(NaturalNews) "Life is pain Highness; anyone who says differently is selling something." This line from the movie The Princess Bride is certainly applicable to childbirth. It's going to hurt. It's not meant to be easy. However, there are ways to prepare for and manage that pain, which is just one of the challenges of becoming a parent.
One of the best ways to get through childbirth without pain medication is to take steps to shorten labor.
* Diet is everything here. Eating lots of greens, drinking lots of good water, and taking/drinking pregnancy supporting herbs go a long way in preparing your body for what's to come. Equally important is avoiding sugar and other dietary toxins.
* Physical preparation should include daily exercise, stretches, and alternative treatments as needed, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage. These will help things like alignment and fetal positioning. Emotional and mental preparation is equally important. Athletes who run marathons can tell you how important mental preparation is.
* Educate yourself with The Bradley Method classes. These will give you an understanding of why it is important to try for a medication-free birth, and let you know what to expect. Even though birth is hard, it helps to know the stages you will go through, and that they are normal.
*Read books about natural birth stories, such as Ina May Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery. These will give you conviction that you too can do it. Ina May says, "God is not a faulty mechanic and your body is not a lemon." Fact: if your ancestors hadn't been able to do it, you wouldn't be here. (They also breastfed, co-slept, wore their babies, and implemented all the other 'alternative' approaches you're thinking of doing.)
* It also helps to have a birth plan, and possibly a labor support person such as a doula.
If you do end up needing medical assistance, you'll feel better if you are informed and prepared.
The main event
This is one time in your life you need to put yourself first.
1. Healthcare provider: Are you truly comfortable with them? Do you have a connection? Hospitals and most doctors are in the business of 'delivering babies' - sometimes in spite of parents wishes. Midwives assist you with your birth. Just that small shift in perception can mean a world of difference for your birth experience. Midwives also have non-medication ways of helping with pain management. They use homeopathy, herbs, massage, lots of support, and other tricks of the trade.
2. Location: Where will you be giving birth? Are you comfortable there? The classes and books will help you know what to ask. You need to know if they support natural labor, allow you to move around (without being hooked up to wires), etc.
3. Avoid intervention: Contrary to what you've been told, gestation often goes up to 42 weeks, if allowed to do so. The hormonal symphony that is birth needs to be left alone - allowed to begin and progress at its own pace. Don't focus on the clock. Intervention of any kind almost always leads to more intervention and the next thing you know you didn't have the birth you wanted. The US has a 36% cesarean rate. The World Health Organization says it should be 3%.
4. Move it: Have you ever witnessed another mammal give birth? If not, visit YouTube. They all move in response to what they are feeling. Giving birth on your back is not natural. If your baby needs to turn, get on your knees and flex your back to give him more room. Walk or sit on an exercise ball to progress labor and get baby moving down the birth canal. Rocking, swaying or dancing, leaning on a wall or exercise ball are all useful for getting through contractions. Large baby? Squatting opens your pelvis, giving junior 20% more room. Gravity is your friend during birth.
5. Trust your body, and your instincts: It knows what to do. Give your body freedom to work. You need energy for this - eat and drink when you want to. Move when you need to. Listen to yourself - don't be coerced into doing something you aren't comfortable with because someone scares you in to it. Remember - you can always change your mind later to DO something but not to UNDO it. You don't have to decide at that moment whether or not to receive medication, circumcise, vaccinate, etc. Take the time you need.
6. Keep your baby with you. That's where he is supposed to be. He doesn't need to be cleaned up right away. He doesn't have to breathe right away either - he's still attached to the placenta. What is the first thing you want him to experience? Hearing, smelling, and feeling momma or being rushed off to be scrubbed and sucked and weighed? The skin-to-skin contact helps warm him, regulate his breathing and your hormones, and stimulate breastfeeding.
Don't be afraid. Pregnancy is not a medical condition, and birth is not a 'procedure'. You were designed for this. Don't give away this power. It is an awesome, life-changing experience most of us would not trade.