What Does Labor Without an Epidural Really Look Like?

I love this birth video and recommend it to anyone curious about what birth without pain medication can look like. It’s not a hospital birth, and most women give birth in hospitals, but it’s a great example of what women act like and sound like in labor if there are few medical interventions. It shows that birth is really hard, but also doable, profound and beautiful.

It’s an inspiring video but the reason I show it to expectant couples is mostly technical. In the video Rachel makes excellent use of massage, continuous support, position, water and vocalizing. She doesn’t use medication, but she is definitely using a whole bunch of  pain-coping tools. Have a look:

Obviously this is a home birth advocacy video but here are some things I’d point out to expecting moms preparing for birth, regardless of setting:

1. Listen to her low, rhythmic moans. These are unfamiliar sounds to most of us– we don’t hear them in daily life, coming from the adjoining cubicle–but they are incredibly familiar to anyone who has attended “natural” births. Women who can feel the intense contractions of transition (the shortest, but hardest part of labor) tend to make very rhythmic moaning noises just like Rachel does here. I think part of it is moaning in pain but mostly it’s a way of coping and bringing some kind of rhythmic structure to an overwhelming experience. These moans actually help a woman cope.

2. Look how Rachel is always leaning forward in contractions. This takes the edge of the pain and brings the baby into a good position for descent. Her legs are slightly spread, her knees are bent and her hips are open. All of this makes perfect sense when you have to get something large out from between your legs. I tell my students in childbirth class, if you forget every position I’ve talked about, just remember this: when in doubt, lean forward.

3. See how calm and supportive her midwife and doula are in this birth. They are giving her confidence to do what she needs to do. They gently explain what’s happening. There’s some laughter between contractions. They are very hands-off but also *right there* for her, paying undivided attention. It’s wonderful to see that.

Did any of the things Rachel did in this video look doable to you? Or familiar if you’ve given birth?

Ceridwen Morris (CCE) is a childbirth educator and the co-author of the pregnancy and birth guide From The Hips. Follow her blogging on Facebook.

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