Drug-Free Birth

by Dagmar Bleasdale on February 10, 2010

drug-free birth, baby feet decorations

I had a wonderful experience giving birth to my son without pain medication after preparing myself with a 12-week Bradley class.

I think three factors contributed to make my natural birth experience enjoyable compared to other women’s “laborious” deliveries:

  • positive attitude
  • preparation
  • and a little bit of luck.
After seeing my girlfriend’s easy, epidural-aided labor years ago, I was convinced that I wanted an epidural — hook me up the second I walk in the door — but I completely changed my opinion once I did more research and attended the Bradley classes.
Now there was no way I wanted any intervention, unless my life or the baby’s was in danger.
Even though this was my first time giving birth, I truly believed that I could achieve a drug-free birth. It helped to know that my three sister-in-laws had birthed all of their 10 children like that.
I trusted that my body would know what it needed to do, and I think my can-do mindset was the most important reason for my positive experience.

Secondly, I think the Bradley recommendations about eating certain foods and the daily exercises readied my body for the marathon of birth. I felt a bit like an athlete getting ready for a great feat, including the high-protein-and-lots-of-good-fats diet.

I also was advised to stay away from the hospital as long as possible to avoid all the checkups and interventions.

Instead of being hooked up to a monitor, I labored at home, walking around as much as possible.

I was able to eat what I wanted and able to get into positions that felt most comfortable from minute to minute, like Anna. She ended up having a home birth, something I would have had if I would have stayed home another half an hour.

Clearly, the last factor was a bit of luck.

I was only in labor for nine hours and had my son twenty minutes after arriving at the hospital.

All the preparation in the world couldn’t have guaranteed that I would have a natural birth. Maybe I was fortunate with how my body was build and how my son happened to maneuver himself into the world. Not every woman is that lucky and things can go wrong and require intervention.

I also have to say that I didn’t end up using the Bradley relaxation techniques. My husband had so dutifully studied to be my coach yet in the end I didn’t even want a foot rub; I was so busy with tuning into my body.

Watching that “19 Kids and Counting” episode, I was so proud of Anna Duggar for giving birth to her baby at home, so proud that this young woman had educated herself by attending classes for weeks and mentally prepared herself for that special day of her child’s birth. She is a great role model for other women, young and old, about empowering yourself with the information you need about labor.

If you want to be more in command of your wishes and choices while giving birth, I recommend you believe in your own strength, chose your support team wisely (I had a doula), and educate yourself about the best options for you.

There are many other classes available beside the Bradley method. If more women would take charge of their life like Anna, I believe many could avoid epidurals and C-sections and have a more positive birthing experience.

What do you think, do you feel — like me — that more women could achieve a natural birth if they had educated themselves more about how the hospital is set up to push you into c-sections and believed more strongly in their ability to give birth naturally?

I did it, and I am no superwoman.

Did you have an epidural or a C-section? What was your experience?

Were you happy with your birth experience? Would you do anything differently the next time?

I appreciate your input, because I want all of us to learn from each other. Knowledge is power!

You can find birth resources I compiled on my Birth page.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Brynna May 9, 2011 at 11:15 PM

My first daughter was born at the hospital, and I was GUNG-HO about natural birth. I was very familiar with all the risks of an epidural, had all my reasons for not wanting one, knew that the hospital would be pushy, etc (I had a VERY good educator on the topic…a wonderful aunt who was a L&D nurse turned doula/midwife/NCBE!). However, 9 hours in I got an epidural. I don’t necessarily regret it, but I appreciate the learning experience.

My next two were unassisted homebirths (and I know for a fact that, had I been in a hospital with #3, they would have sectioned me unnecessarily!!). There is NO comparison and Lord-willing I will never have a baby in a hospital again. I LOVE childbirth now and cannot wait for the next time I get to experience it!! :)


Scarlet March 15, 2010 at 8:05 PM

I had 2 home births. Animals don’t go to the hospital and they seem to be just fine most of the time. I look at birth as natural and normal. I do think medicine has it’s place, just not in every single birth! The cesarian rate is way too high!
.-= Scarlet ´s last blog ..Dimes 2 Vines- A blog with great resources! =-.


