What I wish I’d known about natural birth without pain relief

Not sure if it’s possible to have a natural birth without pain relief? Angela Pierce-Jones shares her positive experience.

Angela Pierce-Jones is a homeopath from Morningside, Durban. This 35-year-old Mom of two (Nathan and Amy) delivered both of her babies without any pain relief. We chat to her about what the experience was like, and get some tips and tricks for other Moms-to-be who want to go this route.

Why did you decide to have a baby without pain relief?
As a homeopath I don’t often resort to medication and I liked the idea of having a birthing experience that was as natural, pure and conscious as possible. I reasoned that if millions of women before me could manage a natural birth without pain relief, then so could I. 

How did you deal with the pain of labour?
A significant aspect of my dealing with labour was the security that came with being in a place that instilled a feeling of safety and calm. Being happy with my chosen place, and the associated caregivers, allowed me to relax and get on with it. I created a birthing plan that I had discussed thoroughly with my midwife, so I knew she was on the same page. This added to my sense of security leading up to the event.

Looking back, I feel that my mind was my greatest tool for dealing with the pain of labour. I meditated in the early stages of labour, which kept me calm and conserved my energy. I practised stillness of mind between contractions, which meant not commenting on what had just been and not anticipating what was yet to come. I rested well physically and mentally between contractions. I felt most relaxed in familiar surroundings and therefore I laboured at home for as long as possible. While at home I sat in a warm bath. The warmth reduced the pain intensity and I felt lighter than when I was out of water. I had a water birth with my first child and I recall the water being very comforting and relaxing. I had heat packs prepared and my husband on hand for massaging, but did not resort to them in the end.

Breathing was vital. When contractions became consistently painful I followed the breathing instructions from my antenatal teacher very closely and with every exhalation I consciously relaxed my whole body. I let the pain pass through me without resistance. I let myself be free to move however I wished, and didn’t simply stay in one position. A handful of encouraging words along the way from my husband and midwife were amazingly helpful too!
What was your labour experience like?
Intense, challenging, exhilarating and empowering. Life-changing. I look back and recall it as being an experience within which I felt deeply connected to the Circle of Life. I felt connected to every woman in time who has given birth, and felt part of something greater than just myself. This was deeply meaningful for me.

Do you think you have to have a high pain threshold to attempt this?
After consideration I would have to say no. I don’t believe the pain of normal childbirth is insurmountable for most women. What I do believe is needed is sufficient education about the process so that women are empowered and able to prepare themselves properly. I don’t think that most antenatal courses are structured in a way that supports the notion that a woman can have a baby without pain relief. Consequently, a labour without pain relief is increasingly less common, and feared. And it is this doubt and fear that I believe is the biggest deterrent to a labour without pain relief.

Other factors that will reduce the success of labouring without pain relief would be an induction, as well as exhaustion. Again, sufficient education should prepare moms and empower them to make decisions that will improve their chances of success. Find an antenatal teacher who gives thorough and practical birthing information, including tools for coping emotionally and mentally for the pain. Speak to other Moms who have had a natural birth without pain relief, get tips from them, and don’t be shy to voice your personal concerns or fears with them.

Prepare your mind and heart, imagine what to expect and plan for how to deal with it. A doula can be very helpful to support you through labour in this regard. Create a warm, calm and intimate atmosphere where you are with people you trust and with whom you can be relaxed and vulnerable without concern. Relaxation is key!
What do you wish you’d known about natural birth without pain relief?
In the end there were no surprises and all went well. I put it down to having had a good teacher, having prepared myself well, and having my husband support my choice.

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