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Natural birth and pain relief

(55 Posts)
dashadollar Wed 09-Jan-13 10:54:29

I am nearly 30 weeks pregnant and I really want to have a natural birth avoiding epidurals and injections. Unfortunately I find that a lot of my friends and acquaintances who have gone through the experience of labour all say the same thing: "I am so happy I had an epidural!" or "I wish I had an epidural!" I do not want to give up on the natural birth before I even tried but it would really help to hear more positive experiences from other women. Please tell me about what kind of natural pain relief you have used during your labour? It would really help as I want to feel in control of my labour rather than succumbing to drugs and anesthetics. Thank you!

MB34 Wed 09-Jan-13 11:51:36

I just had g&a and I'm glad I didn't have an epidural! I also did a hypnobirthing course which, I think, helped a lot too.

You should do what you will be happy with, if the time comes and you change your mind then so be it. Don't let other people dictate what you should/shouldn't do.

Shellywelly1973 Wed 09-Jan-13 12:02:29

I had G&A with first 3dc. Dc4&5 were water births. Used no pain relief. I also listened to hpnobirthing cd's with 4&5.

I always kept an open mind, Im expecting dc6 but this might be the one i need an epidural to deliver.

AnathemaDevice Wed 09-Jan-13 12:12:58

I used the hypnobirthing book and CD in the weeks leading up to my DCs births (couldn't afford to do the course), and gas and air while in labour. Both births were straightforward and relatively quick (6 1/2 hours each time). Even despite DS weighing 9lbs1oz and having a 99th centile head.

I actually quite enjoyed labour, in a strange way. Yes, it was hard work, and yes, it hurt, but I'd happily do it again. In fact I'm going to, in 3 weeks time!

I'd recommend reading up on what goes on during labour, as the pain isn't as scary if you know why it's happening. Keep moving as much as possible, stay calm (easier said than done, I know) and remember that for every horror story you hear there are plenty of women who have straightforward, simple births. Just their stories aren't as interesting, so they don't get heard as much.

One last thing- try raspberry leaf tea/capsules from about 36 weeks onwards. I don't know for sure if it made my labours easier, but I'm not going to risk not using it this time around.

Shagmundfreud Wed 09-Jan-13 12:19:30

Did your friends have optimal care in labour?

If they were
- induced
- not able to be mobile
- didn't have access to a birth pool
- didn't have good care from a midwife they got on with in labour

then it's less surprising that they found labour pain particularly hard to manage.

Would also point out that women tend to be loyal to the birth experience they had - as long as they had reasonable care and a good outcome (ie they and their baby were well at the end). So if they had an epidural they ARE going to usually say it was fab, if everything was ok in the end and it worked. The exception is when they're trying to be 'sisterly' by letting you know that it's ok to find labour hard to cope with. They may do this by bigging up epidurals and dismissing positive experiences of natural birth. You also find this attitude in relation to breastfeeding. Women who've breastfed successfully may well minimise the benefits and emphasise how hard it is, just to show that they're humble, non-judgemental and kind to women who are hoping to breastfeed but haven't had any experience of it yet. The last thing anyone wants to be seen as is a boaster/natural birth or breastfeeding 'nazi', and women will go out of their way to give the impression that they're not. However, put the long term breast feeding mums in a room with other long term breastfeeding mums and you'll find the conversation about how babies are fed has a very different slant. Ditto conversations between mums who had natural births, when they know that no one who had an epidural/is pregnant but hasn't given birth, is listening. wink

On a personal note, having had one epidural birth (with my first) I deliberately chose to make it hard for myself to opt for an epidural with my second and third by choosing a home birth. It was fucking painful but I had great care from a midwife friend and that enabled me to cope. The hormonal high I experienced after the births without an epidural was much more intense. If I live to 100 I'll never feel more incredible than I felt after the 36 hours of unmedicated active labour that I had to go through in order to safely deliver my son. It was heavenly.

