Pain Relief Without an Epidural

Many women feel that an epidural is their only option for pain relief in labor and birth. They also feel that other women, and perhaps family members, look down on their choice of an epidural. Some may feel they have a low pain tolerance, or are being a wimp by choosing an epidural for pain relief.

Here are some reasons doulas, midwives, and other people may encourage you to have an unmedicated, natural birth without an epidural:

01.  We know you can do it if you are given the proper tools, techniques, support, and belief in yourself

02.  Birth professionals witness women not only give birth without pain medication, but enjoy the experience

03.  Epidurals have adverse effects, side effects, and are not proven to 100% be effective for pain relief

04.  Epidurals block certain hormones that are necessary for or enhance bonding, breastfeeding, and your body’s own coping mechanisms

05.  Epidurals do not explain to you the processes occurring in your body during labor and birth

06.  Epidurals directly lead to more interventions, including surgical birth

There are a few women who may benefit from having epidural pain relief. One such case is a woman with dangerously high blood pressure. An epidural lowers blood pressure in a laboring women (one reason why intravenous fluid must be given before an epidural is received) and therefore, may be a good option to avoid having a C-section. For the most part, however, an epidural should be reserved for true high risk cases and not used as a means to keep a woman compliant, quiet, or to keep her quiet as her labor process is sped up artificially with drugs.

What, then, can be done to cope with the pains of labor and childbirth? Here are some tips I teach in my comfort measures class:

01. Be prepared. Take a childbirth class, particularly one suited to your ideal birth and personality. There are many options out there. I’m not talking about the hospital led classes that end in a tour of the birthing suite and teach you how to be a good patient. Birthing from Within, Bradley Husband-Coached, and Lamaze are some excellent choices for childbirth classes. There are also classes taught by trained and certified childbirth educators that pull the best information from many different learning methods.Understanding the processes happening in your body, how to cope, how your support people can help keep you comfortable, knowing your options, and understand Informed Consent will reduce tension, fear, and pain.

02.  Practice relaxation methods and comfort measures taught in your childbirth class. Become comfortable with the idea of moving during labor, asking for a back rub, taking time out of your day to become in tune with your body and tension areas. Understand and identify how you react to pain. Address methods to cope with pain reactions.

03.  Affirm, affirm, affirm. Believe in yourself. Believe in your body. Believe in the wisdom of childbirth. Women are strong, courageous, and designed to give birth. When someone makes a negative comment, immediately discard the negative thoughts and emotions that come with the comment. Avoid horror stories at all costs. Avoid mainstream birth shows and instead join a natural birthing group or community. Ask women who have birthed naturally why they chose to do so, how they did it, and what their experience was. Many women who had an epidural the first time or times went on to have unmedicated births with subsequent babies and felt the true power of their bodies.

04.  Have a good birth team. This would include not only a loving partner to hold your hand for emotional support, but your provider as well! Consider a midwife. Midwives are trained to treat birth as normal and natural, not as a disaster waiting to happen as most OB/GYN’s are trained. Consult with and hire a doula. Doulas provide comfort measures, information, and physical and emotional support continuously during your labor and birth. If you must choose an OB/GYN, inquire about their natural birth rates, epidural rates, hospital procedures and policies, and general philosophy regarding unmedicated births.

05.  Realize there are wonderful pain relief options that do not involve a needle. Hydrotherapy, water births, massage, relaxation, meditation, breathing techniques, hot/cold therapy such as rice socks or ice packs, aromatherapy, acupressure are all examples of ways to manage labor. Feeling comfortable in your birthing environment is key. Avoiding as much stress and tension keeps pain and fear away.

I believe in you. I have been blessed to witness many, many unmedicated births, both in the hospital and in home or birth center settings. Believe in yourself. Choose your options wisely. Trust birth!

Some sites to check out:

All Rights Reserved, Kimberly Sebeck, CLD, CCCE Knoxville Doula


3 thoughts on “Pain Relief Without an Epidural

  1. Thank you for such an encouraging, beautifully written post about this. It just made me smile to read it, and I think it will go a long way in encouraging women to take courage and think for themselves. 🙂

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