“Natural” or “Drug-Free” Birth?

by Dagmar Bleasdale on January 31, 2009

drug-free birth versus natural birth, DagmarBleasdale.com

To me, natural birth and drug-free birth meant the same, until I gave birth naturally — as nature designed it, without any drugs — and then found that when I told other moms about Landon’s delivery that many of them seemed to have all kinds of different ideas about what “natural” means.

One woman I met thought she had a natural birth because she didn’t have a C-section. Another mom proclaimed, “I gave birth naturally as well, but weren’t you glad when you got that epidural?”

It is so curious to me that when I tell women that I gave birth naturally they often don’t get that I didn’t have ANY drugs.

When I talk to them about the experience in more detail, they often will say,” Oh, you mean you didn’t have any drugs? No epidural, no pain killer?”

The first few times that happened I nodded confused, but now I have learned that I have to be more specific. So I have switched to saying that I had a “drug-free” birth, because no one can misinterpret what I mean by that.

Is that what we have come to, that C-sections are so common that women think they had a natural childbirth when they gave birth vaginally?

I’m proud about giving birth to my child without the help of narcotics, proud that I trusted my body enough to believe it would know instinctively what to do, proud that I was able to take the “pain” without medical “interference,” as I like to call it (instead of medical “help”).

It was very important to me that my son not enter this word drugged, and I prepared myself extensively during the pregnancy for that miraculous day.

My husband and I attended a 12-week Bradley class, I ate a specific diet that is supposed to get your body ready for the birth (two eggs a day, for example), and exercised every day to get certain muscles into shape that I needed during Landon’s birth.

It’s like a marathon, after all, and who happens to be in shape for a marathon on the fly?

I wish women would do more research and preparation before giving birth — I believe they would realize that “natural” birth is definitely doable and in most cases the best for them and their baby.

I wasn’t going to be one of those moms who thinks, “Oh, they’ll know what to do in the hospital,” and let the doctors make decisions about how the birth is going to go.

That kind of thinking most often ends in a C-section and with moms who have a terrible birth experience because they feel helpless and scared.

This is my body and my child I’m responsible for — I wasn’t going to give that kind of power to any doctor who is basically a stranger, unless in an emergency situation.

I figured Landon only enters this word once, and I better do everything in my power to make this the best and most natural experience for him as possible.

After twelve weeks of birthing classes, taught by my wonderful doula Sherry Rumsey in Los Angeles, I was so exited to get the show on the road, although I felt wonderful close to my due date, energized and not at all in a hurry to give up Landon yet.

I loved being pregnant (minus months 2 and 3, ugh . . .). And I had learned to think of contractions as just that, contractions that help to push the baby out, instead of “pain,” so I was never fearful of the birth or the discomfort.

I realize that all the exercising and preparing in the world doesn’t guarantee you that you have a drug-free/natural birth. Things can go wrong, every situation needs to be assessed accordingly, and sometimes a C-section is needed.

I was prepared for the marathon, but I also know I’m lucky that my birth experience was so amazing.

I labored at home for about nine hours, and when Sherry came to our home, she was surprised how far along I was already, considering this was my first delivery.

She could tell from my body language (I was already starting to grunt) that it was time to got to the hospital (“Don, you better get the car. Dagmar, this isn’t going to be a pleasant ride.”).

Thank goodness it was 1AM — if it would have been rush hour traffic on the freeway in Los Angeles, Landon would’ve been one of those babies on the news.

I walked into the delivery unit telling them they had one minute to decide which room to give me after they could not make up their minds (did I mention I’m also bossy?), and Landon was born about twenty minutes later.

It would have been faster, but my doctor wasn’t there yet. “I want you to know I ran some red lights for you,” he told me later.

Truthfully, I almost feel cheated — Landon’s birth was so fast. I had envisioned a longer, more spiritual experience where I would have time to really grasp all the things my body was doing to push out this little boy.

