Birthing Without Pain – I’m going to say something controversial: childbirth without pain is not only possible; it’s natural.
In other words, pain-free birth is normal. Or ought to be. The births full of pain, trauma, and chaos we’re used to seeing and hearing about are not.
This is a shocking statement to some. It goes against every story most of us have been told, and for many, it goes against their lived experience. Childbirth has become synonymous with hardship and risk.
An idea has taken hold that giving birth outside of a hospital room is dangerous, even irresponsible. But is that based on truth? What about the thousands of births, and growing, that have happened in a huge diversity of places without trauma and horrible pain? Three daughters, three pain-free births.
I’ve given birth to three beautiful daughters, each without pain. My first labor was long – 21 hours – because my eldest daughter was not in the correct position. I could have remedied this with the knowledge I now have, but I still did not experience pain. My second birth lasted 90 minutes. No pain. And my third lasted 3.5 hours and was blissful from start to finish.
I know from experience that pain-free birth is possible. This is not to say that childbirth is not intense. Of course, it is. Athletes train intensely for hours, which is not a problem if they do so properly – pain is a red flag.
Where have we gone wrong?
Birth is not a medical emergency.
We’re trained to associate childbirth with panic. TV shows and movies have turned childbirth into a chaotic parody of itself: the water breaks and everyone panics. Cut to rushing mom into a hospital room where doctors and medications abound. Next, mom is screaming in intense pain while the doctors yell, “Push!” until everyone finds sweat-soaked relief as the crying baby emerges.
This isn’t how it has to be.
A woman’s body is designed to give birth without putting her in danger. Mammals of every species give birth in the wild, where predators abound. If childbirth immobilized animal mothers for hours, they and their babies would be in danger. As in nature, a human mother should not be incapacitated while giving birth to her baby.
As Karen Walton (@painfreebirth on Instagram) says on her website, http://painfreebirth.com, “Childbirth should be a natural event that occasionally needs medical help, not a medical event that occasionally happens naturally.”
What we’ve forgotten
What causes pain during childbirth? Fear.
For a baby to be born, the cervix must relax. Effacement is the term used when the cervix stretches to allow for a baby to pass through the birth canal, and effacement will not happen if a woman is not at ease. There is a deep level of vulnerability at play when a woman’s body is preparing to give birth, and if a woman does not feel safe and supported, childbirth will be difficult.
Women rarely ask themselves, “Where do I feel safe? What will make me feel most supported?”. Most of us default to giving birth in the hospital, where the medical staff dictates to us instead of supporting and consulting. We shut down and become obedient as the professionals rattle off potential risks, disconnecting us from trust in our bodies. Conflict arises as we follow medical advice over what we feel.
All of this creates a fear response.
The body does not distinguish a real threat and a perceived threat, and hearing a litany of dangers we can only avoid through medical intervention triggers fear. Fear floods the body with adrenaline, which counteracts the birthing hormones the body creates to relax and open it for birth, causing tension which leads to pain. Medical professionals often coach a woman to force her body through labor by pushing through pain.
The term “cascade of interventions” describes how medical intervention in the natural unfolding of childbirth creates a need for more medical interventions to force birth rather than allow it to occur. It begins with fear, causing the cervix to close, which slows labor. Medical staff may then recommend an IV drip of Pitocin – a synthetic form of the body’s natural oxytocin meant to facilitate birth – which disrupts our body’s rhythms leading to painful contractions.
With the pain comes more intervention in the form of an epidural, which removes all sensation from the mother – she is just blindly pushing. This detached and forced labor can cause hemorrhaging, tearing, and trauma. A baby’s head will not move easily through a closed cervix. A woman should not have to push until she’s purple. And if none of these work, women end up with C-sections.
Healthy birth requires nothing – a woman and her baby are naturally equipped with all that’s needed. We have become accustomed to the idea that birth outside a hospital is inherently risky, but that isn’t necessarily true. It’s not about home versus hospital. It’s about where a woman feels safest at a primal level. How to give birth pain-free.
Here are a few tips to prepare your body for a pain-free birth.