G February 15, 2010 at 5:35 PM

I had both an epidural (planned) and a c-section (unplanned), but my pregnancy and delivery were complicated by some serious medical issues that meant that I am not eligible to make all of the same birthing choices that most women can. That said, here are my thoughts.

I really appreciate that you mention that there is a bit of luck in achieving a natural labor and I think that maybe instead of so much emphasis on entirely drug-free, we should put the emphasis on tying the intervention to a need rather than a popular culture image. For example, an epidural after you’ve been in labor for days and are stalled is a slightly different scenario than “hook me up the minute I walk in.” But sometimes these get lumped together. There is grey area that is sometimes ignored.

One of the purely selfish reasons I wish epidural and c-section rates would drop is that they are now so high, that as someone who truly had medical complications and an emergency c-section, I find most people don’t believe me that it was necessary. C-section has now become synonymous for “too many interventions” “bad OB” etc and that make healing (emotionally and physically) much harder. I’m not saying that those women are to blame for their c-sections, but not only have we created a culture that sees c-sections as normal, but we have also created a counter-culture that sometimes alienates women who are not free to choose a drug-free homebirth (be it economic, medical, or other reasons).


Natalie October 15, 2012 at 1:00 PM

G, I wholeheartedly agree! I went into my labor with the “birth plan” that I was going to do it naturally. 12 hours into labor AFTER my water broke (had contractions confirmed by my OB and monitors for two weeks prior), I ended up getting an epidural with the idea to allow me to rest before the pushing began (convinced by my nurse). Another 8 hours later, there were medical complications and baby’s heartrate was dropping so I too had to have an emergency c-section. I was an emotional mess and felt like I failed as a mother before even meeting my little boy. Eight months later, I have (somewhat) come to terms with the c-section knowing it allowed me to have my baby perfect and healthy with us today, however I still cringe when I tell people I had an emergency c-section, knowing their reactions. My brother in law’s girlfriend actually said the day after labor that I had the “easy way” with the section. What I felt like telling her was after 2 weeks of pre-labor and 22 hours of labor it was no easy way, but the safest way…but I wasn’t there yet. I do hope for the next babies to be VBACs, however. We’ll see!


Brenna February 14, 2010 at 10:16 PM

I am so very thankful for all of the medical advances we now have available to us. I just wish that we didn’t need to use them so much. I do believe that a lot of interventions are unnecessary and that education (of women, their partners, their medical providers, their childbirth educators) and normalization of natural birth could go a long way to lessen their use. I believe that the history of childbirth is so muddled with bad information and scare tactics, much of which is still believed today that it limits our ability to make good choices about birth. I believe women should have a choice in how they labor, how they deliver, and where, but these choices should be based on better information than many are currently given.

I had 3 c-sections. I will always wonder if I could have done it, but I will never know.
.-= Brenna´s last blog ..Love and stuff.. =-.


Olivia February 14, 2010 at 8:12 PM

Glad to see so many great post about birth experiences. My Natural Birth experience led me to write an eBook with my husband, titled “The Psychology of Natural Childbirth.” I include 12 Steps I followed that led to a successful natural birth with my first son that I can look back on positively. Women don’t need birth medication… they truly need birth education.
If we are blessed with another child, we will definitely go the homebirth route. With our son, I labored at home for quite a while then we went to the hospital. Any woman who is uneducated about the procedures performed in U.S. hospitals can easily be swayed into unnecessary interventions that complicate labor. Chiropractic adjustments and exercise definitely helped my body prepare for the labor marathon!
.-= Olivia´s last blog ..Avoid These 7 Foods and You’re Off To A Healthier New Year! =-.


Hannah February 13, 2010 at 12:06 AM

For me the thought of having to go to a hospital is what scares me! lol!
I am a 20 something yr. old mom, had my 1st at 19 and 2nd at 21. Both at home with a midwife. Both went just fine, even though I was in poor shape on the second one (had gotten something in my system that made me sick). And she was born 5 weeks early, but was healthy and fine! Both my babies have been early!
I compelety agree that women can have their babies at home, naturally, just like they did hundreds of years! Of course people would argue that so many died back then too, but hey we live in 2010! Our midwifes have more rescources now too!

I wish more homebirthing moms could reach out and help educate young women!

God bless!
.-= Hannah´s last blog ..~Benjamin Franklin Fridays~ The Words of Our Founding Fathers =-.


