Creating your birth plan can be a fun and exciting experience. If you’re to the point in your pregnancy when you are ready to put your plan to paper (around 32-36 weeks), congratulations! You’re almost there. Let’s talk about reasons to choose an unmedicated birth.
Related: I Would Do It Again! My Unmedicated Birth Story
As you think through what you hope your experience to look like, I want to pass on some of my own experiences with an unmedicated birth. This may sound intimidating and scary and super painful (spoiler: it is), but please listen to me when I say, YOU CAN DO IT.
Reasons to Choose an Unmedicated Birth
I have experienced both a medicated (induction, epidural, long labor) and an unmedicated (induction, short labor) birth, so while I’m not saying I’m an expert, I have been to both ends of the birth spectrum. Every woman’s experience is completely different, but some of the basics of labor and delivery stand for everyone.
Wondering why anyone would choose an unmedicated birth? Here are my reasons which I experienced first-hand:
You’re in Control of Your Body
When you choose an epidural, you are choosing to remain on the delivery bed. Once you can’t feel the bottom half of your body, they really don’t want you trying to move around (to be honest, you physically can’t). Your options for laboring turn into laying on your back, your left side, or your right side. The same goes for delivery.
You will have to be hooked up to an IV, a blood pressure monitor, and have a bladder catheter, which I hated! I m so happy to have been able to avoid that this time around. You’ll also have an external monitor to check on how the baby is doing. All of these things are necessary, as you won’t be able to drink fluids (usually just ice chips) and you won’t be able to stand to use the restroom.
Choosing an unmedicated birth gives you a lot more freedom. Because you aren’t tied down to a bed, you may have lots of other options for relieving pain. You can move into positions that help curb pain, you can still have snacks and drinks, and you will feel the labor progressing which will often result in shorter labor.
A medicated labor can add a few hours to your labor time. An epidural tends to slow everything down and even can require the use of Pitocin to speed things back up. Unmedicated birth allows your body to take control and do what it was literally made to do.
More Options to Relieve Pain
Be sure to ask your OB/midwife what the options are at your hospital for pain relief, if you’re choosing an unmedicated birth. Often, hospitals have lots of ways to help you manage your pain throughout labor and delivery. Here are some options to ask about:
- Birthing Ball: It’s sometimes called a yoga ball, but it’s the same thing. A large ball that you can sit on or kneel beside to help relieve some of the pressure around your belly.
- Birthing Tub: Some hospitals will allow you to only labor in the tub, while others will actually let you deliver there, too! The warm water can help you manage your contractions, the fact that you’re in water helps you move around easier as your body is more buoyant, and the pressure of the water can actually help alleviate some of the pain of contractions.
- Birthing Chair: A u-shaped seat that is very low to the ground, a birthing chair is designed to support your weight as you squat over it.
- Birthing Bar: Used with actual pushing, not just contractions, this is a bar that is anchored to the sides of the bed at the end and arches over the bed. When you feel a contraction coming, you can grab the bar, move into a squatting position, and let gravity aid you in pushing.
- Walking the Halls: While this requires no extra equipment, it is an option that may be available to laboring mothers who aren’t using medications.
- Rocking in a Chair: Often, any sort of movement will help manage pain. Rocking in a chair should be available to you if you aren’t confined to the bed.
Recovery from an Unmedicated Birth is Quicker
The hormones your body uses to get your body through labor and delivery are also instrumental to helping your body recover. Oxytocin not only triggers contractions but can also offer relief and euphoria post-birth. This helps to trigger the release of natural endorphins which are believed to aid in recovery.
To put it simply, the hormones will make you happy and relieved after it’s all over and your body will start the healing process on its own.
You won’t have to wait for an epidural to wear off, you are less likely to need an episiotomy (although you may tear anyway) and therefore stitches. Plus your baby is likely to be more alert and ready to try nursing.
Breastfeeding also releases oxytocin which will aid in your recovery. Oxytocin helps reduce the size of your uterus and can curb postpartum bleeding.
Less Time Pushing
This may be one of the biggest benefits! Without numbing your lower extremities, you will be able to feel your body’s natural urges. If you can feel the urge to push, your pushes will be more effective. Plus, if you want to use a birthing bar or birthing tub, gravity can be on your side! This is one reason to choose an unmedicated birth.
No Loss of Sensation or Alertness
Medications affect people differently. While an epidural will absolutely give you a loss of sensation, it can also impede your alertness. Some drugs will cause drowsiness or hurt your ability to focus. Trust me you don’t want to miss the birth of your child!
The sensations you feel will help push labor and ultimately delivery along quicker. My experiences with delivery were 23 hours (with epidural after 8 hours) and less than 4 hours (naturally)! It was such a contrast that I absolutely would choose a natural birth every time.
Strong Feelings of Empowerment and Accomplishment
To be completely honest, I asked for an epidural during my second birth. The problem was, I asked about an hour too late! I had no idea that I was in for a natural birth heading into my induction. Hindsight is 20/20, right? I am happy glad it worked out that way.
I am proud that my body has given birth twice. The feeling of accomplishment and empowerment from having a natural birth is like nothing else I have ever experienced. I did not think I could handle natural childbirth. But one thing I’ve learned is my body is incredible and knew exactly what to do.
So, if you’re on the fence about natural childbirth, I encourage you to go for it! The benefits absolutely outweigh the pain. But keep in mind, the result will be the same no matter if you choose an epidural or not. Your baby will be born and a new life will begin.