Why I wanted an unmedicated childbirth...


Not the most flattering picture I forgot how swollen my face and arms got, yikes! but a very sweet and tender moment captured. It was taken in a dark room, in the middle of a contraction. Holding onto Trevor like this was one of the only things that made me feel better and got me through contractions. He was an amazing support, even if he thought I was crazy for wanting to forgo an epidural, haha!

Just by getting pregnant I quickly learned about the world of "Mommy Wars." I had obviously heard about it, seen it, but had never really been an active participate in the world of motherhood, so it didn't really matter to me. What are Mommy Wars? Basically it is the "Us vs. Them" mentality in regards to parenting. You know, stay at home moms vs. working moms. Breastfeeding mothers vs. formula feeding mothers. Cloth diapering mothers vs. disposable diapering mothers. Homeschooling moms vs. traditional school moms. You get the idea?

I have always said that if you stand by your choices and decisions, it shouldn't matter what anybody else thinks. Yet sometimes I find that just by sharing your opinion and why you want to do something, people with a different opinion will automatically think you are judging them and their choices. Why do we do this?! It drives me insane! We don't just do this with parenting, but in a lot of aspects in life. Sometimes I find myself having to be so politically correct all the time that I really just shouldn't even have an opinion, because someone is going to get offended by it. And the most red hot button when it comes to this is parenting styles and choices, and that is probably because when discussing YOUR children, you are always going to be more protective and more sensitive. I digress...

When I would tell people I planned on having an unmedicated childbirth, I would typically get one of three responses:

1. What?! Are you crazy? (Shock.)
2. Sure, you say that now, just wait. (Sarcasm.)
3. Good for you! I could never do that. (Pat on the back.)

After actually having now gone through an unmedicated childbirth, I find that the responses are still the same, minus number two of course. Yet I still get the feeling with certain people that they feel I am judging them. That somehow me choosing to have an unmedicated child birth means I am judging the fact that they chose to have an epidural. Let me just say, after having gone through labor, I know exactly why women say yes to epidurals! haha I also don't think epidurals are necessarily "bad", and know that there is a time and a place for them. With that said, I had very specific reasons for wanting an unmedicated child birth, and I would 100% do it again. 

You might be wondering why I feel the need to share why I wanted an unmedicated childbirth. To put it simply, I am writing this blog post to help give perspective on the choice and help anyone interested in it to learn that it is not an archaic, or irrational goal, which unfortunately seems to be the perception these days. People have seemed to forgot that birthing is a natural experiencthat, in most cases, does not need medical intervention.

From the responses above you can tell that having an unmediated childbirth is more of an unpopular choice today. In fact I was told that out of all the natural births, only 1% of those are planned. So being in the minority here, I was more often than not made to feel crazy or stupid for wanting an unmedicated child birth. Simply because someone didn't understand my choice, they assumed I was dumb or naïve about it. I have heard it all, even people saying things like, "You wouldn't have a limb amputated with no pain relief, so why have a child that way?" No, I would absolutely NOT get my arm amputated without pain relief. Do you know why? Because there is absolutely no benefit to it. There is NO benefit except feeling pain if I am getting my arm cut off. Add the fact that I don't think the pain felt during child birth is anything close to the pain of getting your arm cut off!

What seems to be missing here is some education on childbirth in general. This may come as a surprise to some people, but there are some major benefits to having an unmedicated childbirth! After having reviewed all my options in regards to how to birth my baby, I chose the one that made the most sense to me. I want to help anyone interested in learning more about this option, and to emphasize that you have options! You should know what your choices are and what they may mean for you.

Before I get into why this was the choice for me, and could be for you, I want to preface with a few things. You know, since this is a hot topic for people. You may have noticed I choose to use the word, "unmedicated" to talk about the type of birth I had. Another phrase commonly used is a "natural" childbirth. I don't think if you had an epidural, or had to have a surgical birth, that your birth was somehow less natural than mine. A woman having a baby, is totally natural, period. I chose the word unmedicated because that is exactly what it was, me having a baby without medication. I also want to say that having an unmedicated childbirth doesn't make you some kind of super woman, or better than anyone else. In fact, you, yes YOU, could do it to if you really wanted to. (Obviously said with the idea that we all agree I am talking about a normal, healthy pregnancy and labor. It is the internet people, apparently we have to cover all the bases or like mentioned above, people get offended). It kills me when I hear women say that someone is "better" or "amazing" because they had an unmedicated child birth and that they could "never" do it. The reality is not too long ago us women didn't even have another choice or option, every woman had unmediated childbirths. So yes, you could have one too. You are STRONGER than you give yourself credit for.

