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Complete Guide to Home Birthing: Coping with Labor Pains and Delivery without Medication

When you decide that you’re having a homebirth you might also confirm at that same time that you’ll indeed be giving birth without any pain medication.

The fact that you’ll be having your baby in your home confirms that you won’t have any pain medication available to you from your midwives or otherwise.

Many women might have concerns that the pain will outlast their level of resiliency, and what if they feel it’s too painful to birth their baby without pain medication?

In a hospital pain medication is readily available to laboring women, and while unnatural interventions like pain medication can slow labor it does help the pain go away.

In this article

Pain tolerance is different for every individual therefore you cannot ask someone else what to expect

The truth is, that every person has a unique pain tolerance so each experience of giving birth is unique to an individual. This ultimately means that you can’t rely on another person’s experience of how painful or not giving birth was for them.

That means you only have one way to truly find out how giving birth will feel to you. There is one thing you can count on though, and that’s giving birth successfully regardless of how painful it is to you.

Many women describe home birth labor pains to be ‘intense’ rather than ‘painful’

Do a bit of your homebirth research and you’ll discover something among the homebirth community – home birthers describe labor pains as intense – rather than painful.

So, if this is true where does this perspective come from and how do you apply it to your labor? It’s all about perspective and having 5 babies previously I can tell you how important perspective is.

You have to prepare and tone your perspective in a sense, it takes work too. So here are a few helpful tips to manage labor and delivery pains.

Undisturbed birth is a way to endure your labor pain and see it as peak performance

Get familiar with the term undisturbed birth, this is an important one for successful home birth to take place.

Ultimately, an undisturbed birth regards a woman not being disturbed during her labor, so that she is able to follow her thoughts and intuition to bring her baby into this world.

When you’re able to discover the stress hormones and sensations of your body changing to allow your baby to pass through it, and out into this world you are given the freedom to do what you need to do.

When a woman gives birth in a hospital setting the terms used when she is laboring are quite different than when a homebirth is taking place. Your midwives will encourage your labor to progress naturally, with little intervention.

During a homebirth midwives usually monitor your baby’s heartbeat, and your vitals to ensure you are progressing well.

Since your midwives have been monitoring your vitals during the end of your pregnancy, they have ultimately gotten to know you and your baby’s common range for your pulse, blood pressure, and temperature.

Undisturbed birth is common in the United States and various countries where women generally have ‘free birth’

Undisturbed birth is quite common in countries where they have free-birth, mothers in these countries usually labor and deliver without any professional or experience help from professionals or friends at all.

Many free births progress well, with babies who are born healthy and happy.

When I was laboring in the hospital the one thing at the very end that threw me off enough to give into my epidural was the nurse interrupting my meditation over and over again.

I just couldn’t do it, every time my peace was found they wanted to do this or that – so I became overwhelmed with pain and accepted the epidural.

During my few home births and water births, I was able to be alone with my partner discovering all of my body’s needs and desires to give birth to my baby. Which is the perfect example of undisturbed birth.

Woman focusing on her breathing

There are methods for pain relief that you or your support team can implement to relieve the overwhelming feelings of pain that you are feeling

Getting your entire birthing team on board with your chosen pain relief methods before you go into labor will help everyone stay on the same page when it comes time to implement natural pain-relief methods at home.

Movement and moaning are great pain relievers during labor

When a woman is free to vocalize her moans, groans, and noises that all laboring have urges to make this relives the waves of pain as they come up.

The pain of labor is not constant though after hours you might feel certain muscles stay sore – like after a hard workout – if you stay in labor a long time.

Expressing what you need to vocalize is the oldest trick in the book, sometimes you will have questions you need to confirm with your midwife, or you’ll need to groan loudly to relieve a deeply arising discomfort from your body.

The body holds tension and trauma, and you must help it up and out during labor. It helps if you can visualize the pain or stress leaving your body in the form of words or noises.

You can even write down positive affirmations to read or speak out loud during labor to relieve the tension within your body.