1stopmom February 12, 2010 at 10:08 PM

Even though it was not my intention, all four of my children were born the natural way. I wanted an epidural but every time I always missed my chance.
.-= 1stopmom´s last blog ..Survivor Villains vs Heroes, Finally! =-.


Bronny (pigz) February 12, 2010 at 2:25 AM

I would love a natural birth! I’d like a normal pregnancy. If I ever have a 3rd I’ll be going for a natural VBAC!


Andrea February 12, 2010 at 1:02 AM

I did want a natural childbirth and did educate myself. But it was not meant to be. My water broke a week prior to my due date and I went into labor. I labored at home for 10+ hours and at the hospital for another 15 with minimal intervention. I finally conceded to an epidural when my labor stalled at 8cm for 3 hours. I immediately went to 10cm and proceeded to push for 3 hours in many positions with no luck. Tried Vacuum extraction and Oscar was strong but stubborn. Had the csection and he was an 11 pound baby with a 14.75 inch head. Not gonna fit. After all that I felt secure knowing I tried everything to get him out, but I also felt like I “knew too much”. I felt guilty for not being able to get him out naturally and I felt somewhat betrayed by the natural labor books I had read telling me that it was all a mindset. I hope to have a VBAC with my next child and I will try for natural birth again. But if I have a csection, I won’t take on the guilt that I could have done better if I had only tried. My whole story is posted on www. lilkidthings.com under Birth Story.


TheFeministBreeder February 12, 2010 at 12:55 AM

Okay, let’s see —

1st baby: failed induction. Had every chemical in the hospital put in me. Then an awful cesarean. Had a horrible reaction to the epidural so I shook violently, and my whole body ached from the stress for weeks.

2nd baby: hugely triumphant VBAC, but I made the mistake of getting the epidural, which I had another horrible reaction to, and it stalled my labor which made them try to force me into another cesarean. After 34 hours of labor in the hospital, my doula told me to get rid of the epidural, and as soon as I did, my labor went from 6-10 and I pushed out my nearly 10 lb baby – and felt everything. And it was awesome.

For our 3rd baby, I’m doing this at home – nowhere near the drugs. You’re 100% right when you say that people could avoid drugs with more education. (and that means real birth education, using real pain coping techniques – not just the crappy hospital birth classes that provide couples with no understanding of the truth birth process, and how to have the best birth possible.)


Erin W. / Beatnik Momma February 11, 2010 at 9:50 PM

When I was pregnant with Gracie, my 5 year old, my doctor gave me the option to induce. She told me at my last appointment (on a Tuesday) that I was dilated to 2cm and while she was pretty sure I’d make it until the next week, she was going to be on vacation that week. She assured me the other doctor in her practice would be just fine to deliver me should I go into labor before she returned, but she felt fairly certain she wouldn’t be back before that happened. She didn’t push me to do it, but I really wanted her to be the one to deliver my baby, so I went ahead and induced. I went in on Thursday morning and they started me on the medicines and I had slow progress all day. At 8pm that night I was given the option to break my water or give up for the night and try again in the morning. I was warned that if my water broke too soon and I dried out I would have to get a C-Section, so I opted to try again in the morning. That did the trick. The contractions slowly grew stronger but my water did have to be broken at noon.

I was 21 and uneducated on most aspects of birth. I had no idea that the pitocin I was getting was what made my contractions so intense and painful. I ended up getting an epidural just in time to push. The doctor said I needed an episiotomy but I tore anyway. I suffered 4th degree tears. My sisters-in-law saw her at the local Wal-Mart later that day and she said that she had quit counting stitches after 140. I was lucky that I had no pain after.

My second daughter Kairi, 10 months, I told my doctor I did not want to induce. I was not against pain medication but I would have rathered go into labor naturally. At the end of my pregnancy I was convinced by both him and my mother to induce. My mother lives out of town and “scheduling” the birth would be easier on her. I was given about 2 minutes to make my decision and I faltered. Kairi is my last child as I got my tubes tied and I regret to say that I will never know the feeling of going into labor on my own.

