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  • Writer's pictureFFM

How to Achieve an Unmedicated Birth

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Sharing 5 steps to achieve the birth you want, based on my own experience!

Unmedicated birthing woman in labor tub

Hey there, mom-to-be! Deciding to try for an unmedicated birth is a powerful and personal choice. If you're considering this path for your birth, I'm here to share some tips to help you prepare for an unmedicated birth experience. After a lot of research and hard work, I was able to have the unmedicated birth that I really wanted. I want you to be able to do the same if that's what you want.

Step 1: Educate Yourself As I said, achieving my unmedicated birth took a LOT of learning. I know there are a lot of "childbirth courses" out there that you can pay for, but I actually never paid for a birth course. I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth- this book is essential. I read some of the birth stories in this book over and over again. I tried to focus on thinking about how many women have achieved an unmedicated birth before me. Another free educational resource are podcasts! I listened to at least one birth story podcast per day throughout my pregnancy, sometimes a couple per day. My favorite podcast to listen to was My Essential Birth, but there are so many others you can listen to as well. These free birth story podcasts helped me learn about what to expect during labor and how other moms coped with unmedicated labor. The more informed you are about unmedicated birth, the more confidence you will have in yourself!

Throughout my pregnancy, I also tried to spend some time (usually when I was in the shower since that was relaxing for me) visualizing my birth. I didn't do this too often because I didn't want to get set on particular timing for my birth, but I tried to just visualize spending time at home working through contractions and then going to the hospital for the final few hours and having everything go smoothly. Positive visualization can be a powerful tool to reduce any anxiety you might have leading up to birth.

Step 2: Choose Your Birth Team Wisely Choosing your OBGYN, place to give birth, and ideally a doula to support you along the way are some huge decisions throughout your pregnancy. It's important to make these decisions as soon as possible- doulas get booked very far in advance! The very first thing I did when I found out I was pregnancy was interview and select my doula. Having a doula by your side can be a game-changer. Doulas are experienced in providing emotional and physical support during labor. Their expertise can help you feel more at ease and confident.

You need to select a healthcare provider and a birth team who are supportive of your desire for an unmedicated birth. They should respect your choices and provide guidance and encouragement throughout your pregnancy. Now, not all OBGYNs are going to be your #1 advocate for an unmedicated birth because they have seen so many different types of births, but as long as you feel their support for your choice, they can be a benefit.

One more thing to consider in regard to your birth team: You should only have people in the delivery room who you WANT to be in there. You are not obligated to have anyone in the delivery room who you are not 100% comfortable around. Birth is an extremely personal experience (and you will probably be naked most of the time!). For me, I wanted as few people in the delivery room as possible: this included my husband, doula, obgyn, and the essential nurses. It can also be helpful to create a birth plan so that everyone in the room can be aware of your preferences. To learn more about birth plans, visit our What is a Birth Plan? post, and download a birth plan template.

Step 3: Stay Active and Healthy

A strong and healthy body can make a big difference in achieving the birth that you want. You need to stay active during pregnancy in whatever way feels best for you so that you can endure the long hours that labor might take. For me, that was walking. Going on a 1-2 mile walk almost every day felt very doable for me. I used my daily walk to listen to the birth podcasts I mentioned above. Walking can help labor progress more quickly and lower your risk of several different complications, even including lowering the risk of you going overdue and potentially needing to be induced (you DEFINITELY want to avoid an induction if you want an unmedicated birth). Make a commitment to yourself to get your body moving every single day- it can definitely help minimize the pregnancy aches and pains, too!

In addition, to moving your body, keep a healthy well-balanced diet throughout pregnancy. I know this is easier said than done with all the pregnancy cravings that come along the way. Try to focus on drinking plenty of water and electrolytes, and eating enough protein to support your growing baby. A well-balanced diet and staying hydrated are essential.

Step 4: Getting through Labor Comfortably Unmedicated birth requires a calm and relaxed state of mind. Practice deep breathing (in four seconds, out four seconds), horse breathing (blowing air through loose lips), and other relaxation exercises to help you cope with labor pain. If you want an unmedicated birth, I strongly advise laboring at home as long as possible. I had a 22 hour birth for my first child, and I labored at home for 17 of those hours and then spent the final 5 in the hospital when things were really moving quickly. The longer you are at home, the more comfortable and calm you will be.

When you do get to the hospital, make it as comfortable as possible. Bring familiar items such as a soothing music playlist and bluetooth speaker. Read more about what to pack in my What to Bring to the Hospital post.

Here are a few tips that helped me through my first unmedicated birth:

  • Birth can be a long process, especially if it's your first child. Prepare for it to potentially take a long time- rest as much as possible in the beginning to save up your energy. To read more about my own birth story, visit this post.

  • Drinking coconut water and eating yogurt were my go-to foods throughout labor. Towards the end, ice chips were amazing. It's essential to stay hydrated and snack throughout labor to sustain your energy.

  • Hip squeezes/counter-pressure was a must-have for me. Once the contractions started getting more intense, I needed counter-pressure through every single contraction (shoutout to my husband and our doula who switched off doing this for me each time!). I also enjoyed using a heating pad and massage gun on my lower back during early labor (quick tip: if you don't have a heating pad, you can fill a large sock with rice and microwave it to use as a heating pad). Learn and practice various comfort measures such as position changes to make labor more manageable for you.

Step 5: Believe in Yourself Above all, believe in your strength, resilience, and the amazing abilities of your body to birth your baby. Here are the things I kept top-of-mind throughout birth to help me achieve an unmedicated birth:

  • "An epidural is not an option" - I just didn't allow myself to even consider an epidural.

  • "This pain is temporary" & "my baby will be born soon" - Don't let your body fool you into thinking it will last forever, it won't. Your baby WILL be born at some point, you just have to trust the timing.

  • "So many women have done this before me. I can do it too." - There was one point in my birth toward the very end when I questioned if I could do it. My doula was essential during that moment as I knew she birthed all three of her children without medication. All I said to her was, "You did this 3 times" and she said "Yes I did. You can do it too." That was exactly what I needed to hear toward the end of my labor.

I hope all the information I provided above will be helpful for you. However, even with all this to say, labor can still be unpredictable. Try to stay open to the possibility that your birth plan may need to adapt to different circumstances (I know, easier said than done!). But your ultimate goal is a safe and healthy delivery for you and your baby.

Achieving an unmedicated birth is such an empowering experience. It's a journey that will test you to the end of your limits, but it will show you just how strong and amazing your body really is. With the right preparation, support, and mindset, you can do this. Your birth experience will be a testament to your strength and determination. I'm rooting for you!

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