When gearing up to deliver a baby, most moms have spent time considering how they might cope with labor pain. While many options exist, some women prefer to avoid the use of narcotic drugs. Here are some ways to prepare for an unmedicated delivery.
1. Do your research
The best thing you can do ahead of time is to do your research and make a game plan. For most women, labor is painful. Waiting until it starts to think about how you might cope without medications might leave you feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. Learn about alternative pain control options, think about what might work for you, and practice these methods ahead of time.
2. Take a class
Many hospitals, birth centers, and baby stores offer classes specifically on unmedicated childbirth. These can be a great way to see what choices you have and meet other likeminded moms-to-be. Bringing your partner or labor support person can also be a great way to help them feel comfortable with your plan.
3. Develop another way to cope with contractions
OK, so you’ve decided to avoid intravenous pain medication or an epidural, but what do you want to do instead? Lots of options exist: laboring in the shower or tub, massage, finding comfortable labor positions, using a birthing ball, focused imagery (such as imagining each contraction as a passing wave), hypnobirthing, Lamaze breathing—the list goes on and on. Find what seems right for you, and mentally prepare for their use with practice.
4. Enlist the support of others
It’s important to let others know how you plan to cope. Tell your partner (or labor support person) what you want to do when the contractions hit and how they can help. Some will really struggle with seeing you in pain, and it’s important to show them how they can be involved in getting you comfortable. Let your labor nurses and doctor or midwife know your pain management plans and if you have any special requests (such as not being asked if you want an epidural). Find out ahead of time if your hospital provides birthing balls or if you need to bring your own (if you plan to use one) or if a tub for laboring is available. Nothing is worse than planning on these options to find they are not an option when you arrive!
5. Know that it’s okay to change your mind
For some women, having an unmedicated labor goes exactly according to plan. However, some may change their mind midway through the labor process, and it’s important to know that this is okay. Carrying around guilt or feeling like you weren’t “tough enough” because you opted for an epidural is a feeling no mother should experience. Every labor is different, and you should know that however you chose to deal with it was right for you.
Reviewed by Dr. Jen Lincoln, April 2020
- Some women opt to avoid pain medication in labor.
- If you think you want to do this, do your research ahead of time to know what alternative coping mechanisms you can use instead.
- Know that it is OK to change your mind at any point in your labor.