I got my epidural with Kairi just in time to push as well (both times I was 7cm and sitting up to get the epidural pushed them down to crowning.) This time, however, the epidural hadn’t kicked in. At all. Despite the anesthesiologist returning just in time to give me another quick dose, I still had no help where the pain was concerned. And it turned out to be fine. The pain of the contractions far outweighed the pain of actually delivering my daughter. Just after delivering, the medicine kicked in.

Looking back, I wish I had been more educated. I wish that I had the option to choose a midwife rather than an OB/GYN.
.-= Erin W. / Beatnik Momma´s last blog ..Aware =-.


Summer February 11, 2010 at 5:38 AM

I don’t think all women would choose a natural birth, but I definitely think if education and support were more available there would be an increase in women making that choice. There are some women who are not in a position to make any choices about their births.
.-= Summer´s last blog ..Co-Parenting Support =-.


frogmama February 11, 2010 at 2:29 AM

I have to say, I take issue with your “educated themselves more” and “believed more strongly in their ability to give birth naturally” comments. I was 100% prepared to give birth naturally. I didn’t want drugs and I wanted to be in control of my labor. Fate dealt me a different hand. My water broke, but I never went into labor. My son was facing the wrong way and his heart rate kept dropping. After 24+ hours plus of demanding that I do it my way, I conceded to an emergency C-section. It was disappointing and sad for me (mostly because I was unable to hold my son after “delivering” him), but both he and I were healthy. Ultimately, isn’t that the important part of giving birth?
.-= frogmama´s last blog ..Things I ponder on the shitter =-.


Dagmar February 11, 2010 at 6:10 PM

I am sorry you take issue, I clearly also mentioned that one big part of achieving a natural birth is luck. You weren’t lucky for things to fall into place and obviously needed intervention. Yes, if your health or the baby’s health is in danger, a C-sections is the way to go.


Taderdoodles (Lisa Baldwin) February 10, 2010 at 7:51 PM

We are currently expecting baby number four. Our first two were planned inductions, with epidurals and the whole shebang… An insurance issue led us to call a midwife for baby number 3. I had wanted a home birth the first time but had been scared out of it. After having Bubbagirl at home in water and experiencing that joy in birth and in the months that followed I was saddened to realize the lies, deceptions, and misconceptions that my previous doctor had spewed. I share my knowledge and opinions on the matter when asked, and if the mom chooses a hospital with drugs or csection then I support her. Honesty is what helps moms feel confident in their decisions.

I can’t wait to call my midwife and tell her my hubby is getting the tub ready again! My last labor was 5 hours. Compared to all day with the first two.
.-= Taderdoodles (Lisa Baldwin)´s last blog ..In Honor of all of us that needed Tech Support recently… =-.


Beth in SF February 10, 2010 at 6:08 PM

Oh, and I should add, my epidural had completely worn off by the end of my 4 hours of pushing, so my labor was anything but easy. The epidural just helped me get through the middle of it and recoup a bit.
.-= Beth in SF´s last blog ..Fear and Self-Loathing in San Francisco =-.


Beth in SF February 10, 2010 at 6:06 PM

I was thinking I would not have one if I could do it, but I left my options open. And I’m so glad I did. I had very hard, strong contractions from the very first moment of my labor. My labor started in the middle of the night, and so once I was able to get an epidural, I opted to have it because I needed to rest. It slowed my labor down a bit, but my contractions had been so powerful that they were lowering my baby’s heartbeat, so that ended up being a good thing. The only side effect I felt was the shaking and shivering, but they gave me a warm blanket and that went away. I would say that I’d recommend it, but I probably wouldn’t, because this is a personal decision each woman should make for herself, and she should not be made to feel guilty if she has the epidural.
.-= Beth in SF´s last blog ..Fear and Self-Loathing in San Francisco =-.


Cory February 10, 2010 at 7:17 PM

Getting ready for my 2nd natural birth at home unassisted. After having the first in the at home, I couldn’t imagine being stuck in a hospital to give birth.
.-= Cory´s last blog ..Dead Sea Mud Shampoo Bar for Oily Hair Types =-.


Accidental Pharmacist February 10, 2010 at 6:28 PM

We had planned on a natural birth possibly at home (our eligibility to be determined at 37 weeks). I was very educated about pain management etc, had a midwife, passed on the ultrasounds and internal exams and then wham, one day, at 35 weeks, I was on my way to work (I work at a hospital) and found myself having an emergency section before lunch possibly because of a cord compression from a breech position.