Seeline Wed 09-Jan-13 12:32:53

I used a TENS machine with both mine during the early stages and then gas and air. My first labour was 29hrs and ended up with ventouse/cut, the second was only 13 hrs (!). I wouldn't say I was particularly good with pain, but I coped.

learnermummy Wed 09-Jan-13 12:37:08

For me, DS1 was back to back and didn't turn so I did end up with an epidural and actually at the time it was fab because the labour was so long and drawn out and the epidural allowed me to relax. Downside was not being able to feel my legs for a good while.
For DS2 though I opted for a home water birth with a bit of G&A. I also did a hypnobirthing course. This was a great experience, and one I hope to repeat.
I think it's best to plan for your ideal birth experience but always be prepared for things to change. Best of luck.

dashadollar Wed 09-Jan-13 16:44:10

Thank you everyone, it's great to hear about different experiences. It's true AnathemaDevice the horror stories are the ones that people enjoy telling. I am going to do my research, look into hypnobirthing and keep an open mind. Thank you! smile

bangersmashandbeans Wed 09-Jan-13 19:26:46

I was induced and coped with paracetamol and a feck load of screaming!! Nothing calm about my labour but no pain relief grin

LynetteScavo Wed 09-Jan-13 19:32:38

With my first labour I was so glad I had an epidural.

With my second pg, I went to hypnobirthing classes. They were brilliant. I did ask for pain relief, but in my 3rd labour (at home) I didn't need any pain relief. But then I was in familiar surroundings, with an understanding midwife, and determined to do it my way. I didn't have the injection to help the afterbirth come out or have the cord cut until it stopped pulsing. Both were what the midwife thought I wanted, and I shall forever be grateful to her.

wafflingworrier Wed 09-Jan-13 19:35:22

congratulations on your pregnancy! i would say for a natural birth, don't underestimate the power of music and books-my partner read to me from a few books i liked as a child and it really helped distract me from the pain.
also music, if you can make a few playlists for whatever type of mood you are in eg one for fast dancy, one for slow soppy, one for happy cheesy, then that is a good distraction too

cassell Wed 09-Jan-13 19:40:36

I had g&a for ds1, did ask for an epidural as didn't think I could cope with the pain but it was too late and actually it was fine and I'm glad I didn't.

Ds2 was too quick for even g&a so had no pain relief at all and actually it was a lovely experience as I could really feel him at each stage of pushing. It wasn't a hypnobirth though - plenty of screaming through the pain grin

Good luck!

AuntySib Wed 09-Jan-13 19:40:59

I've had 3 babies with no pain relief - my good luck that I didn't feel I needed it.
Controlled breathing and visualisation helped, also genetics!
In my experience, many women have labours similar to their own mother/grandmother - I'd speak to your mum and any other female relatives and find out if they needed pain relief, how long their labours were etc, before making up your mind.

ticklebug74 Wed 09-Jan-13 21:26:30

Dd1 I had pethidine as I panicked a little but with ds1 and dd2 tens machine only. It is a great distraction and I hated g&a when I tried it with dd1 so didn't bother with the other two.

2nd and 3rd labours were much quicker and I attribute that to keeping upright throught labour and I birthed on all fours. Fabulous experiences.

I had an irrational fear of epidural so would have done anything I could to avoid it but am sure if I needed it I would have had one. I also believe in my experiences being able to feel the baby helped me to prevent tearing. Three babies, biggest being 8lb 7oz and not a stitch. I think it is much harder to avoid tearing if you have an epidural.

Anyhow, you just have to go with the flow and be flexible with your birth plan but do make sure your birth partner is fully aware of the type of birth experience you are hoping for so they can be your personal cheer leader when the going gets tough!

Good luck!

Ameybee Wed 09-Jan-13 21:32:26

I just used g&a with both, second I used very little as it was SO quick! I used my tens machine until last 5 mins - i highly rate tens for first stage. IMO it depends on lots of things including the length of labour- if its long then epidural can be a lifesaver. Take it all as it comes.

I did find the breathing techniques really helped me to cope and just focus on that rather than the pain x

VisualiseAHorse Wed 09-Jan-13 22:35:59

I had a 'natural' labour. Started off with bouncing on the ball with the TENS, moved to the car (left the ball behind, but took the TENS!), got to the birthing unit got into pool with G&A, got out, got back in, got out again after 2 minutes, had injection of diamorphine, baby born!

