Natural childbirth.

I have been reading about the Bradley method of natural childbirth. Deep relaxation and emotional support from a coach are promoted as the best ways to successfully give birth without drugs. The book I am currently reading cites anecdotal evidence of “painless” childbirth.

When my daughter was born in 1992, I refused all drugs throughout labor and only asked for them during transition, when the doctor told me it was “too late”. Therefore, I had a “natural” childbirth. The process was distressing and painful, but NOTHING as horrible as I had imagined or been told by other mothers. The most annoying parts of the process were the doctors desperately working to intervene (fetal distress was involved). I found labor to be more intense than terrifying, even though I was totally unprepared (she was early) and had an inexperienced coach. However, I still experienced pain and panic at the end of the process. (I suspect that I may be able to do better without medicine the next time because of the relatively low amount of suffering I went through.) The opinion/stories I am seeking would be from other mothers: is it possible to have a relatively painless labor and birth?

Does anybody have any stories about great (or horrifying, I don’t mind seeing the other side too) natural or home births? Since I am contemplating having a second child and am personally opposed to (myself) using drugs during labor unless absolutely necessary, I just want to see some more anecdotal evidence. Doper moms, please share your humble opinion and your stories. :slight_smile:

Not a mom but a dad/coach here. We didn’t take the Bradley classes, but read the books and took the hospitals childbirth class (which was more Lamaze focused).

Overall the experence was a positive one. When we got to the hospital, she was dilated to a 6 (and fully effaced) , I think. She was experiencing back pains so we went into the shower. Well after about 45 minutes or so she said the pain was too much…and I was thinking “shit we need a plan b, then”. Nurse checks her out again and she’s then at 10…ready to push. She ended up needing some pitocin later in the delivery because the uterus was not doing enough work, but otherwise it went well.

When we were getting ready I remember reading (and hearing from friends) about “emotional landmarks” that tend to point out where you are in the labor-delivery process. It sounded a bit corny at the time, but looking back at it, I think there is something to be said for it. When her mood and attitude changed, we stopped walking the neighborhood and went to the hospital…which turned out to be good timing. And when she thought “I can’t do this anymore”…she was at 10 and ready to push.

We had a Certified Nurse Midwife (part of an obgyn group) who was really great to work with…I had the sense that we had the best of both worlds: someone who would strongly advocate for and support an intervention free delivery, but someone who had the skills (and colleagues, if needed) to provide for other delivery modes if needed. I think picking your doc/midwife is an important decision.

Anyway, that’s our data point. Good luck!

Hey ggurl!

I don’t know about painless, but I’ve had three unmedicated childbirths that were certainly doable. I took a different, more expensive childbirth preparation class each time, and each time was easier. I don’t know how much of the improvement I can attribute to the classes, and how much to experience, mental and physical.

Baby #1 grab bag prep class with an emphasis on unmedicated childbirth drawing on several “methods”. Gave birth at a freestanding, midwife run birth center. Difficult, but I never comtemplated asking for drugs (which would’ve necessitated transportation to the hospital…5 minutes away). Used mostly Lamaze breathing techniques and walking to cope with labor. Also got in bathtub which gave a lot of pain relief, this was NOT a water birth though. Difficult part of labor lasted 12 hours (each of my labors had a long, slow easy period at the beginning that I spent at home)

Baby #2 Bradley method prep class. Gave birth at same birthing center. Used mostly Bradley breathing and relaxation techniques. Did not walk much. Used bath for pain relief again. Also not a water birth. Difficult part of labor was 6 hours. Although the birth was fine I got a rectal hemotoma (a blood bubble in my rectum) that developed after the birth, causing excruciating pain that made labor look like a day at the beach. Although the birth was unmedicated, the aftereffects required morphine. It was a minor complication in the grand scheme of things and I recovered quickly.

Baby #3 Hypnobirthing class. Same birthing center. Listening to my Hypnobirthing tapes all through labor. Which is not really supposed to be how it works–your husband is supposed to learn the “scripts” and talk to you to put you in the state of relaxation. But he would never practice with me, so I did all my practice with my tapes, plus I wore a walkman most of the time anyway (books on tape), so I was very comfortable that way. Very easy labor. Didn’t use the bathtub. Difficult part 4 hours. Biggest Baby (8lbs. 15oz). Very joyful. Very quick recovery.

Probably the best thing you can do to have a positive unmedicated childbirth is use midwives, either at home, in a freestanding birth center or in a hospital.

It really helps to have birth attendants who are very supportive of unmedicated birth.

Is my experience a ringing endorsement of Hypnobirthing? Well, all I can say is it worked for me. I think it didn’t hurt having 2 births already under my belt when I used it. The classes are expensive, if you can even find them in your area. If you are very motivated you might get the same benefit from learning the relaxation techniques on your own from the book and tapes. I found it a much more effective approach to relaxation than Bradley.

Good Luck whatever you do!

P.S. If you’re interested in the Hypnobirthing…

Four years ago my wife gave birth to our son at home. Even though it was a VBAC for her, she experienced little pain and no tearing. I caught the little guy and will always remember that. The midwife and dula were very experienced and remarkably skilled. They kept me “busy” in the kitchen boiling water (a nice placebo) but I really indulged in mixing a couple of bloody marys for myself (hell with placebos I say). We took all the classes and then some. They were helpful but don’t really effectively communicate to the hapless husbands how wives become aliens during labor.

