Is Painless Birth Possible?
You've probably heard women talk about giving birth with no pain – or even mention of “orgasmic birth.” Is painless birth even possible? And is it possible to enjoy giving birth? Or is it just another ridiculous notion designed to make women feel guilty for the births they have? Today we'll talk it out.
Is Painless Birth the Goal?
Pain-free labor and birth is definitely a curiosity today. Maybe it used to be an “underground” kind of thing, but now you've probably heard someone mention it (and laugh it off). Maybe you've even heard of the documentary [raw]
It's on your radar so to speak – but is it really something to spend time thinking about or working towards? I think the answer may be “yes” and “no.”
“No” is not because painless birth is impossible (women do experience it – and I would say more often than we're led to believe). But I feel strongly that pain is not the focus of giving birth. The focus of giving birth is on working with your baby, which I have talked extensively in recent articles (check the bottom of this post for links).
You don't want to get all wrapped up in how you'll handle the pain or overcome the pain. Focus on how to work with your baby during labor and birth. He or she is doing a lot and you can do a lot to help baby come down, out, and into your arms!
I do, however, think it's a good thing to acknowledge that women can and do give birth without pain:
Is Talking About Pain-Free Labor a Bad Thing?
Talking about the possibility of giving birth with no pain is a good thing. Some argue against it because they believe that it's impossible. Others say that it makes things unfair for women who do experience pain.
That's not a good argument. It's true that some women may feel a reaction to the thought of painless birth – my guess is incredulity is the biggest thing! But yes, we can acknowledge that maybe some woman out there may feel guilt because she didn't have that experience. The problem with choosing not to talk about it because there's someone out there, somewhere, who may feel guilty or offended is that we can't control her feelings.
And it's actually really unfair to other mamas, who may be inspired to know that birth isn't all about pain and agony – that in fact, it's possible to have a different experience when birthing your baby. We shouldn't keep such things quiet just because we're worried about offending someone!
A big part of preparing for labor with the intention of having a pain-free, or at least calm and peaceful, birthing is gaining awareness and understanding of yourself and birth. Having that understanding is really beneficial to both you and your baby – it's not something to shy away from.
(NOTE: Want Real Mom Tested Techniques for Handling Labor Pain? Use these 11 proven natural childbirth techniques to handle labor and keep things moving right along. Get them here.)
What about Me?
In all honesty I would not describe my births as orgasmic or anything like that. I have had experiences in births where I felt like I was just opening and expanding – and it was an awesome feeling. And I just wouldn't describe my labors, especially not Corwin's birth, as being “painful.” They were really intense – they asked a lot of me and I had to really get into what I was doing. And that was a good thing. They were all amazing experiences that brought me a beautiful baby and a deeper understanding of my own strength. That's a worthy goal for any mamababy.
Now we'll talk about some factors that go into birthing without pain as a factor.
Environment Makes a Big Impact
Where you're giving birth and the conditions around you have a huge impact on your birthing time. Mama cats seek out a dark, private place to give birth because they know they need that. In reality, you need the same thing. Quiet, privacy, freedom to “do your thing” are what facilitate the hormones of birth and the opening your body needs to do.
Give serious thought to where you're birthing. You don't have to choose a home birth or birth center birth if you're really more comfortable at the hospital. But you should realistically expect that it's going to be harder to have a calm, undisturbed birth in a hospital. You need to really advocate for yourself.
Don't make assumptions even if you're planning a home birth. Home, hospital, or birth center, get clear on what you want. Talk to you doctor or midwife and know their policies (and hospital policy). Make sure they're going to back off and let you work with your baby in a quiet environment, preferably with the lights low. Be sure you'll have access to the bathroom whenever you need it – and a shower and/or birth tub isn't a bad idea (many hospitals have labor tubs even they don't permit birthing in them).
Think about other things that may help you: candles, music, scents, etc. Do be careful with scents; something you love normally may be intolerable during labor!
Have the tools you'll need, like plenty of pillows, a birth ball, etc. Food and drink on standby are a good idea, too.
Chances are you're going to want your birth partner and/or doula with you – and not too many others. Birthing is a private process. Again, when you can withdraw from the world and focus on your coming baby and opening body, it's more likely to go smoothly and simply.
