Preparing for a Natural Birth When You Asked for the Epidural Last Time

So you asked for the epidural last time.  And this time, for whatever reason, you want to go all natural.  Natural birth after an epidural last time is  totally do-able.  Having some solid strategies helps you make it throughout without asking for the meds this time.

Getting Clear on Your Why

I’ve mentioned understanding the “whys” for choosing natural birth quite a bit recently.  It’s important to know why this is so important to you!

I don’t think that having an epidural has made you any less of a woman or mother or any of that nonsense.  But there may be lingering doubts in your mind because you chose a medicated birth (or births) before.  You may think that it was just too tough and maybe you’re just not “cut out for natural birth.”  Those sorts of worries are very real.

Having a strong reason why giving birth without medications is important to you can help you overcome that, especially in the moment.  I can’t promise a natural birth will be “easy” – sometimes it does get intense and even the most well-prepared mama may wonder what she signed up for!

Yet moms can and do get back on track and have beautiful birth experiences every day.  And sometimes when you look back on an experience and know you had to give it your all, it makes it all the more powerful 🙂

You may decide on multiple “whys:” it’s best for you and baby, it protects hormonal flow during labor, it creates safety for you and baby, you had a bad reaction the epidural last time, you didn’t like the way it made you feel, it caused your baby to stay in a bad position, or you just want to prove to yourself that you can give birth naturally.  Whatever your reason or reasons, have them in your mind as you prepare for your baby’s birthday.

Pain Relief is Not Why You’re Giving Birth

Most of us think about cute babies, baby clothes, baby gear, etc. first.  Then we think about getting pregnant and getting through pregnancy.  Then, usually, our thoughts turn towards birthing… and the first thought there is pain relief.

Mamas who choose an epidural generally don’t give it too much more thought.  They’ll have the epidural, sit in bed, and wait for the baby (you really can’t do a lot more when you’ve got an epidural).

Even mamas who plan a natural birth, though, tend to really focus on pain relief.  What “natural pain relief techniques” are out there?  That’s a primary focus of many natural birthing classes.

If you picked an epidural last time you probably didn’t really focus on how to work with a natural labor at all, so what you experienced before the medications kicked in may have been really overwhelming.  And mamas who worry only about minimizing pain during labor often find that it’s really intense.

The problem is, labor is not about getting comfortable.  And no, that doesn’t mean it has to be torture.  But what labor is about is giving birth to a baby.  That baby has to rotate and move down through your pelvis (this is called the “mechanisms of labor” or “cardinal movements”).

When you focus on working with your baby during labor, you assist your baby in these movements.  The result?  Usually a faster labor with less pain.  Horrible pain is generally caused by a baby that’s having trouble rotating (which is highly likely if you stay on your tush in your bed – a compressed pelvis is just not easy to move through!).

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

It Might Be Really Intense

Having said that, I want you to realize that birth may be intense.  I also want to assure you that’s OK.  Really.  It is.  We live in a society to rushes to cover up pain.  Browse the over-the-counter medication section of your local pharmacy – a huge proportion of those are to stop pain.  Rarely do we stop to figure out why we’re experiencing pain.  We just want to cut it off.  And that results in a lot of chronic pain for a lot of people.

When it comes to childbirth, we understand why there’s discomfort: after all, your pelvis is moving, your cervix is opening, your uterus (fundus) is thickening, and a baby is coming through!  That’s a lot of opening in an area that usually doesn’t stretch quite that much (though it does stretch just fine during lovemaking, and quite a bit – just saying).

Usually when things start to feel really intense or painful, it means one of two things.  First, it may mean baby is trying to rotate and move.  Making it through that contraction and then moving into a different position often helps with this.  Sometimes going to the bathroom helps too (a full bladder can put uncomfortable pressure on things).  Or it may mean you’re in transition, usually the most intense part of birthing… and also very close to meeting your baby.  Having somebody to help you breathe, to hold you, for you to hold onto, and to remind you that you are doing this and you are close to meeting your baby is really helpful.

Have Some Strategies – and a Birthing Partner

Having help and strategies (tips, techniques, methods… whatever you want to call them) to use during labor is important.  I know I said you don’t want to focus on pain relief, but many natural birthing techniques are helpful to have, especially if they’re skills-based.  That means they help you work with your baby and your body in practical ways.

Understanding breathing is very helpful during labor.  I’m not talking about fancy panting or meditation techniques – I’m really just talking about getting to know your own breathing patterns and what helps you calm down.  You have to pay attention to this during pregnancy so it’s a tool available to you during birthing.  Your birthing partner should know this stuff too, so that he or she can really help you.

Knowing a wide variety of positions is another great strategy for labor.  Practice these before your birthing time starts.  Which ones make you feel most open?  Which ones make you feel closed?  Just notice how you sit in daily life.  And yes, you can practice positions when no one else is looking.  Again, though, your birth partner should go over these with you so he or she can actually help you.

Those are just a couple of the techniques that can really help you manage labor.  I go over a lot more in my online class series, MamaBaby Birthing.  It’s an easy, self-paced online class and you get a live call weekly to ask me your questions, so it works for many mamas-to-be.  But I recommend you take a good natural childbirth class in your area if that appeals to you 🙂

Another good option is bringing in a doula.  Your doula has an entire toolbox of skills, techniques, etc. to help you.  And she’s worked with a lot of mamas in many birth settings and situations.  She has real resources to help you and might be worth her weight in gold if you’re planning a natural birth.  Check out my interview with doula Nikki Knowles for more information on doulas.

You Are Working With Your Baby

I’ve said it a few times already, but you’re doing this with your baby.  This one tip has gotten the most feedback from my childbirth class students.  Initially they’re scared when I say “don’t focus on pain relief.”  But when you understand that the focus is instead on working with your baby, it’s not so intimidating.

Working with baby also safeguards the hormonal process of labor, and when you understand and advocate for that environment for yourself and your baby, things move more smoothly.  My students do this and are able to make it through labor (and yes, they use some of the “techniques” and tips I recommend you learn 🙂 ).  Usually they find that labor goes more smoothly because of this, though it doesn’t always guarantee a fast experience (click here to learn how to handle a long labor – and still have a beautiful birthing).

You can work with your baby too, and that’s a great focus to have during your birthing time.  Know that your baby is there with you, doing the work too.  Nikki, the doula I mentioned above, found that seeing an ultrasound photo of her baby really helped one mama who was feeling overwhelmed during labor.

Natural birth gives you and your baby so many advantages, so keep reminders of your baby close to you.  Know that it will only be a short time before you hold your baby, even if it’s tough going for awhile there.  You’re doing it for the best reward possible 🙂

Your Baby is Coming

Labor can feel like it’s going on a long time, and it can get intense (I use that word a lot because that’s how I experienced my last few labors and births – intense, though not necessarily painful).  It’s not going to be the easiest thing you’ve ever done!

Remember this: your baby is coming.

Even if it takes awhile.  Even if it’s tough.  Even if it pushes you and asks more of you than you’ve ever had to give before.

You’re doing something awesome.

And your baby is coming.  Turn by turn, contraction by contraction, moment by moment, your baby is steadily making his or her way to you.

You can do this.

Your baby is coming.

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

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Preparing for a Natural Birth After Epidural

About the author 


Kristen is a pregnancy coach, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! I've spent nearly two decades helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Does complete support for a sacred birth and beautiful beginning for your baby resonate with you? Contact me today to chat about how powerful guidance and coaching can transform your pregnancy, birth, and mothering journey <3

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