8 Tips to Prepare for a Drug-Free Birth

A growing number of pregnant women desire to have a drug-free, intervention-free birth. While there is ample information available regarding the benefits to both mother and baby of having a drug-free birth, information on how to optimally prepare for an unmedicated birth seems less accessible or tangible. Subsequently many pregnant woman are unsure how to prepare for the birth they desire and are left to “hope things work out”. Or they fall under the “trust birth” spell, that proclaims simply trusting the process of birth and your body are the magical answer to the mysteries of birth. While trust is an important part of the equation, there are additional ways a woman can actively prepare herself mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the birth she desires.

1. Develop a Positive Support System – Immerse yourself in the natural birth community to the greatest extent possible. Talk with women who have given birth without drugs to hear their stories and experiences. These women can offer an abundance of wisdom regarding birth beyond what any textbook can provide you. Surround yourself with caring, compassionate individuals who support the birth you desire. Avoid circles/conversations that convey messages of doubt, negativity, anxiety, or trauma around birthing without the use of drugs. Fill your heart and mind with empowering birth stories that make you feel excited about your upcoming birth.

2. Select a Supportive Care Provider – The maternal health care partners that support you during pregnancy and birth have a big impact on your experience! Therefore I encourage you to be highly selective in the care provider you choose. Take time to interview several different care providers to find one you are comfortable with and will provide the type of care you desire (and deserve!). Also don’t be afraid to switch providers at any time during your pregnancy if you start to have doubts about your care provider. I have even heard remarkable stories of women switching care providers during labor because they did not like how they were being treated by their care provider. If you are unsure how to find a care provider start by asking for referrals from friends who have had positive birth experiences. Although keep in mind that each woman’s needs during pregnancy and birth are highly unique so what was a good fit for a close friend may not necessarily be a good fit for you.

3. Take Good Care of Yourself During Pregnancy – Eating well, exercising gently, staying well hydrated, getting proper rest, and minimizing stress during pregnancy all have a direct impact on childbirth. Something as simple as getting ample fluids can help prevent some potentially serious medical conditions during pregnancy. Know that pregnancy is a special time in your life that requires extra special care; remember YOU are the sole source of nurture/nutrition for a new life. Make caring for yourself a high priority because in doing so you are also caring for your baby.

4. Watch Videos of Drug Free Births – Sadly in our modern society most of exposure to birth is from TV shows or movies that don’t depict birth in an authentic way. Yet we cling to these depictions because we are hungry for information about birth. Even reality TV shows don’t accurately portray birth as they are carefully edited to ensure an element of drama and suspense. Instead hop on youtube and search for natural birth videos to see what birth really looks and sounds like.

5. Take a Childbirth Education Class – Attending a childbirth education class can be an invaluable tool to preparing for childbirth. In addition to better understanding the mechanics of labor, you will also learn various pain coping techniques. Research the various approaches available (ie- The Bradley Method, Hypnobabies, Birthing From Within, Lamaze, etc) and pick one that best suits you.

6. Practice Relaxation Techniques throughout your Pregnancy – There are many different effective relaxation techniques women can use to cope during labor, however you need to learn and practice them in advance. Make the time to practice frequently during the course of your pregnancy, particularly when you experience any discomforts associated with pregnancy.

7. Hire a Doula – A doula is a non-medical labor, birth, and postpartum support person. A doula is educated and trained to provide a laboring mother physical and emotional support. There is a strong evidence base of positive birth outcomes when a doula is used. Check out DONA International for more information about doulas.

8. Avoid Artificial Induction – Statistics demonstrate that artificial inductions leads to higher rates of intervention including use of pain medication and cesarean. To the greatest extent possible allow labor to start spontaneously. If for some reason you do need to be induced consider starting with the least invasive methods.

What tips do you have for a pregnant woman who desires an unmedicated birth? 


