Trying to Go Natural? A Few Tips From a Labor Nurse

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Alright, I’ve talked a lot about epiduralspain medications, and C-sections in my last few posts…but NATURAL MAMAS, this post is for you! My natural-laboring mamas have a special little place in my heart, because I, too, rode the no-epidural train.

I was a labor and delivery nurse before I had my son, and I’m going to admit, I thought I had my head wrapped around the whole “going natural” thing. I was confident in myself, and I had seen countless moms do it without epidurals. I knew it was going to hurt, BAD. I knew it was going to probably be long, and tiring. I knew I was probably going to lose my mind at the end. I knew that most women have a perception of what “going natural” is like, beforehand, just to find out the experience is a lot more painful and intense than what they originally thought. 

I had seen that breaking point many women go through during transition, and at what point many of them call it quits and scream for the anesthesiologist.

I thought I had it all figured out. I had read books, talked to many moms who had done it before, and done my research.
Well…NEWS FLASH…my perception of what I thought it was going to be like versus my actual experience was just a little bit more intenseOkay, A LOT MORE INTENSE.

In fact, I’ll start off this list with saying…do as much research as you can but be aware that your experience will most likely NOT match your expectations!

But that’s okay!

That’s part of it all. And, that’s part of the mentality of having a natural birth. Letting go of that control factor, and letting your body just do its thing!

Before I get too deep, one resource that I feel helped me IMMENSELY was Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Seriously, this lady and this book is a godsend for any natural mama out there. A MUST-READ if you are trying to avoid an epidural.

I also would recommend reading it later (but not too much later) in your pregnancy. I read it when I was around 6 months pregnant, but by the time I was nearing the end of my pregnancy, I felt like I had forgotten a lot of what she had to say. I ended up re-reading it around week 37, and I got much more out of it! Here’s the link, if you’d like to purchase off Amazon. 🙂

Alright, so I’m going to go over some mental tidbits, tips, and notes I personally used to help me get through my labor, and what I tell my natural mamas during their labors!

These are in no particular order!

PREPARE AND DO YOUR RESEARCH

Labor is no easy feat (natural or not). I can’t tell you how many people I talked to, how much I read, and how much I mentally tried to prepare myself for my labor.

I will say, the women I care for who have done their labor research, are usually the ones who rock it!

That goes for anything in life, also! Usually when you do your research on something, your experience tends to be much more positive, and you tend to be much more mentally ready for it, because you have an idea of what to expect.

So, read lots of books, take a prenatal class, and talk to lots of your friends and family members! Basically, try to learn as much as you can about going natural! You will not only be much more educated on pregnancy and birth, but doing research WILL ABSOLUTELY get you excited about doing it!

Before you read any further, CHECK THIS OUT! I found the best resource for my natural mamas! Hillary from Pulling Curls is a fellow labor and delivery nurse, and she created a fantastic ONLINE PRENATAL COURSE. That’s right, she goes over EVERYTHING, and you don’t have to even have to leave your couch!

You get all the benefits of a traditional in-class style course, but you get to enjoy it from the comfort of your own home, on your own time. There’s 3 price points (one is only $20!), so pick which one works for your life, your budget and your needs.  There’s something just right for you! Pretty brilliant if you ask me! 🙂 Check it out here, and tell her I sent you!

UPDATE: Use code LABORTEEN for 10% off any course!

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING FOR 10 SECONDS

Even though contractions last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, the PEAK of intensity roughly lasts about 10-15 seconds. So, if you can think about it this way, you may be able to mentally get through them better. Sure, the whole contraction is going to last awhile, but the terrible, awful, gut wrenching part really only lasts 10-15 seconds. You can do anything for 10 seconds!

NATURAL LABOR TIPS, LABOR AND DELIVERY, NATURAL BIRTH, CHILDBIRTH, NATURAL LABOR, WOMEN GIVING BIRTH NATURALLY

YOU DO GET BREAKS

Yes! You do get little breaks in between, to ready yourself for the next one. I don’t think women could get through labor if there were not small breaks in between contractions! Value these breaks and use them to your advantage. Savor them.

IT’S ONLY ONE DAY OF YOUR LIFE

Okay, sometimes two, but generally the god-awful part of labor lasts much less than a day. Usually hours. You’ve been alive for how many days? This is only one of them! Think of it this way.