Now, I only had the drugs about 20 minutes before LO was born, so it was mostly to get me through the transitional stage. Because It. Fucking. Hurt. I managed with no drugs for 12/13 hours, and it was in the last 1 or 2 hours that I began asking for drugs. Those 12/13 hours were painful, I'm not going to lie, but the water and G&A really really helped.

Just make sure you are using the gas properly. As soon as you feel a contraction coming breathe it in nice and slow, big breath. Then breath it back out nice and slow as the contraction goes back down.

Goodkingwalkingslass Wed 09-Jan-13 22:44:40

I had Ds last year. No pain relief. Stayed at home as long as possible (turned out I was fully dilated on arrival at hospital). Concentrated on breathing throughout. Hypnobirthing book helped I think and would look at doing course next time. Ds arrived an hour after getting to hospital, gave birth standing up.

Whole experience was bloody brilliant, can't wait to do it again.

LadyKinbote Wed 09-Jan-13 22:46:00

I gave birth in a busy, inner-city hospital where the staff were too busy to give me any form of pain relief - not even gas & air. I feel slightly envy of women who had a different experience to me, but every birth is different. The most important thing is to understand what all your options are and to be vocal about your decisions. Hopefully you won't need pain relief but don't feel guilty if you do.

EugenesAxe Wed 09-Jan-13 23:14:23

It's so hard to know what your body will give you, though. I was a one drug chick for my first (pethidine) and only had a couple of puffs of G&A for my second, BUT I am 5' 10", have a large pelvis and children that obliged to position themselves optimally.

I really wouldn't beat yourself up if you want all the drugs on the planet to help you cope. I found the first stage very painful; it made me projectile vomit. They wouldn't give me G&A for that reason; at 5cm the MV said 'well, it's going to get worse, so I'd recommend pethidine or an epidural now'. DH didn't fancy me having an epidural so I did the other; it was a great drug IMO. Just pretty much made me sleep until I was ready for pushing. Somehow I could cope better for number 2... deep breathing and hot water bottles were enough. I was proper zen for that; my MW said 'No one believed me when I said you were 8.5cm' after she examined me on arrival at hospital.

But really - in most cases people just don't realise how much it's going to hurt. The first time; it's a complete eye-opener unless you are one of those very lucky women. Do what makes you feel better.

Wolfiefan Wed 09-Jan-13 23:23:14

I really did NOT want an epidural. I wanted to be able to move and worried I wouldn't be able to feel to push.
DC1. Laboured at home in the afternoon. TENS. To hospital thinking they'd send me home again. He arrived as a water birth 2 1/2 hours later. (Back to back and 9lbs.) tried gas and air and not keen.
DC2. Impatient little madam who arrived 59 minutes after my first contraction. Bit of gas and air. (Loved it this time!) TENS on but not time to really use it much.
Every birth is different. Know your options and inform MW and birth partner of what you would prefer. Keep an open mind.
FWiW. I have never been so proud of my body as after I have delivered my babies! Women are awesome!

stargirl1701 Wed 09-Jan-13 23:41:29

I planned an epidural.

I woke up at 2am and thought, hmmmm, this could be it! I lay in bed as it wasn't painful and there was no point in getting up. I couldn't sleep so read the newspaper on my phone and used MN.

At 6am I was overcome by hunger so padded downstairs and ate 3 bowls of cereal and half a loaf of toast! At 7am I phoned the hospital then took 2 paracetamol and had a bath.

After the bath my DH put on my TENS machine and we watched a film. At 11am things the contractions were stronger so I used my birth ball in many positions and the chanting and visualisations I learned at ante natal yoga.

By 3.30pm the contractions were closer together and stronger so I called the hospital again. I had had no show or waters. The midwife advised me to go to the local midwife unit and get examined - if I was more than 5cm then come on through to the hospital.

I arrived at the CMU and was examined - 8cm! I was pretty shocked! The midwife there said I could only go on to the hospital in an ambulance but I could stay at the CMU if I wanted.

We decided to stay. I took the TENS machine off (scary moment) and got into the pool. I laboured for another 2 hours with G&A then pushed the baby out after another hour.