My best of wishes to you.

First baby - Lamaze classes. Used these tchniques for 20 hours at home and another twelve at the hospital by which time I was exhausted and delerious. Got an epidural for the last 8 hours (during which I mostly slept), woke up to push and wound up with a high forceps delivery. Turned out the cord was around the neck three times so the head never applied well to the cervix. My doctor was an idiot. Kid came out OK though. He’s known here as Varlos Z.

Second and third babies - New doc - Epidurals before first contractions (induced). Labors were 4 hour and 2 hour tiptoes through the tulips. I don’t recommend this, but I had been traumatized.

My real reason for posting is that my cousin had four babies by the hypnobirth method. She was rich so the trainer was present at the births to do the hypnosis. She swears by it. Labors were very easy and uncomplicated. I have worked in labor rooms and suspect the hypnobirth method is considerably more effective than the Lamaze or Bradley methods. If I had to do it all over… Oh well, I found the childhoods a lot more painful than the births so don’t pay any attention to me.

I had two very easy Lamaze-trained natural (drug-free) birth experiences. I remember them as hard work, but not excruciating pain. Heck, I’ve had worse pain with infected teeth, sinus headaches and sore throats.

The major thing that Lamaze did for me, and I’m sure lots of other methods would do as well, was to help me learn to NOT become tense. The worst thing is if you’re afraid, so you tense up, which causes muscles to cramp, which makes labor harder, which causes you pain, which causes you to become even more tense. Lather, rinse, repeat.

With a normal labor, even if it’s an intense one, you are really comfortable for more total minutes than not. It’s not til the end where you are getting frequent, long contractions that you start to lose it. But by then, you’re almost done. Most of the rest of the time, the interval between contractions is longer than the contractions themselves.

The wonderful thing was that I was completely aware of the birth, got to see my babies immediately, and I felt so good! I was so high on sheer adrenaline after the first one that although she was born at about 6 a.m. I was unable to sleep the whole day. And since I’d had no drugs I could eat right away – I was famished.

That said, this will obviously be insufficient for some births. There are probably about a million things that could cause this not to work. One, for example, is an extremely long labor. Even if you’re comfortable most of the time, if a whole day goes by and you haven’t slept and probably haven’t eaten, everything would feel worse. There are definitely situations where not to get some sort of pain relief would be stupid and self-defeating.

I did have one opposite experience – a miscarriage at about 18 weeks. The problem there is that the uterus has not become strong enough to push efficiently, and the poor fetus is still so small there is no leverage and no resistance to push open the cervix. My ob/gyn did not think it was safe to do a d&c because he felt it would be more dangerous, risking a perforated uterus. Nor could they keep me doped up for the entire time. It was a long, long, long, very painful day and a half.

I would probably have been too afraid, though, to have a home birth. It’s my impression that although the overwhelming majority of births conclude just fine and dandy with little assistance, really, when things do go wrong they can go very wrong, very fast.

Actually in most cases that go wrong, it’s going to be catastrophic in hospital or at home. With an experienced midwife, you usually do have time to transfer to hospital because usually there will be indications that things are going wrong in advance.

I used to do consumer advocacy with the NZ College of Midwvies and the three homebirths I reviewed (three out of literally hundreds of births I reviewed over the years) that did go wrong were one where the baby was undiagnosed breech with a precipitate delivery, one where the baby just died and no reason was ever found and one where strep b was present in the uterus but not externally. The undiagnosed breech was missed by 3 highly experienced midwives and may or may not have been picked up in hospital. I also reviewed stillbirths that happened in hospital with midwives and generally if it was going to happen, it was going to happen.

My obstretric history is pretty chequered. First baby, planned homebirth, saw obstetrician at hospital after the midwife and I both had some concerns(unspecified, vague concerns), died that night in utero. Delivered in hospital with epidural after induction.

Second baby born at home with same midwives. I never did any actual program like Bradley. It wasn’t a particularly terrific experience to be brutally honest. I was still traumatised by the previous birth and I chose homebirth because it was made pretty clear to me that hospital would have equalled a scheduled c/sec as a’s stillbirth was unexplained.

Several miscarriages, one at 14 weeks.

Third baby induced at 36 weeks in hospital, gas and epidural. It was probably my most positive experience overall.

You may enjoy the book The baby catcher, by a midwife who did homebirths for years. Great stories, of good and bad, home and hospital.

I myself wanted a natural birth, but the baby didn’t go for it. Two c-sections and healthy daughters later, I’m happy enough.

I went in wanting drugs. My mother had very long painful labors and I was expecting the same.

I did get an epidural - when I was nearly fully dialated. Although it WAS hell to get there (I had the worlds worst delivery nurse, better coaching would have made all the difference), looking back on it, the worst was nearly over by the time I got my epidural and I could have gone natural.

One of my coworkers went into the hospital at 9:00 am with “vague uncomfortableness” and “we are worried cause we haven’t felt the baby move” At 12:00 her baby was born. She didn’t feel labor “pains” until noon and claims the whole thing was “not a big deal.” I stopped by the hospital to drop off her things at about 11:00 - and the monitor was going and she wasn’t even registering it on her face. Little woman, too. And she didn’t do ANY special prep except the normal childbirth classes with the breathing exercises. Some people are just lucky (or not - I have another aquaintence who has similar labors. Three “unintended” homebirths because she didn’t realize she was in labor until the pushing instict kicked in big time and five minutes later - baby!)