A woman's body (generally speaking) is built to carry and deliver babies. While I agree that it is such an empowering experience, and you will feel like superwoman after doing it, I think we need to stop glorifying it as something that is difficult to achieve or as some far reaching unattainable goal. This message feeds into the fears of child birth that so many women grow up with. Which is why I am sharing my reasons for having an unmedicated birth.

I am someone who likes to do my research, and I am a habitual list maker that often puts together pros and cons to every decision that I make. I tend to not be a big risk taker, and when looking at the pros and cons to getting an epidural, the list of cons did not make up for the pros in my opinion for an epidural. And the cons for going without medication were worth it to me to get the pros. Just search the pros and cons to an epidural and you will find several unbiased sources on the topic. I know several women who unfortunately had issues with some of those cons from the epidural. You don't sign a waiver for nothing people!


So why did I want an unmedicated child birth?

1. Better recovery after birth.

One of the main reasons I wanted an unmedicated childbirth had nothing to do with my baby and everything to do with me. I know, so selfish aren't I? ;) I wanted the best recovery possible. Without being numb, confined to a bed, or having undergone major surgery, you can literally get up from giving birth, go take shower and walk around. Not every epidural acts the same with each person, but for the most part, epidurals leave you numb for several hours after birth. Add the fact that you are more likely to end up with a C-section if you have had an epidural, sometimes doubling your odds of one actually, and none of those recovery options sound like my cup of tea. The body recovers significantly faster if it hasn't had an epidural, a C-section, or other interventions. Also, because of the decreased sensation that occurs with epidurals, it tends to increases a woman's chance for an instrument-assisted delivery (vacuum or forceps) along with an episiotomy. These two interventions greatly increase your risk for pelvic floor injury. When your body can really feel what is happening, you don't need anyone to tell you when to push. Studies have shown that the commonly practiced coached pushing or “purple faced” pushing can increase your risk for damage to the pelvic floor.

Obviously having an unmedicated child birth isn't going to completely exempt you from the possibility of these issues, but it will decrease the risk, as well as hopefully make any tears or pelvic issues that occur more minor. Besides the immediate recovery benefit, there are some long terms complications that can come from having an epidural that you can avoid, back pain, epidural headaches, nerve damage, and obviously VERY rarely but should be noted has been known to cause respiratory distress, epidural abscess, paralysis and death.

2. Shorter Labor & Less interventions.

The shorter the labor, the better in my book! (I had an incredibly fast one!) Unmedicated child births are typically shorter. Women who have an epidural tend to have longer labors and more vaginal deliveries in which the doctor uses instruments to help the baby out. Even interventions like Pitocin make getting an epidural more risky. When your labor is started with Pitocin, you have much stronger and faster contractions than your body naturally would. Epidurals, like mentioned above, slow down your labor. So with both you now have two drugs working against each other. When this happens, your baby is the one that starts to suffer, it can cause fetal distress, fetal heart rate changes, which leads to episotomosys and C-sections. Epidurals often cause the mother's blood pressure to drop, sometimes dramatically, in fact this is the most common complication of an epidural. They can cause uncontrollable shivering, fever, fetal malpositioning, and ringing in the ears. And with all of that sometimes the dang thing doesn't even work! The block can be one sided or only partial, or for some women it doesn't even take. I had a friend who it only worked on one side and that sensation made it even more unbearable had she had just skipped it all together! 
Studies seem to indicate that an epidural does increase the chance of a C-Section by as much as 10% and sometimes higher depending on the circumstances. What we do know is that epidurals can often lead to additional interventions. This one kind of plays off of my number one reason. More interventions typically means a harder labor and recovery for the mother, and baby. Epidurals are notorious for slowing down labor, longer labors lead to more distressed babies, distressed babies leads to C-sections. Random side note here, currently the United States has a 35% C-section rate with births! While I am so happy we have the ability to get our babies out when we need to through modern medicine and surgery, 35% is way higher than what that number should be for women who actually need one. Surgery always comes with risks and I personally would do anything I could to avoid one.

3. Control.

I like to be in control, just ask my husband ;) haha Every body reacts differently to drugs. Some people claim they are still able to feel just enough, while others express stories of absolute numbness and not being able to feel anything and having no control after receiving an epidural. While I know there is a spectrum, I have never been a big risk taker. I just wasn't willing to take the risk that I wouldn't have control over my own body. Plus, after some education, I learned that numbing that "pain" isn't necessarily a good thing. With the proper education you can learn exactly what your body is doing while going through labor and learn techniques to make giving birth unmedicated more than just manageable, you can actually assist your body in giving birth. I did my research and decided to take a birthing course that taught me these things about my body and what me and others like my husband could do to relax my body. I also swear by the book Ina May's Guide to Childbirth Without an epidural you aren't confined to a bed, you are free to move around how you want while laboring, and after too. In fact I labored in a jetted tub! I didn't have to have a catheter thank you!, I didn't have to have the nasty side affects that can happen with an epidural during labor. It went as well as I could have hoped for, and it was a pretty empowering experience. 


