Can someone tell me how intense natural birth pain is — The Bump
Natural Birth

Can someone tell me how intense natural birth pain is

and what you think is the best book for planning for a natural birth?  I really want to do it, but it seems like everyone around me is doing their best to scare the crap out of me, telling me how horribly painful and unbearable it is.  People gave birth without meds for 1000's of yrs tho and they survived!  I am utterly terrified of needles and getting an epidural makes me queasy thinking about it.  Also I plan on laboring at home as long as possible, we are about 10-15 miles from the hospital, to minimize the medical intervention as much as possible. 
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Re: Can someone tell me how intense natural birth pain is

  • Good for you!  And don't listen to everyone else, your birth will be your own and has nothing to do with anyone else's experiences.  

    You might want to look into hypnobirthing.  That's what I did and thought it was great.  It worked so well in fact that at my postpartum visit my MW asked if I had felt anything!  I did feel the surges, but was always in control and was never even tempted to get an epi.   

    Best of luck!   

  • I think you're starting from a great place, knowing that women have done this for all of human existence and wanting to labor at home for as long as possible to minimize intervention.

    Everyone experiences childbirth pain in different ways.  My experience was that late active labor was comparable to the worst menstrual cramps I had ever experienced (I had periods that would take me out of school or work for a day or more...I think it's reasonable to say that a person in late active labor wouldn't be able to be in school or work...Wink)  My MW then broke my water bag and the next contractions were like being hit by a freight took a couple of them for me to adapt to their intensity and feel on top of them.  That was the most intense part of labor, but I still did it.  Very shortly after the waters were broken I was pushing and it was over within minutes.

    I think the most important part is responding to the muscle contractions with deep breaths and loose muscles.  We have lots of aches and pains in pg where we can practice this...not clenching our jaws, arms, necks, other muscles but taking deep breathes, keeping our jaws open and loose and releasing tension so that during labor when tension is building in the uterine muscles to get baby out, we can release the tension everywhere else.  IMO that goes a long way to minimize pain.  Everyone else has done it, why can't we? :)

    A possibility was born the day you were born and will live as long as you live.
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  • I haven't experienced natural birth yet, but I have really enjoyed Ina May's Guide to Childbirth so far. There are a TON of stories from women in the past 30ish years who have had successful natural births. I also enjoyed Natural Birth the Bradley Way, but I would say some of what you read will depend on the method of natural birth you are interested in.
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  • I liked Ina May's book as well and the best guide I had for preparation was "Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way".  The Bradley book really helped me understand what to expect from labor and that knowledge is what got me through. 

    Everyone's labor is different, so it's impossible to say how intense it would be for you compared to me, but in my case I found labor to be hard work but most definitely doable.  There was only one time that I thought "I wish someone would just cut this baby out!" but because of the Bradley book, I knew that meant I was in transition and was almost there.  

    The pain for me was very manageable as long as I was able to stay relaxed through each contraction.  There were a few contractions that were harder than others, especially if I wasn't able to focus on my relaxation before it really got going, but the good thing about contractions is that they don't last long and you get a break to prepare for the next one.


    At some point during my pregnancy, I just decided that this was what I WANTED to do and that I would do everything in my power to make it happen.  I accepted and made peace with the fact that there are many factors out of my control, but as long as I was doing everything I could I would have nothing to feel bad about at the end of the day.  I ended up with a beautiful med free birth and I honestly can't wait to do it again.  

    image image 
  • The pain is not unbearable.  Most babies in the world are born without artificial pain management.  Those women bear the pain.

    I do remember thinking that I was in an 'unreasonable' amount of pain during transition.  It was intense to say the least.  But bearable, doable.  But even at its worst, when the contractions stopped, the pain was gone completely.  And needless to say, when the baby is born, the pain is gone and it is replaced with the most wonderful feeling of euphoria.

    Talk to women who have done it and you will learn that it is ok.  It is totally ok to go natural.


    promised myself I'd retire when I turned gold, and yet here I am
  • More than pain, I remember the intense need for concentration. It was like I had the hardest problem in the world to figure out and my mind needed every ounce of energy I had to get through it. It's really hard to explain, especially since pain is such an abstract thing to begin with.

    I will say, though, that I never thought about asking for an epi. I always felt like I was on top of it. Letting each contraction end and not thinking about it anymore helped me get the energy to deal with the next one. I worked hard not to worry about what was coming or think about what had passed. 

  • Ah jeez, it's hard to explain how birth feels to someone else. It's a lot of hard work, and it doesn't feel great. All-consuming is a good way to describe it, I think. I was incredibly determined to not get an epidural, and I think I finally reached a point in my labor that I was so "out of it" that I forgot that an epidural was an option, if that makes sense.

    The biggest thing that helped me was taking a prenatal yoga class - we focused on breathing, vocalization and different positions that were good for labor, and it really helped when things picked up during my first labor. hth

    ETA: what BalancingJane said about having to concentrate is exactly how I feel during it, too! Well said! 

    DS1 - Feb 2008

    DS2 - Oct 2010 (my VBAC baby!)