Yoga balls, birthing tubs, or rocking and swaying with your body

There are a few additional strategies and tools you can add to your birthing room that you may want to include in your pain relief techniques. These deserve their own section since each one can be used differently to relieve pain and pass time during labor.

Yoga or birthing balls

Birthing or yoga balls work by helping you open your pelvic girdle for your baby to move down and out of.

It’s the bouncing that encourages your baby to move downward out of your body. While bouncing on a birthing ball you can visualize your baby moving out of your belly for empowerment.

Bouncing can also relieve any anxiety or excitement that you have from being in labor, which generally happens in the beginning stages of labor after finding out you’ve gone into labor.

This can be a time where waves of energy are sparking in your body, as your brain sends signals to your muscles to prepare for your baby to exit your body.

Some women might even feel nauseous during labor due to the massive increase in hormones, energy, and overall intensity of being in labor.

A birthing ball gives a comfortable place for you to sit as well. The floor or a couch might be uncomfortable for a woman in labor.

Rocking and swaying while you stand up

Some women prefer to stand up while they sway or rock with their contractions, this gives them a good space to moan as they sway too. Swaying is soothing and can relieve even more pent-up energy that a laboring woman might be experiencing.

You can rock or sway your hips at a pace that feels good to you while feeling your baby’s head move down into your pelvic girdle the further along in your labor you become.

I find that this was always the most comfortable way for me to include movement during labor inside my home. If you’re feeling dizzy or dehydrated, this might not be a good option for you to continue doing.

Sometimes we rock and sway – sometimes we recoup and revive sitting or laying down. When you go into labor, it won’t stop you from resting so rest and eat as you need to.

Have your spouse or support team rub or press on your back and thighs

If you’re one of the fortunate you will tolerate having people touch your body as your labor.

For me, I wasn’t that lucky until my 5th birth, I just couldn’t stand anyone touching me since I was hot and flushed or shivering during my first 4 labors.

Then on my last one, I wanted to be rubbed and held and everyone to vocalize how well I was doing. So this is really about preference, don’t expect your support team to know where you would like to be rubbed or touched.

This is something you need to ask them for, if you’re finding that you want your back touched you can ask them to do it for you – no one is more ready to help than when a woman is in labor.

It can be really helpful if you can tell them where it feels good. Thighs, lower back, and shoulders are the most common places that hold tension when laboring.

It could change quickly as well, if you no longer want to be rubbed, then say so, sometimes that 30 seconds of relief is the game-changer.

Hypnobirthing is another great mindset advantage to have when handling labor pains

Hypnobirthing can be practiced before going into labor, and it will be helpful to do so. Essentially hypnobirthing is the act of self-hypnosis and powerful relaxation techniques when going through the waves of labor pains to overcome them.

As humans, we are capable of transforming any type of energy into helpful energy, and we are ultimately in control of the way we feel based on many factors but it majorly comes down to how we handle our mindset and perspective.

When you aim to have a ‘Hypno-birth’ you will utilize visualization, deep breathing, and internal relaxation tools that suit you.

Hypnobirthing is not a sure technique for a completely pain-free labor

Hypnobirthing techniques can certainly help with having an overall smooth home birth, but it doesn’t technically guarantee total pain-free labor.

Laboring is intense work for women, regardless of the type of pain-relief you have – birthing a baby is exhausting to physically have a baby.

Hypno-birthing is a chance to synchronize the sensations of labor and delivery with your emotions and your natural physical capability – through the power of the mind.

The greater the tranquility inside of your mind the greater chance of not having an intervention during labor

It’s no doubt that Hypnobirthing allows women all over the world to have fewer interventions and overall pain while laboring.

In fact, the C-section rate of women who hypnobirthing as a laboring technique was a mere 17% compared to non-hypnobirthing women at a higher 32%.

Women in less established countries don’t have the luxury of pain medication during their labor – many of which birth their baby at home successfully.