I found it extremely hard to adjust because I really hadn’t imagined that it would ever happen this way. I sometimes wonder if I had been more open to interventions at birth if I would have felt less traumatized by the delivery. I fully intend to try for a natural VBAC the next time(s) but I think it pays to be educated about pain management and open to the possibility that sometimes things go sideways. And you can’t always prevent it.


Sarah February 10, 2010 at 5:58 PM

I had epidurals with both. When my son was born, I was offered one very early on in labor…and took it ( boy do I wish I hadn’t ). I was in labor for 31 hrs! The first epidural they gave me numbed my left side only….to make a VERY LONG STORY short….they stuck me 11 times…YUP 11! and did not remove the cath that they had placed when I started to push ( this was a mistake from what I have been told, that most likely was the cause of minor bladder leaks after the delivery of my son ). First labor horrible experience, but so worth it…love my little man:-)! Second ( my daughter ) started to dialate ( only 1cm ) at 34wks & 5days …instead of telling me to rest….they kept me and started me on pitocin to progress my labor…..had my daugther ( at a very tiny 5lbs 1 ounce ) within 4 hrs ( I chose to take the epidural after two hrs in labor and did not have the same issues as I did with the first labor) Now had I chosen the Natural childbirth route…..I would not have allowed them to give me that pitocin, and could have ( likely in my opinion) carried my daughter closer to term. Out of both of my children, she is the one that is most likely to get sick and stay sick longer, she has had a host of health problems ( including self correcting SVT, which most likely was due to her premature birth ) If I had both labors to do over, I would have chosen the Natural road. I hope this help’s someone :-)
.-= Sarah´s last blog ..FREE Brunswiick Bowling SWEET TREATS FOR VALENTINES DAY!!! =-.


Monika February 10, 2010 at 5:47 PM

Well I had a c-section with my son, but it was anything but planned.

After being expected to have a large baby, approaching my due date and nothing much going on as far as active labor signs, I was scheduled for induction. I didn’t know much about what that meant or how long it could potentially take before I agreed to be induced but I advise other mothers-to-be to read up on every scenario, even though you don’t expect it to be a part of your birth plan.

I worked through maximum strength contractions on pitocin from 11:00 am until 8:00 pm, & that entire time was drug free time. To say it sucked was an understatement. At 8:00pm they took me off the pitocin & gave me cervidal to see if I would progress on my own overnight.

It didn’t work (no substantial progress) so I went back on pitocin the next morning. I knew I couldn’t stand another full day of contractions without help, so at that point I asked for some help with the pain – I had been laboring almost 24 hours when during a check, the nurse accidentally broke my water, which caused my son to move out of proper birthing position. His arm was now where his head should have been & they did not think there was any chance of getting him moved back.

The doctor rushed in with authorization paperwork so that he could do an emergency c-section. Before I knew it I was getting an epidural & was being prepped for surgery. I didn’t have time to think about what that meant for my recovery after the fact.

My son delivered at 10lbs 3 oz. I have no idea if I ever could have pushed him out or if he would have been even bigger had I waited & said I didn’t want to be induced, but I’ll never know.

Having had to recover from the c-section & having swollen legs for a month after the fact due to all the pitocin they pumped into me, I can’t say I’d go the induction route again & I definitely don’t want another c-section. It was a hard pill to swallow when my legs had never been swollen throughout my entire pregnancy. The c-section recovery can be rather painful – at least it was for me.

If you can try to go drug-free & natural I encourage people to try – it’s not for everyone, but then again I don’t chastise anyone for making a different choice. Either way educate yourself about the options & prepare for your birth plan well – don’t just try to wing it – be prepared.