Amazing! Wonderful! Empowering!

I had a second degree tear which was stitched 2 hours after birth. The midwife began stitching but it took forever and the local wore off. That was fucking agony! I then asked for a painkiller and was given bloody paracetamol! Grrrr!

I went home after 4 days in the CMU and was home for a week when I had abdominal pain. I was re admitted to the CMU and then transferred by ambulance to the hospital with blood poisoning from infective mastitis.

ReallyTired Wed 09-Jan-13 23:57:16

Please don't see an epidural as a failure. The aim of childbirth is to bring forth a child into the world and hopefully for the mother to get through in the best way possible.

There are circumstances that warrant an epidural. For example an exceptionally long labour with a poor presentation. There is nothing worse than being in pain when you are tired. First time mothers have never given birth before and the whole thing is often a culture shock. Different women experience labour differently. There is a lot of luck involved and its easy to forget that women often died in labour in the past.

Some women have easy births and some women suffer exactly like gensis describes. (8000 years ago child birth was considered painful enough to get mentioned in the Bible.)

My first labour was 33 hours and I had an epidural after 28 hours. I had a beautiful baby at the end of it, but it wasn't an NCT approved birth.

My second birth I had nothing but tens and was in labour for 3 hours. I didn't even have gas and air.

I suggest that you have plenty of strageries for managing pain prepared, but don't look down on people who have an epidural. A woman in my nct class who thought that women who have an epidural aren't proper women ended up with a crash c-section.

mrsbugsywugsy Thu 10-Jan-13 04:21:17

I didn't find labour to be as painful as I expected, and got almost to the end with just codeine and a tens machine., I turned down gas and air because I wanted to save it for when things got really painful... Which they never did.

I listened to natal hypnotherapy cds before the birth which I think really helped.

However... Dd then got stuck at the pushing stage due to being in the wrong position, and had to be helped out with forceps in theatre, under spinal block.

So I would say that you should try all of the natural methods, but also accept that a lot of it is sheer luck and don't blame yourself if things don't go to plan. I was lucky not to find contractions very painful, and unlucky that dd was in an awkward position where no amount of deep breathing was going to shift her grin

HeffalumpsAndWoozles Thu 10-Jan-13 05:18:57

DD1 was induced, I managed on gas & air although it was very painful. However I was extremely happy not to have had an epidural and the moment she was born honestly the pain was worthwhile. She was 9lb 2oz.

DD2 was a water baby, I used tens for the first 40 minutes or so while the pool filled up then got in the water and delivered about an hour later. It was such a wonderful experience and I'd do it again in a flash. DD2 was 9 lb 8oz, don't let size worry you either you only know about it once they're out anyway! Also did a hypnobirthing course for this labour, made myself a lovely relaxing classical playlist, had reflexology in the weeks I was overdue and generally was a lot more prepared, I think all of that helped me to have an easier and more enjoyable experience.

Good luck with your birth smile

Shagmundfreud Thu 10-Jan-13 08:15:51

"There are circumstances that warrant an epidural. For example an exceptionally long labour with a poor presentation."

I agree that epidural is a great tool and knowing that epidural is an option should reduce anxiety if women are contemplating that a long labours like you describe might happen to them.


I have had two looooong labours with malpresenting babies - first and third. The third was longer than the first. First labour I needed an epidural because I was in hospital with multiple changes of midwife (some of whom I didn't have confidence in), continuous monitoring, and was denied food which made me weak. The next time it happened to me I had opted for a home birth, and had the support of one fantastic midwife who I knew well who was with me the whole way through. Despite eventually transferring in for syntocinon, I still coped without an epidural. Point being - quality of care can make just as much difference as how your baby is presenting, or the length of your labour. Some midwives are highly skilled at providing psychological and physical support in long labours. Many are not, because the widespread use (and the encouragement of the use) of epidurals for challenging labours have made these skills redundant in hospitals. Women are left with the impression that long and painful labours are ALWAYS a) intrinsically traumatising and b) impossible to cope with. I know from my personal experience that this doesn't have to be the case for everyone or maybe even most mothers.

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