These women, who don’t have access to pain medication naturally implement hypnobirthing techniques – like mind over matter.

Additionally, newborns who were born under hypnobirthing techniques had higher APGAR scores, didn’t need surgical interventions as often, and reflected on their birthing experience as a ‘positive experience.’

A few mantras of hypnobirthing:

  • Birth is the ultimate act of love
  • I look forward to giving birth
  • My body was designed to do this
  • Down and out
  • I let my body – our baby set the pace
  • My surges aren’t happening to me, they are a part of me
  • I welcome each contraction
  • I am one with the sensations of labor
  • Contraction waves are a good thing, it means my body is working
  • My mind quiets, my body opens, our baby is born
  • My labor is progressing beautifully, and just the way we need it to

You can print off these mantras, to hang on your wall in your birthing space. Repeat them when it feels like the right time during your labor, a single mantra can make the biggest difference in the direction of your labor.

The amazing thing about hypnobirthing is that you can do it anywhere, women who have a hospital transfer can take hypnobirthing techniques to the hospital room and apply these techniques in a hospital room too.

Breath matters when you labor at home without pain-medication

How you breathe during your labor might be the biggest key to helping your body progress to have your baby smoothly.

The trick is to breathe naturally, sometimes naturally will be labored, slow, deep, quickened breathing, or loud moaning with your breathing.

It’s important not to hold your breath when you have contractions, the best breathing method to attempt to apply to your breathing pattern during labor according to is as follows;

At the beginning and end of each contraction, remember to take a deep, cleansing, relaxing, breath. This not only helps sharpen your focus but also helps provide more oxygen for your baby, your muscles, and your uterus.

My midwife said to me often at the end of pregnancy: “Take a deep breath for baby” which is the single phrase that got me through the hardest contractions when my baby was in my birth canal.

First stage labor breathing will be slightly different from late-stage labor’s breathing

When you’re practicing breathing patterns prior to being in labor, keep in mind that the way you need to breathe will change throughout the various stages of labor.

Don’t get stressed out beforehand with trying to figure out how you will know when to shift your breathing pattern, because it really just happens naturally as you move along in your labor.

You might see a pattern similar to this during each stage of labor;

First stage labor brings breathing that is slow and deep aligning you with clarity and control

This breathing generally helps when you no longer can stand still during contractions from the natural intensity of the contraction.

Slow breathing goes something like this – take in a big deep breath for clarity as the contraction begins, then slowly breathe out allowing your body to go limp as your breath is released.

With each slow-deep inhale and exhaled breath visualize various parts of your body releasing the tension, for ultimate relaxation.

Allow your sighs to be as loud or quiet as they need to be. Your breathing pattern will occur as you naturally get the urge to inhale and exhale.

Active labor may bring breathing that becomes more rapid or accelerated

As your adrenaline and excessive amounts of labor hormones are beginning to pump throughout your body, you might feel the need to breathe lightly instead of so deep and slow.

Accelerated light breathing tends to happen as the body transitions into active labor. Of course, each laboring mother simply needs to listen to her urges and body to decide when light breathing will be beneficial.

During labor, light breathing may look something like one breath per second. Be sure to sit or lay down if breathing in an accelerated manner is making you feel dizzy or faintish in any way.

A pant-pant-blow or hee-hee-who is another form of rapid breathing that is commonly used during contractions later in labor

As your contraction comes along, take in a deep breath to induce clarity and allow your body to be completely relaxed all over as you sigh your breath out.

Next, you might feel the urge to use your focal point at this later stage in labor or ask your birthing partner to maintain focus with you on allowing your baby to come outward.

Next, you will breathe in a pattern of roughly 15-20 breaths throughout each contraction.

These are the breaths that pushing will naturally happen with every 3rd, 4th, or even 5th breath – with your push at the end of your breathing cycle, you might feel the need to strongly vocalize a puh or who.

Keep in mind that you can’t get this wrong, the key is listening to your body and infusing you and your baby with as much relaxation as possible.

