’s so true!

      It definitely is hard getting started with any new program, especially for such a big event in your life! I loved reading the birth stories in Ina May’s book, and a lot of my friends have said they enjoyed them as well. I think it will be a great starting point for you, like you said. Just taking a little time every day to practice deep breathing really helps, too! It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just being more aware of your breathing and focusing on taking long, slow breaths is so helpful! It makes a big difference in how relaxed you are.

      I hope you have an amazing birth! 🙂

  15. This is such great help! I think the mindset is a huge one. I went into labor with a positive mindset and it definitely helped a ton. I also read a lot, and knew what to expect, so that helped too. Everything you say is just on point!

  16. Marcy

    I am pregnant with my third. My first birthing experience was horrible and I feel traumatized when I think about it. I was not knowledgeable and let the dr take charge and nothing went well. My second child came so fast I had no choice in a natural birth, but am so glad it was a natural birth. I felt better and recovered quicker. Now this time around I have some serious anxiety. I’m afraid the hospital staff will force their requests (i.e. Ask me if I want an epidural during a painful contraction – who wouldn’t). So I’m reading blogs like this and meditating more and doing yoga positions to help with labor. I’ve considered a doula but we just cannot afford one now. So I’m feeling like “it’s up to me”, and my anxiety says “you cant do this”. So I appreciate posts like this and encouraging affirmations and any resources I can get my hands on. Thank you!

    1. Bethany

      I’m so glad the post was helpful, Marcy! Dealing with anxiety is so rough during pregnancy. It’s awesome that you’re preparing yourself for the birth you want and dealing with your anxiety now. You can definitely do this! I hope everything goes just as planned and you have a wonderful birth! <3

  17. Pamela

    This is awesome advice! I’m 35 and having my first child any day now. I have had a wonderful pregnancy and the whole time 37 weeks so far, I have stayed very positive and last week at my doctors visit told my doctor I thought this is a whole mindset thing. I have had no issues other than an occasional back ache. He laughed at me and told me I needed to write a book. I love the fact that I have ran across your blog and you have confirmed for me that it is truly a mindset stage. Thank you for your post.

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