How I Prepared for a Drug-Free Labor

As I explain in my Birth Story, I knew that I wanted to avoid drugs in my labor.  I knew that much of this was out of my control, but I decided to be as proactive as possible to make my desire a reality.  I wanted to explain some of the things I did to make that happen in case someone else is interested.

Why no drugs?  First of all, let me say I have absolutely no judgment if a woman wants to use drugs in her labor.  I just knew myself and knew that drug-free was best for me.  I am very afraid of anesthesia, even though I have had two surgeries with no problems.  I’m also the type of person who just doesn’t like taking medicine if I don’t have to.  In other words, I’m crazy.  🙂 But really, I knew that the best way for me to be relaxed and confident in my labor would be to have as much control of my body as possible and to not be worrying about possible side effects.  Plus, my mom never used drugs, and she is my hero and I wanted to be like her!

Oh, and I watched The Business of Being Born. Aaaaaa.

There is so much we can’t control about labor and delivery.  Nature happens! But maybe there are some things we can do for ourselves ahead of time.

1 Do Your Research on your Provider and Hospital

Even before I was pregnant, I started doing research.  I knew I still wanted to give birth in a hospital; therefore, I needed to find a hospital where the birth I wanted would be more possible.  Soon, I discovered that this meant I needed to find a new doctor because the place my current doctor delivered had a suspiciously high c-section rate compared to other hospitals in the area.  I found a hospital that advertised their dedication to making sure mom and baby stay together the whole hospital stay.  This seemed like a good start.  At least their philosophy about the bond between mom and baby matched with mine.  I also continually heard good things about the nurses in this hospital, and since nurses are key in hospital labor, I liked that info too!

I also started researching different providers.  I decided a midwife would be a good choice for me because having a midwife lowers the chance of interventions, at least according to what I read.  Before I was pregnant I interviewed a few midwives.  Here is the document of questions I asked in case anyone is interested.

Midwife Interview

I found a midwife whose personality made me feel comfortable.  I felt that she would really allow her patients to do what they wanted and not push them into decisions based on what she wanted.  I also liked that she was the only midwife in the practice, so as long as she wasn’t on vacation, she would be the one at my labor.  In most doctor’s offices, you have no guarantee who is going to be at your labor.

2. Start Learning about Birthing Philosophies and Birth

I would of course recommend taking a class if you can.  Luckily, the hospital had a Lamaze class that was not too much money.  And it was a great class where we actually practiced Lamaze techniques every week while also learning about childbirth. You can also take classes on the Bradley Method or Hypnobirthing, but they can be a lot of money.

Although I didn’t know what techniques I would actually want to use when labor arrived, I still felt good knowing about them all and trying different things out.  For instance, the Lamaze breathing seemed counter-intuitive to me, but once I started practicing it, it became easier.  The teacher said there would come a stage of labor where deep breathing wouldn’t be enough and the ‘”ah-ee” breathing would be more helpful.  Interestingly, I never got to that point…I just stuck with deep breathing because it continued to feel good to me.  But I’m still glad I learned my options.

Some classic books to read are Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and Husband Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradley.  I also read and enjoyed The Birth Book by Dr. Sears.

I found this book to be the most helpful:

Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method

While I didn’t exactly “follow” this method to a tee in my labor – I didn’t really have time! – I used so much of this book.  It teaches breathing and relaxation techniques that were invaluable to me.  The premise is basically to use self-hypnosis so that during labor you can be calm and in control as much as possible.  Also wonderful were the CD that came with the book and the additional Hypnobirthing tracks you can find here.

I listened to the CD every night and became able to be so relaxed.  And that is a big deal for me because I am NOT a naturally relaxed person.  I also listened to the Birthing Affirmations as my due date approached, and thinking them to myself during my labor really helped.

3. Learn to Relax

Do yoga, deep breathing, meditation, prayer, whatever you need to do.  But take time to relax and practice relaxing!  I started listening to the CD I mention above about 5 months into my pregnancy, and I also started seriously practicing breathing and self-hypnosis every day around the same time.  I did yoga as much as I could during the pregnancy as well.  These steps were helpful because I really feel that being a calmer person overall and meditating on how my body was meant to work this way and my mind could handle pain helped me be very calm and in control during my labor.  During my pregnancy, I was the most relaxed I’ve ever been in my life!  Too bad that fabulous state of mind ended immediately after my daughter was born, haha.

4.  Make a Plan

When I say this, I don’t necessarily mean a 50-page long birth plan.  Both my midwife and the nurses at the hospital told me that when a woman comes in with a long birth plan, the nurses joke that she is going to have a c-section.  I thought this was kind of mean, but my midwife explained that when you are obsessed with controlling every detail of your labor, then when something doesn’t go according to plan you tend to get tense and stressed, resulting in stalling your labor.

What I do mean is, decide what is most important to you.  What do you most care about happening in your labor?  And then, write that down for yourself and whoever will be in the room with you.  You can have this written down to show the nurses, or you can express your desire to them.

I most wanted to be drug-free and to have my baby immediately with me after birth so I could have skin to skin and breastfeed.  My hospital already had a strong policy of Kangaroo Care (skin to skin), so I didn’t need to worry about that.  That’s why I was so glad I had found a hospital whose philosophies matched mine in terms of keeping mom and baby together at all times.  It’s very important to be informed about the policies of your hospital so that they don’t try to do something you were totally not expecting.

Probably the most helpful and informative book I found about common hospital policies and just about deciding what was most important for me was: Natural Hospital Birth: the Best of Both Worlds.  This book goes through the stages of labor and tells you what to expect.  It also goes through common interventions and just gives you an idea of what they are.  It also focuses on your rights and how you can assert yourself in a polite way when you want to say no to an intervention.    This book gave me such a clearer picture of everything and just made me feel more comfortable about what to expect.  For instance, this book mentioned that hospitals often give Pitocin after birth to help the uterus contract, but that this is something you don’t need to do if you don’t want to because usually the uterus contracts by itself.  I would never have known about this because my childbirth class didn’t mention this at all, and when I asked the nurse running the class about this, she said it wouldn’t happen.  Well, during my actual labor, the nurse and doctor were all ready to prepare the Pitocin.  Luckily, I understood that I probably wouldn’t need this, and the doctor agreed that they would only use it if I was hemorrhaging or my uterus was not contracting naturally.  If I hadn’t read this book, I would have been uninformed and unsure and might have said yes to a drug that it turned out I didn’t need.

5. Go with the Flow

In the end, nature will decide how your body works and what happens with your labor.  As I explain in my Birth Story, my water broke before I got to the hospital, which was something I had hoped would not happen.  But I just kept saying the birthing affirmations, breathing deeply, going through the Hypnobirthing meditations, and having faith.  When I was at the hospital, the nurses were very impressed with my state of mind and never once offered me pain medication because they could tell I was in control.  Not of my body, but of how I reacted to what was happening.

I strongly believe that everything can be taken away from us, but we will still have control over our state of mind and our reactions to what life throws at us.  This takes practice.  Being able to relax takes practice if you are a crazy person like I am.  But with the help of these resources, I was relaxed and calm during the most intense experience of my life!  And I was able to have the birth experience that I truly believed was best for my baby.