Despite my reasons for not wanting an epidural, I do believe they can be the right call for certain labor situations. I walked into my labor with an open mind to do whatever it was me or my baby needed. Not everything is black and white! And with all of this said, I would not recommend planning on having an unmedicated child birth without being prepared for one. It will more than likely not be a great experience if you do. Just ask about anyone who had an unplanned unmedicated childbirth and they will probably share a horror story of their experience. And being perfectly honest, I would recommend EVERY woman giving birth do this no matter what their plans are. It only helps you to know what is going on and what everything means. Plus, as much as we would like to plan our births out perfectly, we never know what will happen, and you should be prepared for anything. For example it is a good thing I had planned for an unmedicated birth, because there wasn't much time for me to have had one if I wanted it. When you are prepared, you have less fear, and less fear when giving birth to your child is something I think every woman is looking for. 

For those who are interested I was thinking of putting together my tips for a "natural" unmedicated childbirth! Anyone interested in that?

I had such a positive response to this post, thank you guys so much! I had several suggestions to do a scope on this topic, so I sat down and did one this morning! If you didn't catch it, here is the replay for you!

ADDED NOTE*
*I thought I made it clear in my post, but just in case I didn't. My mindset was that people should be educated on their choices and be open to WHATEVER they or their baby needs. And that doesn’t mean I think people should be picking one option over another, or that their not educated on the topic if they choose an epidural. Under the right circumstances I would totally get an epidural, and that could very likely happen with future children I have! haha
I said that people who think going unmedicated is archaic or dumb need more education on childbirth. I wrote this post to explain why some women want an unmedicated childbirth. It is a very unpopular choice that can receive some heat, and I wanted to add my voice to explain why it isn’t some archaic, crazy choice! Again, giving birth is NOT black and white! We all want different things, need different things, and every labor can be wildly different from the next. That was my intended take away! Thanks guys! ❤️

22 comments

  1. Hey Alycia! Great post, and I laughed at the responses as I got the same before having my first when I said I was aiming for a drug-free labour! But I did it (now three times!) and it was more exhausting and painful then I ever could have imagined, but more amazing and exhilarating then I could have imagined too! I completely understand why people go the epidural - labour is intense! I do often wonder though if people choose the medications first because that's the only pain relief they know of? Breathwork, meditation/visualisations, different positions, water/shower, hot and cold compresses can help as pain relief too, and certainly helped me. Thanks for sharing your story. Elisa xx

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  2. Hey Alycia! Great post, and I laughed at the responses as I got the same before having my first when I said I was aiming for a drug-free labour! But I did it (now three times!) and it was more exhausting and painful then I ever could have imagined, but more amazing and exhilarating then I could have imagined too! I completely understand why people go the epidural - labour is intense! I do often wonder though if people choose the medications first because that's the only pain relief they know of? Breathwork, meditation/visualisations, different positions, water/shower, hot and cold compresses can help as pain relief too, and certainly helped me. Thanks for sharing your story. Elisa xx

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  3. Great post! I'm an advocate of unmedicated births.

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  5. I loved this post! I've been thinking of doing a natural birth and like you, I've heard lots of "you're crazy" responses. I agree that the pros seem to outweigh the cons. I would love to see more posts about natural birth tips or labor tips!

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  6. A-freaking-men!! I think education about birth is so important. I'm currently 33 weeks and looking forward to another unmedicated homebirth. Way to go!!

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  7. I went into labor really hoping for an unmedicated birth but broke down and took the epidural. Unfortunately, baby girl got stuck under my pubic bone so they ended up turning it off anyway. I guess the universe was just giving me what I asked for! Lol I enjoyed reading your experience and I completely agree that it's becoming almost impossible to share an opinion on *anything* these days without offending someone. Crazy!

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  8. I loved this! I love that you said unmedicated instead of natural, I went in for an unmedicated birth & ended up in an emergency csection & it drives me craaaazy when people said I don't know What birthing is like.. After 18 hours in labor & 3 hours of pushing.. I think I get the idea ;) Every birth is a miracle & amazing! Every woman just deserves a big piece of cake for carrying a baby for 9 months anyways no matter how they give birth!

