Managing pain during unmedicated labor/delivery

So Viv is now over 2 weeks old and I’ve had more time to reflect on our successful unmedicated vbac. Im going to eventually blog on tips for having a successful vagina birth after caesarean, but today I just want to blog from the standpoint of a “normal” labor and delivery. Since I labored at home and didn’t get to the hospital until pushing time, I was treated like any other laboring mom and other than wearing a monitor I didn’t have any weird requirements as a result of having a past c section.

So let’s talk about unmedicated child birth. First things first, no epidural doesn’t mean no pain management. You HAVE TO have a plan to deal with the intensity of contractions to make it through an unmedicated child birth. (you can see my reasoning for skipping the epidural here)

When people think unmedicated or no epidural, they assume that means screaming out in pain because there’s no pain relief. Let me give you a little hope by saying – unmedicated doesn’t mean excruciating pain with no pain relief. It means no MEDICAL pain relief.

So if you’re planning to skip the epidural – you just need to find out what type of nonmedical pain relief you’re going to use. Here is what worked for me:

1. Hypnobirthing homestudy guide.

I did this instead of taking a class and loved it. I meditated from about midnight – 3:30 am and then again on the way to the hospital. It kept my body relaxed and made contractions less intense. I also agree that unless I tensed up, contractions weren’t PAINFUL – they were just INTENSE. I never really wanted pain medicine during labor I just wanted a break. It was like running a marathon – my body was tired from working so hard. The first actual pain I felt during labor was pushing and her crowning.

Hypnobirthing explains the entire process of labor which helped me. For example when I was in transition my doula reminded me that after I get to 10 cm, I’ll get a break (contractions spread out and feel different during the pushing stage of labor). That reminder helped me keep going. The book also explains that most of the actual pain during labor is from tension and fighting against your contractions, which I found to be true.

Lastly it taught me breathing techniques. Surge breathing was sooooo helpful. Birth breathing didn’t work for me, I grunted and pushed Viv out. But surge breathing was a major key.

2. ASMR videos on YouTube. I really appreciated YouTube videos from Whispers Red and Luana ASMR. What exactly is ASMR?

“Autonomous sensory meridian response is an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synesthesia and may overlap with frisson.”

This is a sensation I’ve experienced my whole life and just found out it’s a widespread YouTube sensation. When I experience ASMR I’m very relaxed and usually fall asleep. My heart rate is actually lower than when I sleep! So I watched these videos in between meditations.

3. Heating pad. When I started feeling contractions in my lower back, my doula put a heating pad back there and applied counter pressure. It made things so much better.

4. Bath tub. I got in the tub around 2 am and it helped everything. When the contractions got more intense you could SEE my belly lifting and tightening during them. I think the water from the tub helped because it made it so my body no longer had to fight gravity to contract.

5. Toilet. Idk why but sitting on the toilet was so comfortable until about 4 am. I believe that’s when I began to transition because meditating, music, laying down, nothing worked. The only thing that helped was to walk (more on that later)

6. Music! I think the biggest part of pain relief is taking your mind somewhere else. When i was listening to music and singing in the bath tub, the contractions seemed far away and less intense. I had 2 playlists, and the slow music helped while I was in labor. But when I was pushing? All hype music. Cardi B and Andre 3000 I remember for sure 😂

7. Walking! When you get to the point where you want to give up and scream and cry and get a C-section (lol) you’re probably transitioning. This is the time from 8-10 cm. Good news? It doesn’t last long. Bad news? It’s the most intense contractions and it makes you feel mentally off too. During this time, walking helped the most. Sitting was unbearable.

8. Climate control. During labor (especially transition) many women get nauseous, vomit, shake etc. when I told my doula I was hot, she got out a fan and started fanning me. Then I went outside and walked in the cold. I think both of those things kept me from vomiting (I did vomit in labor with LB) and kept me comfortable.

9. Be prepared and knowledgeable. Unmedicated birth OR medicated birth – you need to know what to expect and how you’ll handle any situations that come up.

10. Have a doula and proper birth team. I went over my reasoning but basically – you need that support and advice. You need someone to remind you when you’re shaking and about to vomit that now is not the time you need an epidural – now is the time you need to know that in about 30-90 mins this will all be over. She also reminded me and helped me with my breathing and

11. Stay stress free. My contractions were terrible when I realized it was snowing out and my parents (care for LB) were going to be late getting to us and the drive to the hospital would be long and uncomfortable. This is the main mistake I made – worrying about things I couldn’t control! Let it go, let a support person figure it out and move on with your labor, mama.

That’s all I have for now – and I’m no expert. This is just what helped me and baby V. I think the decision of pain management during labor is very personal and what’s right for me may not be right for you. B

I have no regrets skipping the epidural. I was not swollen after birth from excess fluids, I could get up and use the potty. No IV, no catheter. No need to use the vacuum or other interventions during delivery. I could feel to push. And my baby was more alert and not in distress when born. And once she was out – all the pain was gone. Recovery has been a little tough with the stitches but not nearly as tough as a C-section!

Anyone else have tips for natural birth? Please share in the comments!

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