Is Unmedicated Birth Really Better?
Updated: May 18
Have you ever wondered why on earth someone would want to put themselves through an unmedicated birth when we have access to pain medications? You don't get a trophy for having an unmedicated birth (ever heard that?).
We get messages and comments from discouraged moms after hearing constantly from family and friends that they are crazy for wanting an unmedicated birth, or even worse, that they won't be able to do it.
In this blog, we're going to break down the research-backed benefits of an unmedicated birth, bust some common myths, and discover why embracing the power of unmedicated birth can lead to a more empowering experience and a stronger bond with your precious bundle of joy.
Benefits of Unmedicated Birth for Mothers:
Let's start by exploring the advantages that unmedicated birth can bring to moms:
Physical advantages: Staying in one spot, like you often do with an epidural, can inhibit your labor. Research suggests that being able to move freely can actually help labor progress more smoothly. Opting for unmedicated birth is associated with lower rates of medical interventions like episiotomies or assisted deliveries, which means a less invasive experience for you. And here's a bonus: unmedicated birth often leads to faster labor AND postpartum recovery, with less pain and fewer side effects to contend with.
Emotional and psychological benefits: There's something the "birth high", and it's especially potent after going through the natural process of unmedicated birth. Many women report feeling great exhilaration and confidence in their abilities after giving birth without medication. Hormones are able to flow unimpeded. On top of that, unmedicated birth encourages immediate skin-to-skin contact and uninterrupted bonding moments with your baby, helping to strengthen that beautiful connection right from the start. And guess what? Research suggests that unmedicated birth is associated with higher rates of successful breastfeeding initiation and duration, specifically when compared to high-dose epidurals.
Benefits of Unmedicated Birth for Babies:
Now let's shift our focus to the benefits unmedicated birth brings to your little one:
Natural hormone release: During unmedicated birth, your baby gets to experience the natural hormonal transitions that play a vital role in their development and adaptation to the outside world. Endorphins and oxytocin work together to help you and your baby bond.
Improved respiratory function: Without an epidural, your baby is less likely to experience respiratory distress. This is because if your blood pressure dips (a common epidural side effect), it can cause your baby's heart rate to dip, too.
Enhanced alertness and responsiveness: Babies born through unmedicated birth tend to be more alert and responsive right after delivery, giving you precious moments to bond and communicate. This early bonding sets the stage for a strong connection between you and your baby.
Addressing Concerns and Myths:
Let's tackle a couple of common concerns and myths about unmedicated birth:
Pain management options: You might be wondering how you'll manage the pain without medication. The good news is there are various techniques and coping strategies available, such as breathing exercises, movement, hydrotherapy, and massage, to help you through the intensity of labor. Additionally, having a supportive birth partner or a trained doula by your side can make a world of difference in providing comfort and encouragement, and increase your odds of unmedicated birth.
Safety considerations: Unmedicated birth is generally suitable for most low-risk pregnancies. However, it's important to consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that both you and your baby are good candidates for this approach. Unmedicated birth IS possible in a hospital, but you'll need to do some extra prep to be successful.
Tips for Preparing for an Unmedicated Birth:
Here are a few practical tips to help you prepare for the journey of unmedicated birth:
Take a childbirth class: Women who take comprehensive childbirth classes are 65% less likely to need an epidural. Would you run a marathon without training? Take our Birth Class for Couples and be equipped with unmedicated birth knowledge and feel totally confident and prepared mentally and physically for the journey ahead.
Developing a birth plan: Create a birth plan that clearly communicates your preferences and desires for an unmedicated birth. Discuss it with your healthcare provider to ensure everyone is on the same page and to address any concerns or potential complications.
Building a support network: Surround yourself with a supportive network of individuals who understand and believe in your desire for an unmedicated birth. Getting your partner on board is key! You may also consider hiring a doula or switching to midwifery care.
Practicing relaxation and pain management techniques: Explore and practice various relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and pain management strategies during pregnancy. This will help you build confidence and find what works best for you during labor. We teach all of these and much more inside our birth class.
Unmedicated birth offers a transformative experience that empowers mothers and nurtures the bond between mother and baby. By embracing this natural approach, you can enjoy physical and emotional benefits, while your baby thrives with the hormonal advantages and increased responsiveness. Remember to address concerns, seek support, and prepare yourself with knowledge and coping strategies. Celebrate the journey of unmedicated birth as a unique opportunity to embark on a profound and empowering chapter of motherhood.
Anim-Somuah, M., Smyth, R. M. D., Cyna, A. M., et al. (2018). Epidural versus non-epidural or no analgesia for pain management in labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD000331.
Levett, K. M., Smith, C. A, Bensoussan, A., et al. (2016). Complementary therapies for labour and birth study: a randomised controlled trial of antenatal integrative medicine for pain management in labour. BMJ Open;6: e010691.