Conditioning Can Help – A Lot
Conditioning about birth began when you were a small girl. Books, TV shows, movies, and even the stories you overheard from your mom, friends' moms, aunts, etc. influenced your thoughts on birth. Those thoughts were probably negative because what you heard was most likely negative. It's really rare to have grown up with a positive outlook on birth!!!
So “re-conditioning” yourself with positive stories and messages about birth is important to do. A first aspect of that is to immerse yourself, or at least really give a good look at, positive, accurate information on birth, your birthing body, hormonal aspects of birth, etc. I don't recommend that you ignore fears or anxieties you have about birth – in fact I strongly recommend you look at those fears logically and work through them. That gives you the ability to move past them and focus on the smooth, safe, normal births most mamas and babies can and should have.
Let your “conditioning” go beyond just gathering information and reading stories, though. Keep strong messages coming. Pregnancy affirmations are good for this – you can write out your own affirmations and hang them up so you read them daily (multiple times a day). Or get a good pregnancy affirmation track and listen to it once a day or so.
Some childbirth methods, such as Hypnobabies, are really good for helping re-condition your mind. I personally listen to Hypnobabies tracks throughout my pregnancies because I love the positive messages and they help prime me for birthing. Soak up all the good birthing resources you can – ask your childbirth educator for more recommendations.
Relaxing… In All the Right Places
Relaxation is fundamentally important to a calm, controlled birthing. Tension brings fear – and fear is what pain really stems from. Being out of control and unable to get relief is terrifying, and that's what most women picture when they think of labor and birth (and this goes back to reconditioning!). It can become a self-fulfilling prophesy – when you worry about pain, you tense up, and when you tense up, pain arrives or increases exponentially.
Relaxation helps you to overcome that. Learning how to relax your body is a great starting point. Many of us don't understand tension and relaxation in our own bodies. Stress is the lifestyle default for many of us, and tension rules the day. Take time to go through some guided relaxation (I include an mp3 guided relaxation in my MamaBaby Birthing online class 😉 ) Doing this helps you understand how to relax deeply, and how to use your breathing to bring relaxation into your body.
Don't stop with that. Stay aware of yourself throughout the day. Explore how you respond to life situations. What does your body feel like when you're upset? Scared? How do you feel when you're calm? What do your muscles feel like then? Cultivate consciousness of your body and your breathing.
Take that to the next level, too. Your baby isn't going to come out of your nose. Your baby is going to come through your pelvis and birth canal! I'm all for relaxed noses and foreheads (and a relaxed jaw often helps you have a relaxed pelvis) – but your baby isn't coming out through there!
Be conscious of positions that make you feel “open and relaxed” in your pelvis. And think about the muscles down there. Do you normally clench them? What does it feel like to relax or soften intentionally? That's where your baby is going to come through, so practice making that area soft.
I feel pretty sure that focusing on that, and being conscious of those muscles, ligaments, etc. is what helped me birth Corwin so smoothly, and experience no pain as I pushed him out.
I do think that most women can have a calm, confident birth. I also think that experiencing intensity during birth is a good thing. Being active during your birthing time is a good thing. Birth is a gateway to a new life – and sometimes that means you've got to get up and move!
But the current paradigm of birth as a passive activity where you sit around and do little but grind your teeth through the pain (until your epidural comes, of course) is not what we need to share. It's not what we need to believe. It's not what we need to pass on to our daughters and granddaughters.
You're strong, and just “getting through it” to hold your baby isn't the only thing you should expect from your baby's birthday. Expect that it may challenge you and call on all your reserves. And expect that the preparation you're doing now, during your pregnancy, is going to help you get up and work with your baby.
You're going to call upon strength you didn't realize you had and you're going to be someone fundamentally different when you birth this child. This day will change your life, taking you from woman to mother. Prepare for it, respect it, and look forward to it. It is your birthright.(NOTE: Want Real Mom Tested Techniques for Handling Labor Pain? Use these 11 proven natural childbirth techniques to handle labor and keep things moving right along. Get them here.)
- MamaBaby Birthing – online childbirth classes to prepare for a conscious birth
- What is normal, undisturbed birth?
- Letting Go of Your Fear of Giving Birth
- Can You Learn Everything About Birth in a Book?
- Preparing for a Natural Birth When You Asked for the Epidural Last Time?