How to Avoid an Epidural During Delivery

Baby E is one month old already, and I don’t know how that happened. Something about those first few weeks home with a newborn just blur together into one, messy, sleep-deprived blob.

My labor and delivery went better than I could have asked for, and I’m so grateful that everything went well without any complications.

Warning: labor and delivery story ahead, skip if you’d rather not know.

The Thursday before my due date, I had a doctor’s appointment. I had been about 2 cm dilated already, so she went ahead and stripped my membranes. I was hopeful that it would kick-start labor since I started contracting with some regularity, however the contractions never grew closer than about ten minutes apart, despite being consistent. They weren’t painful and never grew in intensity.

I labored all day Thursday and Friday, with nothing ever progressing closer together or becoming more intense. I’ll tell you what, nothing is more disheartening than contracting with no real visible progress. By Friday evening I was an exhausted and emotional wreck. Laboring for 2 days straight is the pits.

Saturday morning I awoke bright an early to a painful contraction. Trying not to get my hopes up, I started monitoring them a little more closely. Since I had to go into labor and delivery that morning anyway to get a blood pressure check, I thought I’d wait and see what happened.

The contractions intensified as the morning went on, but I was able to shower, get ready, and have all of my things ready.

At around 9:00 am we arrived at the hospital, and instead of getting a blood pressure check, I told them I thought I was in labor. After a quick check from the nurse, she informed me I was at 7 cm dilated. (Yes!)

She asked about my pain medication preferences. After my last labor and delivery, I didn’t want to experience the same thing, so I opted out of the epidural.

The doctor broke my water at about 8 cm, and within 15-20 minutes at 11:13am, Baby Girl was here! It was intense to be sure, but I was so happy with how everything went. Never once during the transition period did I even think to ask for an epidural.

Now, I’m absolutely in favor of every woman making her own decision when it comes to pain management options. I’ve had four births: two of them with an epidural, two without. I genuinely don’t care if you choose to have an epidural or not. That’s totally your call. But if you are wanting to try and avoid en epidural, I thought I’d share some tricks that helped me have a natural birth.

Everyone’s situation is different, so if after trying these tricks, you still choose to get an epidural, that’s ok! You are not a failure! Every woman and every labor is so completely different, and the important thing is that mom and baby are healthy.

Labor at Home

I think one of the biggest contributors to medical intervention is that women go to the hospital too soon. We’re told to come in once contractions are 3-5 minutes apart for an hour, but in my experience, that can be surprisingly inaccurate. With my first, my contractions were incredibly close together (about 3 minutes so) for hours. Went I went into the hospital after about 10 hours of labor, I was only at 3 cm dilated. With number four, my contractions never got any closer than 5-7 minutes apart. (Until transition anyway.)

It can be hard to know when to go in, but laboring at home is so much more comfortable, and you reduce the risk of medical intervention. I think there’s a lot of pressure from well-meaning doctors and nurses to “get the baby out” as quickly as possible, and while there are certainly times for intervention, I do think that it can be over done.

Even in my experience, the moment I got there and they saw I was 7 cm, the first response was, “ok, we’ll break your water and get things moving.” (I had been there for maybe 15 minutes.) I had to advocate for myself and tell them I wanted to wait and let things progress on their own for a bit before they intervened.

Wait to Break Your Water

Now, I realize this may be out of your control. Some women’s waters break before they go into labor, and some, like me, have always had to have their water broken for them.

But if your water hasn’t broken, wait as long as you can before they break it. In my experience, once the bag is broken, labor is greatly intensified. When the bag is in tact, it almost acts like a cushion, and the contractions are much more manageable.

Be Informed

Nothing is more terrifying than the fear of the unknown, and if this is your first baby, labor can be a very scary thing. I once decided to get an epidural out of fear, and it’s the one time I regret getting it. Don’t let fear paralyze into making a decision you maybe don’t want to.

One of the best ways to punch fear in the face is to be informed. Take the classes that your hospital offers on labor. Read books. (I have a handy list.) Talk to other moms who had a natural birth, or read their stories. Ask questions of your doctor. Don’t be afraid to get the information you need to help take away any nerves about labor.

There is nothing to fear about labor and having information can help ease any worries you may have. (If you expecting and are feeling nervous about it, reach out! I’d be happy to encourage you!)

Be Empowered

This sounds kind of hokey, but part of punching fear in the face is having confidence in yourself as a woman and as a mother that you can do it. (The book list I mentioned above has some great titles that help with this.)

Your body was created to deliver a baby. You have the strength and the capability to have your baby.

Now, I understand that there are instances where the health and well-being of child and mother may dictate medical intervention. I’m not talking about that. I’m referring to trusting that the Lord equipped you and created you to do hard things. Tell yourself that you can do this, because you can.

Breathe

There’s a reason why those Lamaze techniques are so common and talked about: breathing works.

I actually don’t think the patterns or methods you use matter, but the focus on your breath does.

As my labor started, I focused a lot on diaphragmatic breathing: long, slows, deep breaths. As my labor intensified, I switch to counted breaths. A few days before, I had heard on the radio that a certain breathing pattern increased serotonin levels in the brain: 4 counts inhaling, 8 counts exhaling. For some reason, that popped into my head, and I focused on breathing and counting through each contraction.

Whatever breathing pattern or method you choose to use, focusing on breathing takes your mind off of any discomfort, helps you relax, and allows your body to progress through that relaxation.

Whether or not your choose to use an epidural, giving birth is an incredible experience! I hope you find these tricks helpful. Do you have any tricks that helped you during labor? Please comment below!

Related posts:

4 Workouts that Help Prepare for Labor

4 Books to Read for Pregnancy

Foods to Prep for Postpartum

 

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