10 Tips for a Manageable Drug-Free Childbirth

We just welcomed our second child this past October 2nd. My labor with our little Sweet P was just as quick as her brother’s. Fortunately, it was a lot easier.

I went drug-free for both W and Sweet P’s births. For our son, I went into the labor/delivery with a “we’ll see how it goes” attitude. I was going to try my best to forgo the drugs, but I wouldn’t feel bad if I ended up needing them. Well, I totally ended up wanting begging for the drugs the first go-around.

The problem was by the time I got to the hospital I was already 7 centimeters dilated and the anesthesiologist was tied up in a c-section. By the time he strolled in, I felt the unquestionable urge to push.

This time around, for my second labor/delivery, I opted to go with the same “we’ll see how it goes” attitude. I have learned from the first go around that there’s no way to predict how things will turn out. You can write as detailed plan as possible, but babies are unpredictable. 

In the end, I was able to have a certainly not painless, but definitely manageable drug-free childbirth. It’s no question that second time moms tend to have faster, easier births, but I feel strongly that there were things I did differently this time that helped ease the pain.

10 Tips for a Manageable Drug-Free Childbirth

10 Tips for a Manageable Drug-Free Childbirth

  1. Labor at home as long as possible: I don’t know about you, but I’m most comfortable at home. Many hospitals do provide plenty of options to make you as comfortable as possible (e.g. birthing balls, showers, etc.). Yet, you’ll more than likely be hooked up to all sorts of monitors and have people you don’t know walking in and checking you out. I had my first at a teaching hospital. It felt like a party with the number of random people in the room. At home, I was able to take a relaxing bath and bounce on my birthing ball while watching Homeland episodes. By the time I got to the hospital I was 6 centimeters dilated. Added bonus: you won’t be tempted to get the epidural if you don’t have enough time!
  2. Move around: Once I realized I was in the early stages of labor, I found it helpful to move around as much as I could. Not only can this help move things along, but it can also take your mind off the pain. We decided to head to the mall to get things moving and pick up a last minute sweater since God only knows when I’ll get to the mall again. Good Papa did insist we go home when we started to get worried looks from bystanders as I practiced my deep breathing.
  3. Relax: Yes, labor may be the most serious pain you’ll ever have to endure, but I found the pain much more manageable when I was relaxed. I tried to relax my first time around, but I was completely petrified. This time I put on some soothing, classical music and hopped into the bath. A nice massage from your support person may also help.
  4. Take a child birthing class: Good Papa and I took a child birthing class at the hospital the first time around. It was a little cheesy (especially the labor video from the 70s) and the breathing techniques they taught in class all went out the window once the pain got real. I did think it was beneficial for us to learn about the stages of labor, especially Good Papa. I needed him to be able to speak and think for me when my mind wasn’t functioning properly anymore.
  5. Prepare your support person: On that note, keep your support person in the loop. Before labor, you can go over your “plan” and words or phrases that you think will help encourage you when the pain feels unbearable. Some people are into massages, others can’t stand to be touch. Be sure to communicate your preferences.
  6. Breathe: My first time around I managed to stay fairly calm during the early labor stage. I moved around, took a shower, practiced all the breathing techniques I learned in class. It was once I hit the transition stage that I completely lost it. Tears came streaming down my face, I moaned, groaned; I definitely did not breath through contractions. I fought every contraction. I’m pretty sure my delivery room looked like a scene out of The Exorcist. This time around I really focused all my energy on breathing through each contraction. While I’m sure the birthing class techniques are helpful, I found that breathing in a way comfortable to me was best.
  7. Find your mantra: This is the main reason why my second labor was so much easier than the first. Before labor I decided that anytime a contraction would come I would just tell myself, you can do anything for a minute. I stared at the second hand on the clock while I breathed through each contraction. Instead of screaming and fighting my contractions like last time, I was focused and calm. Find a mantra that you can repeat to yourself, or have your partner repeat to you. You can find a whole list of printable mantras over at Lauren & Josh Webber’s blog.
  8. Use distractions: We watched Homeland while at home and turned on Seinfeld when we got to the hospital. The first time around I was so miserable and exhausted from fighting the contractions that I just laid on the hospital bed waiting in agony for the next horrible wave of pain. This time I laughed at Seinfeld and joked with my husband. At one point Good Papa smiled at me and said, “you look pretty.” I don’t know if he was just trying to make me feel good (totally worked) or if I hallucinated the whole thing, but it really made me feel so good at that moment.
  9. Remain Calm: When I entered the transition phase during my first labor I started uncontrollably shaking. At first I thought I was just cold. It was only when sweat started pouring from my face that I realized that I was just shaking. I completely freaked. I thought I was dying. I thought I was going into shock. I thought, “there’s no way this type of pain is normal.” When you go into transition, sometimes  your body will do weird things. You may shake or may make weird animal noises, but it’s normal. The transition phase may be the most difficult to get through, but it is the shortest. This time when I started shaking uncontrollably I reminded myself that I was almost to the finish line.
  10. Stay active and fit during pregnancyThis is not something you can do during labor, but I included it because I think it does make a difference. The first time around I didn’t realize how much you really use your muscles when pushing. It felt like I had the most difficult workout of my life after my first son was born. Well, I guess I did. 

More on Pregnancy

40 Ways to Keep Busy on Your Due Date

6 Easy Exercises to Prepare for Labor

10 Tips for a Manageable Drug-Free Childbirth


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