What to do When You Lose it During Childbirth

Can we be totally candid for a few minutes? Giving birth is intense. It can even get overwhelming. I’ve had six babies, and I’ve had at least a minute of feeling overwhelmed in all of them (and more in some of them!!)

Unfortunately this is when many moms turn to pain medications, even if they really want a natural birth. It’s even more unfortunate that this is partly a side effect of a movement towards natural birth, trusting birth, and trusting your body. Why do I say that?


The problem comes not from the goal of trusting birth and trusting your body. Those are good goals – I’ve had six natural births and run a website on natural childbirth. I believe its the way to go. The problem comes when all you hear is “trust birth, trust your body, and you’ll be fine.” That works for some women, but for most of us, it doesn’t. We need to know how to do all of that… and we need to know what to do when the going gets tough. And sometimes, it does!

It’s Okay, Really

First, recognize that getting overwhelmed while getting birth is OK.

It’s normal.

Totally, 100% normal.

Again, birth is really intense. It’s an experience like no other. It takes effort – beautiful, sacred effort – but effort nonetheless. And you’re probably not going to do it very often!

I tell students in my MamamBaby Birthing classes that giving birth is very much like an athletic event (because, well, it is an athletic event!). Think about it – all great athletes have to overcome challenges in training, and they have to overcome mental obstacles. They may be exhausted by the game, race, trial… but they keep on pushing through to win, to overcome, to meet their personal best. We cheer them on through the challenges and embrace them, tears streaming, as they triumph.

Birth is the same way. There may be a time when it feels really tough, and when you have to give it all you’ve got. You may need someone to come alongside you and tell you that you can, you will, you are doing this.

(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

Getting Back Into the Game

So what do you do if things get overwhelming and intense, and you feel like you can’t handle it? Or, worse, what if you feel like you’re totally out of control?

First and foremost, this is a great time to rely on your birth partner. This is just one of the places where preparing for birthing becomes a huge advantage. Remember, as I tell my students, when you prepare for birth, all your preparation becomes part of you (and your partner) – it becomes natural to use the techniques to work with your labor… you become skilled at birthing.

Back to your partner – you and your birthing partner have worked together, discovering breathing, touch, etc. to help you during labor. Breathing is one of the fastest ways to help you get back in control. Your partner can work to make eye contact, encouraging you to breathe with him/her to get through the contraction. Or you can simply put your head on your partners shoulder (or chest) and breathe along with his/her breathing. You don’t have to think or focus on anything except matching breathing.

This will help you through the toughest contractions, or quickly get you calmed down and ready between contractions.

Changing positions is another good technique, though you may not be able to use this at the height of a contraction. I encourage you not to attempt to find “pain relief” with a position change, because that could actually work against what your baby is trying to do. This is especially true if your baby is trying to turn into a favorable birth position.

Instead, I recommend that you move (between contractions) to a more upright position or settle yourself onto a birth ball. These positions let you move your hips with the contraction, which can really help you handle the energy of each one while you help your baby turn and move down.

Sometimes you get exhausted during labor because you feel that things aren’t changing. Again, a position switch can be helpful, especially if you move to an upright position or sit on a birth ball where your pelvis can gain a lot of mobility. Walking up and down stairs (with a helper beside you) can also help open you up and get things moving. Sitting on the toilet is a third strategy to help you loosen, open, and get baby moving down.

If you feel like you need a rest, try lying on your side, or getting into the shower. Water can help in many ways, and if you can labor in the tub you can bring pain relief and extremely effective positioning to your labor. Water supports you and, most importantly, lets you move your body in response to your baby so he or she can move down and out.

You Can Do It, You Are Doing It

Childbirth may not be easy, and sometimes it feels downright tough. That’s true… but it’s also true that you can do this. Even when it’s tough. Don’t go into birth with the mindset that it’s going to be agonizing. That’s not true. I’ve given birth six times, and I’m an ordinary woman just like you. I can promise you that though it was challenging each time, it wasn’t unbearable.

But do go into birth with the expectation that you’re going to have to work with your body and with your baby. Have skills and techniques that you know you (and your partner) can use if you’re feeling overwhelmed. When that time comes, you use the skill, you breathe, you work through it, and you keep going. You can and you will work with your baby (naturally), and very shortly you will have your prize – a healthy, happy baby… and a bonding time with a clear mind and saturated in natural bonding hormones. Truly one of the best moments of your life 🙂

(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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Photo by Lindsey Turner

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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