A completely natural and drug free vaginal birth is one that does not include any type of pain relieving drugs such as pethidine, gas or epidural.
For some expectant mothers the thought of a drug free birth can be downright terrifying. But as Beth explains, if you are equipped with the proper knowledge and right mindset during your pregnancy, a completely drug free birth can be one of the most beautiful and fulfilling experiences of your life.
Of course, it’s important to talk with your health professional about your personal situation, as everybody is unique.
It’s all in your mind
The first and most important process to carrying out a successful drug free labour and delivery, says Beth, is establishing a strong will and positive state of mind.
“Keeping positive and excited about the experience is essential,” Beth says.
“Know that you will be ok, and remember that most of our grandmothers would have had multiple natural births.
“Peers and even strangers seem to revel in telling tall tales about terrible labour experiences – ignore them! Ask any midwife – labour is rarely so dramatic and the stories seem to develop into bigger stories each time they are told.
“Learn the anatomy and physiology around the labour process before childbirth. It is far more empowering to understand what will happen to your body than to worry about the unknown.
“If you’re committed to a drug free birth, remember that this is the only functional pain you will ever experience – every contraction gets you closer to holding your baby.”
Beth explains just how great a role her mind played in the perception of pain.
“After I’d been having some intense contractions for a while, my doctor told me I still had about 8 hours to go and I felt the pain triple instantly. But then the midwife said it was more likely that I only had a couple of hours to go and the pain seemed to come right back down again.”
Creating the comfort zone
Going through labour and childbirth is often compared to gruelling endurance sports such as marathon running or triathlons.
“Keeping fit and healthy leading up to the baby’s birth is important for maintaining your stamina.”
Because it is such an endurance test, Beth says it is helpful to advance through the early stages of labour more quickly while the pain is easier to manage. Do your best to conserve your energy for later in the process when you will be tired and the pain will be more intense.
“Try standing up in the early stages as the gravity can help to progress the labour more quickly.
“You will know you are moving through the labour as the contractions will start to become more painful. This isn’t tiring in the early stages as it only feels like period cramps – I was reading a book and joking around with my husband for most of it.
“Making sure that you are cool and comfortable is very important – don’t be afraid to strip off all your clothes if that helps” she says.
“Some women find showers or baths helpful. Music can also provide a beat to focus on during contractions or to relax with between contractions.”
As well as being comfortable and relaxed physically, it is also important that you remain mentally relaxed. A great way to ensure this is to inform your support staff of your birthing plans.
“Make sure your obstetrician and midwives are aware of your intentions and they will be able to help you through it,” Beth says.
“It also helps to have a personal partner who is able to reinforce your birth plans to the medical staff when you are feeling tired or stressed.”
The intensity and action builds
As sure as day follows night, your contractions will become progressively more frequent and more intense.
This essentially means you will be in more pain, but as the intensity of the contractions increases, there are a variety of techniques you can use to manage the pain without resorting to drugs.
Beth says some of the techniques that worked best for her included sitting and rocking on a fit ball, laying tummy down on a special birthing bean bag that has a cut-out, and rocking back and forth on all fours.
“Riding the wave of the contraction was helpful in managing the pain, as well as counting my way through each one, remembering that they are only in short bursts.
“It is best to try and rest in between contractions. Some women may even sleep for a minute or two before the next contraction arrives,” Beth says.
Eventually the contractions will build up to a point where you are fully dilated and feel a strong urge to push. For Beth, this is when she started to feel a lot better.
“I got the urge to push at 9 cm but had to wait until I was fully dilated at 10 cm before pushing. Resisting pushing for this last centimetre was the hardest part of the labour for me. Once I could push, there was no pain, my body knew what to do – the pushing was an incredible relief. I was smiling again and so excited to meet my baby at this point.
“During the pushing stage, it is important to listen to your doctor, who will tell you what to do in order to minimise tearing.
“Enjoy seeing your pushing reveal your little one’s head – this first sight and touch of your baby is the perfect motivation to get you to the finishing line.”
A baby is born
Beth recalls the moments following the birth of her baby girl as being pure joy.
“As soon as the baby is born there is only intense love, joy and pride in what you have achieved,” she says.
“By avoiding drugs the entire experience was intensified and my baby was born very aware and alert.
“It was such a beautiful and amazing experience and the most fulfilling day of my life. I would do it all again the same way.
“I would say to other women that the only thing holding you back from a natural birth is the fear that you can’t do it.”