DON’T THINK ABOUT HOW MANY MORE CONTRACTIONS YOU HAVE

Think about how many you’ve done, and how each contraction you have is one step closer to you being DONE and meeting baby. This is a very common “defeatist” attitude I see women have during labor if it’s not going as fast as they want it to. And, a negative attitude is not something you want during labor! Instead of clinging on to how many hours you’ve been 4 or 5 centimeters, congratulate yourself that you’ve made it this far. Celebrate each contraction as one less you have to deal with!

EVENTUALLY IT WILL END

Yes, it will! This pain you are dealing with isn’t going to be everyday for the rest of your life. Eventually, the labor process is going to be over, and you will have your baby, I promise!

I like to use this mantra when I’m swamped at work, or I have something really stressful going on, too. I used to wait tables, and I remember it being so busy some nights that I would be running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Simply remembering that the night will eventually end, and I’ll get to go home and go to sleep really helped me look at the bigger picture, and gave me the little pick-me-up I needed during my shift. I know that’s a weird analogy, but truly just reminding yourself that eventually labor will be over can help you push through and make it!

15 MINUTE INCREMENTS, OR 4 MORE CONTRACTIONS

This is a mental exercise I like to do with my natural patients, and one I personally used as well. When you are on the brink of exhaustion, and thinking you can’t do it anymore, I like to suggest we keep going for either another 15 minutes, or 4 more contractions. After that time frame is up, something changes. We either change positions, get a dose of medication, get in the shower etc. Sometimes by simply setting a time frame, and changing something at the end of that time frame, it helps women have more control over the setting. For some reason, getting through four 15 minutes increments sounds much easier to me than doing something for an hour! Agreed?

Be sure to head over to this post to learn more about alternative pain control methods during labor as well!

LITERALLY TAKE IT ONE CONTRACTION AT A TIME

This goes along with every thing I’ve said thus far….just take it one at a time! Focus on only the one you are having. Don’t think about how horrible the last one was, or how horrible the next one is going to be. Just FOCUS on the one you are having now, and getting through it.

CLEAR ANY MENTAL BLOCKADES YOU HAVE

I am a firm believer in positive energy, and I think negative energy has a way of impeding labor progression. I’ve seen it! Really, if you’ve got any mental blocks you are focusing on during labor (money stress, family affairs, etc.), your body is going to have a heck of a lot harder job doing its thing. Try and focus on the here and now. Clear your personal stressors for the time being, and focus on the job you have to do, LABOR!

ACCEPT THE PAIN

Don’t fight it, accept it. Embrace it. It’s easier said than done, but this is one key element every natural mama must face. Any other time our bodies are in pain, our natural response is to fight it, fix it, bandage it. Well in labor, you truly must just deal with it, and accept it…and then it will be over!

BREATHE AS SLOW AND AS DEEP AS YOU CAN

Those breathing exercises in prenatal classes can actually work! It’s true. The slower and deeper you breathe during a contraction, the more oxygen your uterus is getting.

One of the reasons contractions are painful is because your uterus is a huge muscle, and when muscles contract, they tighten and restrict blood flow and oxygen to their surroundings. A lack of oxygen causes pain! So, BREATHE DEEP to get more oxygen pumping to that uterus!

BE A RAG DOLL

Limp, loose and relaxed during contractions. IT’S WAY HARDER THAN IT SOUNDS, I KNOW! Truth is, tensing up during each contraction is only keeping baby in there longer. Doing your very best to relax your muscles during each contraction can make a world of difference in terms of progression. And, I’m not just talking about relaxing your bottom. Relax your face, shoulders, arms, legs, entire body!

YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO LOSE YOUR MIND AT THE END

But, that’s okay! Everyone does. Almost every laboring pregnant lady completely loses their state of mind at the end. Maybe you snap at your partner, scream at the top of your lungs, whatever it may be. It’s totally fine, and it’s expected! Don’t worry, this usually means you’re almost done.

PUSHING IS THE END

I remember thinking during my labor, “I can’t wait to be pushing, I can’t wait to be pushing”. Yes! Keep this in your head. Once you’ve made it to the point of pushing, TRUST ME, you’ve made it through the hard part. Some may argue that pushing is just as bad as contractions, but I say different. Most women feel much more in control of their labor once they hit the pushing stage. And, just think how far you’ve come, you’ve made it to 10 centimeters, now to just push baby OUT!