  • As intense as the contractions are.
  • Preparation for the big day was a huge aspect on how my labor went. I didn't use any sort of method except for my own, I know how I deal with pain (I had very intense menstrual cycles) and high stress situations. I had what seemed like everyone telling me that I would not be able to do it natural but it was a decision I made in the beginning after a lot of research and talking with my husband. My mother had an epidural with my older sister and had me naturally and one thing she said that I remembered throughout my whole pregnancy and labor was that at the point where I couldn't take the pain anymore I was almost done.

    During labor the contractions didn't get bad until the last two hours of labor. I felt like I was progressing slow and talked with my midwife about an epidural but she and my labor team knew that it was something I didn't want. As soon as I was able to get some rest in between contractions I got out of the bath, had the worst contraction of my entire labor (worst pain of my life) and my water broke, after that it was pretty much time to push and that wasn't as bad as that one contraction. To me labor is one big mind game, if your head is in the right place you'll go through it fine. Accept that labor is painful but remind yourself that you can come through.

  • image nosoup4u:

    Ah jeez, it's hard to explain how birth feels to someone else. It's a lot of hard work, and it doesn't feel great. All-consuming is a good way to describe it, I think.

    This.  Pain is such an abstract concept that it really is hard to say it hurt "this" much.  People told me it felt like "really bad menstrual cramps."  Well, I don't get menstrual cramps during my period.  I get nauseous and sick during my period, but don't experience cramps.  So that description means nothing to me.  It was all consuming, but more in the sense that my mind had to completely concentrate and focus and I had to deliberately focus my body on relaxing and breathing through the contractions.  It was hard work.  It was tiring.  It was painful, sure.  But it wasn't unbearable or excruciating.  And the things that helped me the most were relaxing, my DH and doula reminding me to relax everything (to include my face and eyes and little muscles I rarely think of), deep breathing, low guttural moaning, and focusing on just one contraction at a time and not concerning myself with the ones that hadn't come yet - I would take care of them when they arrived.

    I really enjoyed childbirth - and that's even with a 3rd degree tear.  My mom asked me if I felt myself tear.  I replied, "you know I guess I must have because I didn't have any pain meds, but there was so much going on with my vagina at that point and I was so focused on the work I was doing that I can't tell you that it was seriously awful or painful to tear."  That's kind of how labor was for me - I was so focused on relaxing and breathing and the work my body was doing that it took a lot of focus off the actual pain of the experience.  Though I won't lie and tell you it was painless.  Does that make any sense? 

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  • Do not listen to other people's scare stories.  A lot of people that have chosen to have an epi feel really defensive about people that are planning on a natural birth and want to get you to think you can't do it.

    My best advice is to know that your body CAN do it.  Not just can, it was DESIGNED to do it.  Women's bodies are made to give birth to their babies without the need to pain medication.

    Someone once said to me, but you wouldn't have a tooth pulled without Novocain..., but it's not the same at all because we're not designed to have our teeth pulled.

    And the pain is just not that bad.  That's what amazed me most about it.  It just did not hurt like everyone had built it up to be.  It is totally doable. 

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  • I haven't given birth yet, but so far I have found the most inspiration from Ina May's Guide To Childbirth.  Personally, I found the birth stories in the first half of the book to be a little out there for me and preferred the second half.

    The second half is full of information on childbirth, natural induction methods, and Ina's suggestions for working your way through natural birth.  Some of the tips people have given here (relax your mouth and jaw, allow your body to take over and do what it is designed to do because "your body is not a lemon") are things I learned from the book.  The section about The Sphincter Law is also a good one.

    I am more afraid of ending up with medical interventions or unsupportive hospital staff who might distract me from my mission or try to pressure me into doing something I don't want to do than I am of the pain.

    I had a natural, unmedicated miscarriage last summer that was the most painful experience of my life, moreso than when I've broken bones.  However, I figured out that certain positions felt better than others and just let my body do its thing and rode through the waves of pain.  I got through it without any problems. Now that I have a taste of what it might be like, I'm not really afraid.  It was intense and painful but I could definitely do it again, especially now that I know to accept that my body knows what to do and just go with it.

    I also remind myself that women in many other developed countries like ours actually *expect* to give birth naturally as pain meds are the exception rather than the rule.  They accept it and do not fear it.

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  • Ok, are you ready for this?  My natural labor did NOT hurt.  Honest to God.  It was intense, but nothing that I would have described as "pain" literally until DS was crowning and the OB was trying to stretch me.  THAT hurt.  It's just about impossible to describe the sensation, but the closest thing I can liken it to is if you had to lift the heaviest weight you possibly could, the stress on your muscles is similar to the sensation I experienced with contractions.  Except, without the burning pain you get after you've done a few lunges or whatever. the key to a pain-free labor and birth is being able to COMPLETELY relax through the contractions... like... no resistance to them at all.  Resistance is what creates pain.

    I prepped using Hypnobabies and prenatal yoga (both of which I HIGHLY recommend) and just a steely determination... I mean, I was HELL BENT on having a natural birth (it was a VBAC).  So as a PP mentioned, it's kind of a mind game...

    I truly enjoyed my birth... I thought it was amazing and awesome and I would have done it again the same way in a heartbeat. 

    If you want to read my entire birth story, it's here.

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