Mama in the City February 10, 2010 at 4:46 PM

It sounds like you had a great birth and are feeling empowered from it!! As a Labor and Delivery RN in a busy city hospital I see a mix of types of births. People who want drug free birth. People who want epidurals right away. Booked C/S. etc. I really do not see women pushed into C/S or told not to try for a VBAC or to get an epidural. However, we are quite the hip city hospital so maybe that has something to do with it?
My opinion on this subject is this: thank goodness women have all of these options available for their choice!! The best bet is if women can make really informed choices and have knowledge around various potential complications, like meconium in the fluid. Sort of just like how you did with epidurals.
The thing that I also see is, every labor is different and there are many external factors that can change things up. Like advanced maternal age, previous existing medical conditions, long labors with malposition of the baby’s head, etc.
I also think that the more you educate yourself and your support people the better for you! Not that this dictates exactly how your birth will unfold but if you are informed and knowledgeable you will still feel empowered even with changes.


gaileee February 10, 2010 at 4:00 PM

I had my odds stacked against me, on my fourth birth, as I was older (46), had gestational diabetes, and was getting very near by due date, and had a slow responding baby, with the ultrasound movement, near my term.

Be that as it was, I had also done Bradley Childbirth Method with my previous three children, and knew the importance of being informed, really informed. Also had a doctor in the family that I could bounce ideas off of, so that I knew I was on track with how I wanted my birth to go.

In informed intelligent conversations with my doctor, we discussed pros/cons on my birth plan. The plan was to have me paired up with a nurse who was experienced with Bradley type births, and for me to be monitored for 10 minutes, then I could walk, move, do yoga poses, etc on the off monitored moments.

Even though I had gestational diabetes, I was able to visit with a diabetes counselor, get informed with a food plan, and had to write down every spec of food that I ate, my blood sugars, my exercise plan, etc. My doctor made a comment, that he wished that his 20 and 30 year old patients, would take their preparation of having their babies as seriously as I did. It was like they knew they had GD, but they didn’t take the doctors concerns and eating plans seriously/half heartedly.

Even though I had to be induced (past my due date), it was decided that my water was to be broken, I was still able to walk, do yoga poses, etc during my induced labor. My Bradley/Yoga Birth Ball/Breathing efforts helped me deal with the labor surges/contractions. We kept uping the pitocin, in little stages, so that I could handle the increase in the surges/contractions. Apparently this is not the norm, in inducing, so I was very lucky, that they were working with me. There’d be conversations with the nurse and I that it was time to up the amount, so that there’d be good quality contractions to get the baby down and out of the birth canal. Not saying that it wasn’t painful during transition, but with the redirection of senses, husband coaching, nurse interactions, etc, it was very manageable. I do think that if you aren’t able to move during your labor, you will need help in dealing with contractions. I don’t know this for a fact, just in reading others births.

In fact when it came time to push, she came out in 4 pushes. My pelvis was so open that (thank the yoga birth ball for that), she didn’t have the squishy head going on, and she was my smallest baby at 8lb 4 oz.

There are a lot of things you do have to have in place, in order to have as natural birth as possible, when you go to a hospital. An open minded doctor, a good support nursing staff at the hospital, a coach, who is there for you, and you knowing all the options.

When I had a miscarriage with my first baby, I didn’t know any of this stuff. I am so glad I found out about Lamaze and Bradley Childbirth Method, and other techniques since then (Henci Goer- Birthing from within).

Things could have gone in another direction, but they didn’t, and I was able to have another natural drug free birth.
.-= gaileee´s last blog ..Have a pain free delivery…. =-.


Jenny February 10, 2010 at 3:43 PM

I am totally with you! After having 3 natural births I now teach women how to have drug free births with interventions playing the role as emergency measure, like they are meant to be. I find so many more women decide to go natural when they are knowledgeable about the benefits of a drug free labor and what risks interventions present.
.-= Jenny´s last blog ..Magpie Lovely and More Blog Appreciation! =-.


Raelee February 10, 2010 at 2:30 PM

Absolutely. I’m amazed at how quickly moms assume that drugs are needed or if they’ve had a C-section, they assume that they will have to have another C-section with their next baby. We planned on natural birth for both of our children. With our first, we took 12 weeks of Bradley classes. They were wonderful. Both my husband and I felt very knowledgeable and confident about what to expect. When there was meconium in my amniotic fluid when my water broke, we both knew that there would be complications – it didn’t take us by surprise. We made a decision about every intervention with our midwife and doula. It was really emotional for me to have a c-section with my first, but she was tangled in her cord and it was necessary. She was a healthy 7 lb baby. With our second, I knew I wanted to have a VBAC. I had an amazing natural VBAC experience with our son, a whopping 10.4 lb baby boy. I am woman; hear me roar.


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