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10 Responses to “8 Tips to Prepare for a Drug-Free Birth”

  1. Megan says:

    I think if you are going to deliver at a hospital it is important to recognize that the doctors and nurses (especially the nurses) are a part of your support system or birthing team. If you don’t feel that they are on the same page as you as far as birthing than you can request a new nurse at any time too. My nurse actually tried to persuade me not to have an epidural, knowing that was my initial goal. I think by making yourself as familiar and comfortable with your birthing environment you are more likely to express your feelings and concerns as they arise. I don’t think I could have had a better experience. My doctor and nurses were amazing, supportive and very encouraging. My nurse even offered to get me the food from her locker b/c the kitchen wasn’t open and she thought after I had baby that I was hungry. 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      I’m so glad you had a good experience at the hospital and please keep sharing you story with others so people hear positive hospital birth stories too! 🙂 Also I loved that your nurse offered you food from her locker…that’s awesome of her!!
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kennedy says:

    If you decide to deliver in a hospital research your hospital(s). If I would have done this I would have chosen to have my second at a hospital much further from our house instead of the one closest. Talk to other mom’s about their experiences and be prepared to get rude with some of the nurses and staff. This is when that support team really helps because you will be very uncomfortable (I won’t say in pain or miserable because that isn’t always the case). If you have choices/options take a very good look at them. If a hospital is widely known for pushing mom’s to meet a “schedule” you can be sure that it will be an uphill battle for you and your body to take the time needed to do what it needs to do. I have found that there are more and more hospitals that are providing friendly environments for mom and baby, more like the birthing center experience, but you have to look for them.

    • Sarah says:

      Wonderful suggestion to research hospitals! Some are definitely more friendly and supportive of un-medicated /unmanaged birth than others. Talking to consumers (ie-experienced mamas) is usually the best way to gain insight into how a hospital treats laboring women.

  3. Melissa F says:

    Im 37 weeks and planning on a natural water birth! Our local Lovelace Women’s Hospital has a new Family Birthing unit with gorgeous suites that include huge jacuzzi birthing tubs, queen sized beds and an area for hubby to sleep as well. You stay in the suite until you’re discharged and they even prepare a special “congrats” meal for you and you’re sig other! I am so ready for this experience! I know I can do it and look forward to it!

    • Sarah says:

      Best wishes on your upcoming birth…sounds like you will be in good hands! 🙂

  4. Katie M says:

    My advice to moms wanting to give drug-free birth is to do most of your labor at home. Don’t go into the hospital right when labor starts. Instead wait until your contractions are 5-10 minutes apart for an hour (or whatever your doctor tells you!).. I found that I was much more comfortable at home than at the hospital (of course), and I could determine when I got up and walked around and how I dealt with the pain. When I was at the hospital, they hooked me up to all sorts of monitors and I could only walk around when they said so.. plus, I had less time to think about asking for some drugs.

    Another thing that helped me was the bad experience I had with my epidural during my first son’s birth. So, it helped me to remember that epidurals can be dangerous. It also stopped my labor, and I didn’t want that to happen again. And it helped to remember that anything that gets put into my body while I’m still pregnant directly affects my baby. I didn’t want him to come into the world sedated or drugged.

    • Sarah says:

      Awesome suggestion to labor at home as long as possible! On that thought a doula can certainly be a great support while laboring at home and can offer insight as to when is a good time to head to the hospital. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. 🙂
      Have a great weekend!

  5. Amy says:

    These are all good tips! I would add: make sure you have multiple copies of a birth plan to give to the L&D staff stating that you want a drug-free birth. As soon as my nurses saw that, they put a sign on my door that no anesthesia would be needed. Ask about the methods for laboring that your hospital offers, if you are having a hospital birth. Mine has tubs in every room and birthing bars that attach to the beds. They were a-ok with laboring in whatever position I needed. They did let me know that if I wanted an exercise ball for laboring, I would have to bring my own.

    • Sarah says:

      I love hearing positive stories of birth plans being respected and mamas being well supported! Thanks for sharing your experience! 🙂
      Take care,