Hydration is essential under any circumstances, especially when it comes to childbirth. Replenishing ourselves before and after the natural stress of birth helps to keep our bodies strong. Beneficial sources of hydration are those which offer healthy sources of electrolytes and mineral salts to support our nervous systems, including celery juice, coconut water, and cucumber juice.
The adrenals are critical for childbirth. They act as the engine behind your body’s process to bring the baby out of the uterus. Weak adrenals can lead to difficult labor, prolonging labor time several times over in some cases. Strengthening the adrenals by eating at least every one and a half to two hours, bringing in clean sources of glucose, potassium, and mineral salts (apples with dates and celery sticks is a perfect adrenal-supportive snack), managing stress, and avoiding caffeine have a massive impact on childbirth. Adrenal snacks protect blood markers which helps to prevent medical interventions like glucose or saline drips, which limit a mother’s mobility.
Magnesium supports our nervous system and calms our adrenals. This supplement also supports labor “surges” (aka, “contractions,” but these are not contractions, which implies restriction) – these are movements of the uterine muscles to facilitate birth. It is extremely helpful to ensure you are not deficient in magnesium before going into labor. Be sure to choose a high-quality magnesium glycinate from a reputable source.
The Three Ps – Prepare, Position, and Provider/Place
Prepare primarily means two things: prepare your body using the tips above and prepare your space by choosing where you will give birth and creating an environment where you feel most safe. This will be different for every woman.
I had a client who had chosen a home birth, but her labor wasn’t progressing. Her midwife eventually asked if she truly felt safe or if she would feel more at ease in the hospital. My client admitted that she would feel better in a hospital, and she gave birth to her baby shortly after arriving. There is no right or wrong, only what will make you feel primally safe and supported.
Other ways to prepare include taking prenatal yoga to familiarize yourself with body positions that facilitate childbirth (there is no reason a woman should be confined to a single position on her back while giving birth) or taking HypnoBirthing® classes. Seek out resources to supplement the typical Western medicine approach many of us are already familiar with.
Position refers to the baby as it moves through the birth canal. Babies rotate out of their mothers in a spiraling motion (a motion mimicked in much of nature). If a baby is “stuck” at any stage during the birthing process, there are many ways to alleviate that. You can “Prepare” by working with a Webster-trained chiropractor who can help ensure that the baby is in the ideal “Position” for birth, by removing any misalignments in the mother’s pelvic girdle.
Provider/place is about who you invite into the room during childbirth.
There are a few questions that can be helpful to ask as you make this decision:
- Who will make me feel most safe?
- Who do I trust?
- Who will respect and listen to me in a birth setting?
Many women have a combination of health professionals, family, midwives, or doulas present. Every woman will make her own choice based on what supports her best.
Remember these tools – the Three Ps (prepare, position, provider/place) and HAM (hydrate, adrenals, magnesium) – and you will be miles ahead regarding your next birth experience. These simple tools can help transform trauma into bliss.
Reclaiming our bodies, reclaiming our story
As with so many other aspects of health, we are rarely given the proper tools to build strength and confidence in our bodies. We’ve been trained to listen to medical authorities over our intuition, eroding trust in Nature’s design.
Women were never meant to birth in fear. Conceiving a child is often done in love. Carrying a child can be an indescribably beautiful experience, and raising an infant is full of joy despite the many (literal) hiccups along the way. Why should childbirth be the one aspect of creating life shrouded in fear and danger?
When we, as women, begin to recognize ourselves as our own best authority regarding our bodies, we can rely on health professionals as support to consult with regarding our needs. A whole new paradigm around childbirth can take shape, with mothers leading and practitioners supporting.
We must start by removing the fear and guesswork and reminding ourselves what we are designed to know. And while I am not claiming that a pain-free birth can be guaranteed for all mothers, good preparation can help you birth comfortably and calmly. Emotional and physical support of the mother during childbirth improves all birth statistics, including mortality.
The data supports what we know in our bodies: childbirth is beautiful and a natural process, and when a mother is supported physically, and able to act from her own intuition, a fearful experience for many can become one full of unprecedented joy.
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