AND, FINALLY, YOU GET A BIG REWARD AT THE END!

Keep that baby in your mind! During each contraction, remind yourself what’s about to happen, you’re about to be a mom. You’re about to meet the little love of your life, and see his/her face after 9 months of waiting. Don’t get too consumed with the pain that you forget why you’re actually there in the first place. 😊

Labor is about KNOWING you can do it, and taking it on like a BOSS. Remember, it’s a mental game more than anything. With that said, what other tips do you have that helped you through labor? I’d love to know. These are some of the methods I personally used, and what I use in my practice to help my natural mamas cope with labor pain. I know there are plenty more out there! Leave me a comment!

Be sure to check out my post on what happens at delivery too!

Happy Laboring!

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17 Comments

  1. Shauna
    March 31, 2018 / 6:33 pm

    I loved that my labor nurse and my midwife were familiar with pressure points and helped relieve the contractions that way. My natural labor was the easiest to recover from. The most exhausting thing I’ve ever done ( I didn’t even have the strength to hold the sweet child once he got there). And the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done!

    • Liesel
      Author
      April 2, 2018 / 12:27 am

      That’s cool! I need to read up some more about pressure points to try during labor! But totally agree on the exhaustion!! It really takes everything out you, epidural or not! I felt like superwoman when I was done with it all though!

  2. Stephanie
    April 9, 2018 / 8:26 am

    I love this article. I think it may be the most realistic and helpful one that I’ve seen!

    I second everything you’ve said. Especially the “stay limp” tip. I was VERY lucky in that I had an incredible L&D nurse and she was so very helpful. She kept me sane and she kept saying “relax your body”. It ended up hanging my hands over the side of the bed limply b/c it just happened to be what I could focus on to make sure I didn’t tense up!

    I remember thinking I wanted to go natural with my first. Then when I got to the hospital and they asked if I wanted pain medication during labor (just to see what I wanted for my birth), I said that I thought I wanted to try without epidural. Then, it almost became this push to get one just in case I “ran out of time”. So, with my second, I played that moment over and over in my head for weeks. So, when I checked into labor and delivery and the nurses/doctor asked what sort of pain medication I wanted during labor, I was able to assertively say, “I don’t want any pain medication”. From that point on, I never got an offer for an epidural and I had their full support. It was incredible!

    So, I say to own your decision and let them know!

    • Liesel
      Author
      April 9, 2018 / 4:08 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Stephanie!! I’m glad you loved the article! 🙂

  3. Samantha
    April 9, 2018 / 9:43 pm

    Yes those are all excellent points one that you mention the 10 seconds was the most helpful to me. I remember counting during my contractions it keep my mind off the pain and help me focus on the end. Like you said they last from 30 to 60 seconds so that gave me an end in sight.

  4. Rachel
    April 13, 2018 / 1:45 pm

    I’m a surrogate and just delivered twins naturally, and baby B was delivered breech! I love all your tips and used most of them myself. I also had my sister remind me that women do this all the time, all over the world, and often in much less comfortable environments. There’s women who work the rice patty fields who just go off the the side, have their babies, and then go right back to work with the baby in a wrap. If they can do that then surly I can do this! Being reminded of that when I felt I couldn’t do anymore was extremely helpful to get me back in the right mindset.

  5. Sid
    April 23, 2018 / 6:47 pm

    Love the article! You hit on some very good points! The one thing I would add is to the whole positive mindest thing. For the last month or so of my pregnancy and time I would get nervous about going natural I would think about something I read that mentioned a woman in a coma would give birth. Our bodies are made to make and deliver babies! No reason to fear the delivery!

  6. Jadzia
    April 27, 2018 / 3:39 pm

    Thank you for the artical! With my first birth I was really prepared. I read a lot of books about birth, went to prenatal classes and practiced the breathing. But when I had contractions I didn’t have breaks. I couldn’t drink or go to the bathroom. Because I did expect breaks I felt like I lost control and I was overwhelmed. I let go of a home birth and got an epidural. Do you have tips for when there are no breaks? I would love a home birth this time! Thanks a lot!