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  9. Thanks for the post and being so nonconfrontational. Mommy wars are real! I just gave birth to my first a few months ago and it's so interesting how each birth is so unique. I was in labor for seemingly forever (34 hours from when my water broke naturally to when she was born) and I was exhausted. When I was finally progressed enough to get an epidural my body was able to relax and it was only a few hours and 30 minutes of pushing before she was here! You really just have to do what's best for your situation.

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  10. Absolutely interested in reading more tips! Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  11. I love this! I have always wanted a natural childbirth whenever we decide to have kids and it's so funny because on the random chance that I have told someone this, I get those same 3 responses! Thank you so much for sharing. SO helpful!

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  12. I had 6 of my 7 kids unmedicated including my twins born natural. Nope, I am not a brave woman, I just wanted less complications. My last pregnancy was a nightmare and had to have a c-section and ended up with a post-surgical infection immediately following surgery. The 6 births were easy compared to that one intervention put together.

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  13. Love this! I had an unmedicated birth for exactly those reasons. It was intense but it was empowering, and, most importantly, I had almost no injuries (no stitches needed) and baby was healthy and alert right away. I remember a moment during labor when I thought if somebody would offer me a c-section now, I would totally take it. Luckily nobody did - even though it was a 50-hour-labor - because I had clearly stated my preferences. Everybody was simply supportive and making sure the baby was doing well. It paid off and I was happy that I got to go home after a few hours and sleep in my own bed. The midwife came to our apartment the next morning to check on us and baby.

    I am absoultely accepting of whatever choice a woman makes but I couldn't agree more: people need to get educated on this. If more than one in three women really needed a c-section, humanity would be extinct. Women should know that opting for intervention statistically leads to more intervention. To me this almost is a human rights issue. It's about protecting our bodies and babies! It is also about spreading the word that an unmedicated labor is not superhuman. If I can do it, so can you, haha. Anyway, girl power! ;)

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  14. I had an unmedicated birth with my son and currently waiting for our little girl to be born around the first of July. Your post perfectly says it all! The biggest thing is being educated on what you want. If you want an epidural, know the risks. If you want an unmedicated birth, understand all aspects of that too! Great job writing this because (sheeeeeesh!!!) this is a sensitive topic ;)

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  15. LOVE THIS! Congrats mama!!! I used the bradley method and had all three of my babies naturally! I think you did a great job of explaining your reasons without putting down anyone else for their decisions :) I'm the same with blogging, I always want to make sure I'm true to me but never want to make anyone feel bad either! It's a balancing act sometimes :)

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  16. Great job on this! I have not had a baby yet, but when I do I am planning on having an unmedicated birth. Obviously I am still naive to a lot of this because I am not entirely at this spot in my life. However, the fact you called it unmedicated vs natural was amazing. As I said, I am naive to this, and reading that was perfect. It definitely will stick in my head!

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  17. This was super informative AND inspiring, Alycia! I never thought I'd want an unmedicated child birth, but after reading this, I think I do! :)

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  18. unmedicated all the way! i had both my babies at a small rural hospital that doesn't employ an anaesthesiologist. it's a lot easier to go unmedicated when it's not even an option, haha. it's one of the most empowering things i've done. spot on post.

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  19. Interesting post...I don't handle pain well, so I'm going to stick to epidurals...I also think the more you have the more you get used to the recovery. 1st was painful (dr. let me rip on my own before an episiotomy was necessary), 2nd was very similar in delivery (episiotomy needed again), but was a much faster recovery and the 3rd (no episiotomy-much smaller baby) I was walking around in a few hours.

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  20. I had both my children with no epidural. The first was breach feet first which were tucked back up so the behind would come first. The second, I got a shot of demerit so I could rest a couple hours then on with the show. That was a normal birth with some episiotomy repair from the first birth. So I guess I did get some lidocaine in the area. Although I was forced to be in bed because the nurses were too busy to let the rails down! That was over 32 years ago. The first one I was walking 2 hours later since I slept immediately afterwards. In those days natural & home birth was the way. I has my child in the hospital because I was high risk. The first one 43 years ago was a small hospital where the attending was going to let one of us die. We both lived. Let's just say it was no fun even though my room mate was my neighbor. Our children were born within minutes of each other. Both of us did natural her by choice me because there was no gas in the canister they provided. I survived it all. If I did it over again I would still do natural although I did have an IV. All I can end with is it is our choice. My daughter had drugs. Her husband is a doctor.

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  22. I profit $20 for a 20 minute survey!

    Guess what? This is exactly what big companies are paying me for. They need to know what their average customer needs and wants. So large companies pay $1,000,000's of dollars per month to the average person. In return, the average person, like myself, answers some questions and gives them their opinion.

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