Lastly, you may need to breathe in order to avoid pushing at the wrong time

In the final stages of labor, as your baby enters the birthing canal – there will be many urges to bear down to ‘push your baby out.’

It takes a few cycles of breathing and time for your body to properly expel your baby from your birthing canal and into your hands.

During the times where you feel like you need to push, though it is not yet time, you can breathe out instead of bearing down. Your midwives and birthing team can coach you through these urges until it’s finally time to truly push.

The first few urges to push is when your body is already actively pushing your baby down, and if you add to this pushing you could tear or rip your muscles, labia, or cause prolapse in your rectum.

Taking this stage as slowly as needed and constantly breathing through the intensity is the best way to allow your body to do what it needs to.

During this final stage, you might have the urge to hold your breath completely through the contraction, but this will only hinder the blood supplied to your baby and your body – it’s important to breathe instead of holding your breath.

There are many important hormones that your body will produce during labor to help you navigate pain, and other sensations you will inevitably feel

The hormones released during labor and delivery are there to naturally assist you in birthing your baby. There are hormones and chemicals in your body that can alleviate much of the pain you might feel during labor.

Oxytocin is known as the love hormone and will produce feelings of euphoria and pain relief

A hormone that your body already knows too well, is called oxytocin – also known as the love hormone. It creates a sense of pleasure, and you’ll be needing that throughout the various stages of labor.

Oxytocin has a big job of reducing stress, calming you down, and assisting with pain relief during labor. The love hormone is even produced by your baby right before and during labor – creating even more oxytocin within you both.

You will feel oxytocin even after you’ve given birth to your little one, your body produces it while you breastfeed too!

Beta-endorphins is your bodies natural way of creating pleasure and transcendency

Keeping thing’s as calm as possible during labor is one good way to keep a healthy balance of your beta-endorphins surging throughout your body.

Your beta-endorphins are your body’s natural form of opiates similar to heroin or morphine.

Beta-endorphins actively suppress your immune system throughout labor too, so that your body doesn’t have a fight response to your baby. Who needs an epidural when you have a natural and powerful form of pain-relief like beta-endorphins.

The hormone attributed to mothering is called prolactin and will assist in guiding you throughout your entire labor and delivery

Prolactin is an important mothering hormone that starts being increasingly produced during the peaks of labor.

Your body will continue to produce prolactin to help with breastfeeding, and your baby has already been producing it while in your womb too.

baby being breastfed

Epinephrine and norepinephrine is the hormone that causes sensations of excitement

Your fight-or-flight response occurs due to increased amounts of epinephrine and norepinephrine in stressful situations.

It’s important for the labor and delivery you’ll undergo during childbirth too, in the late stages of labor your body will produce these hormones to maintain strong and productive contractions.

It’s established that if you don’t feel safe, calm, or you feel stressed out for any reason in the last stages of labor your body might trigger more of this hormone thus producing more prostaglandin which will cause you to have your baby more quickly.

Epinephrine and norepinephrine will ultimately protect your baby from the lack of oxygen for him or her that happens while being pushed through the birthing canal into this world.

Once you calm your baby down after giving birth, the levels of epinephrine in their system will dramatically drop.

In Conclusion

Having a homebirth is simultaneously committing yourself to natural pain-relief-free labor and delivery. Throughout the many ups, downs, and waves of intense sensations having a baby induces – you have to rely on your body to do exactly what it needs to.

Reminding yourself that women all over the world birth their babies naturally is one sure way to reinforce a mindset of strength, acceptance, and encouragement toward a natural birth for your baby.

Speaking your concerns and fears with your midwives and birthing team will help you work through any feelings or thoughts that might come about during your labor.

Allow your support team to get to know you, so that they too can be an anchor in this surreal and incredible time in your life – known as your baby’s birth and your transition into motherhood.


Hormones in labor: oxytocin and the others – how they work

Patterned Breathing During Labor

The Truth About Hypnobirth, HypnoBirthing, and Hypnosis During Childbirth