I never got that massage my husband had promised me, I never got that relaxing shower — all those things went out of the window.

I did end up with an episiotomy, which I had insisted my doctor not perform (in my very detailed birth plan and in person when talking to him).

But I could tell it was necessary and agreed to it and never lost another thought about it.

Landon was born around 2 a.m., and by 7 a.m. we left the hospital to bring him home — after I tried to doze on the cot and Don took a nap on my bed (“I can’t sleep on that cot”) while Landon slept after his first breast milk meal.

I thought I had given birth naturally, but apparently I had given birth “drug free.”

How was your natural or drug-free birth experience? What was the one thing that was the most helpful to make it through your birth?

Rocking, breathing, groaning, mouthing circles of distress, laughing, whistling, pounding, wavering, digging, pulling, pushing — labor is the most involuntary work we do. (Louise Erdrich)

You might also like this post: 3 Tips That Made Giving Birth Easier

3 tips for an easier birth, DagmarBleasdale.com

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindi May 21, 2011 at 1:37 AM

I just read this old post from your Twitter link. I hope that more and more women can be empowered about birth and especially the benefits of drug-free birth. Since I had my first child, I have seen a remarkable change (many of the women in my neighborhood who wouldn’t have considered giving birth without an epidural ten years ago have delivered their other children drug-free) but it’s not enough and I hope the change continues. I believe as women become more educated this change will occur naturally.

I had drug-free deliveries for all five of my children using the hypnobirthing method. http://utahmomslife.blogspot.com/2009/03/hypnobirthing-my-experience.html


Summer October 26, 2010 at 12:04 PM

I have had both of my children drug-free and am going to do it again with this pregnancy. It feels SO good to get up immediately after the baby is born and shower and prepare yourself for the day. I was unable to leave the hospital for 3 days after my daughter was born, though. I was only in labor for 75 minutes from start to finish (first contraction to her birth) and apparently there is a high risk of hemmorage with births that go that quickly so they had to monitor me. The birth was GREAT…the after part, not so much. Thank you for sharing, it is great to know I’m not the only “crazy” person out there, since that’s what I’m often told.


Jill Amery October 14, 2010 at 5:53 AM

Thank you for this. I gave birth to both of my boys with a doula, Grapefruit oil and a bathtub. Beautiful and so special. I didn’t have a plan beforehand, but thought I would let my body tell me what it needed as we went along. I felt so connected to my grandmothers, those before them and those who would come after. I almost want to have another child just for the birth experience.


Debbie Gartner May 9, 2010 at 12:09 AM

Wow. Very impressive. I don’t think I would have the courage or strength. I also can’t believe how great you look just an hour later.


Rachel October 31, 2009 at 1:45 AM

It is so true that people think natural is the same as vaginal. I just straight up say I had my baby without drugs. I had a wonderful birth experience and I accredit it all to my Bradley Class teacher and doula. I felt so well-prepared and was ready for anything! I had my son in a birth center (1 hour away) and almost had him in the car. I have become a bit of a birth junkie since my birth, I’m hoping to have the next one a little closer to home, maybe a homebirth, we’ll see!


Kelsi September 11, 2009 at 9:17 PM

I know how you feel! My second daughter was born at home with only my husband present (and me obviously). It was so awesome, and I can’t begin to explain how a drug-free birth is different than today’s typical hospital birth.

My story is here, since we’re sharing ;o) http://www.koofie.com/born-free


Kelly September 11, 2009 at 6:32 AM

Congratulations on achieving your med-free natural birth!

My first was a c-section because she was breach. I was unprepared and wasn’t offered or knew of any ways to turn her.

I fought for a vbac with my second and I was so glad I did. It was a wonderful birth but so fast. I know what you mean about being cheated. I wanted a drug-free birth because I know the harm that can follow interventions. I don’t want people to think I went drug-free because it was a fast birth.

My story is here if you’re interested


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