    • Liesel
      Author
      May 1, 2018 / 4:10 pm

      It makes it so hard when you feel like you don’t have any breaks! My only advice is, typically when you feel as if you’re not getting a break, this usually means you are in transition and very close to the end! If you can mentally wrap your head around that, it may be enough to get you through! Also, usually with subsequent pregnancies, things move a bit quicker, so hopefully that helps as well! Best of luck!

  7. Brandj
    May 5, 2018 / 10:58 am

    With my first, 8 now, I was 21 had no clue about all this natural stuff and let’s just say getting pain meds and epidural is a joke, really. With my second, 4, I was only induced with pitocin, and had no pain meds or epidural. That was still not knowing about this whole natural thing, but man I knee after my first experience I DID NOT want anything interfering with my labor. My first was 8 hours, my second was 2 hours. HUGE difference!! I also healed better and quicker with my second and didn’t have near as much postpartum pain or discomfort as I did with my first.

    I am having my third and I knew from my first two experiences that this time I wanted to go as natural as possible and I have done a lot of reading on different techniques to use. I also found what is helping me mentally already is just doing little things here and there to prepare myself. I feel actually excited to go into labor lol.

    I know one thing that has really helped me when you mentioned the make your body go like a rag doll is this. Usually when we get to our last few weeks of pregnancy, when we go number 2, it seems to be more difficult having just a normal poo. So I know when you are at the “Push” stage, it’s exactly like you are going poo. So what has really helped me with the breathing deep and just seriously mentally relaxing and letting my body do what it naturally is supposed to do.

    When you go to take a poo or pee for some of us, seriously just close your eyes, take Deep Breaths as though you were just breathing regularly and then just fully relax and think about something else entirely. You won’t have that God awful feeling of I hate going to the bathroom. It comes out very easy and quickly.
    I apologize if that was too much detail, but I pictured when in labor, this is a lot of what it feels like and seriously breathing deep and letting your body go limp is one of the best things to an easier natural birth.

    So with my practice, I can’t wait until this little girl gets here so I can see how powerful I can be 🙂

  8. Meg
    May 12, 2018 / 11:52 am

    I had 2 births with epidural and my 3rd I did naturally. My nurse practioner told me to look into Hypno birthing. I had avoided it because in my head it sounded crazy. But those techniques and the practicing before hand worked amazing!! My birthing experience was very calm and as his head came through I did a loud gasp but that was it. If anyone is interested in natural birthing at all I say try it but learn the techniques of hypno birthing and it is an amazing experience!

  9. Leana
    May 28, 2018 / 7:35 pm

    In the Ina’s Guide to Childbirth book she gives one description about arm wrestling when having contractions and pushing. You can have your partner, friend, or family member arm wrestle with you and it helps as a distraction and helps you push.

    • Liesel
      Author
      May 28, 2018 / 10:47 pm

      I’m all about distraction! Anything that can keep you from thinking of the pain! 💪🏻

  10. Joanna
    June 1, 2018 / 9:17 pm

    THIS BLOG!! You nailed it. I don’t think you could have explained things any better. I have had two birth center water births. I’m currently pregnant with my third but, going into runs of SVT. So it’s looking like a hospital birth for my third and final. I have been reading through blogs and articles to help me get through a hospital birth. I just wanted to let you know that I loved reading this blog and I just want to thank you for sharing this.

    • Liesel
      Author
      June 3, 2018 / 9:31 am

      Girl!! Thank you! This seriously made my day! I wish you the best of luck with your hospital delivery!! 🙂

  11. Olimpia
    June 22, 2018 / 11:51 pm

    Thank you for this post. I’m sitting here, nearly in tears, knowing I want to birth my baby naturally, but not sure I can actually handle it. My mind has been brought to ease. Not because I’m convinced it’s not going to be the most painful thing ever, but because if I can handle birthing naturally mentally, then I can do it physically. Thank. You.

    • Liesel
      Author
      June 25, 2018 / 12:01 pm

      Hi Olimpia! I am SO glad the article was some help to you! I am also sitting here nearly in tears knowing that my words have helped put your mind to ease. Going natural, like you say, is such a mental game and when we wrap our heads around it…IT CAN BE DONE! I wish you the best of luck with your birth!!

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