If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided you’d like to have a natural birth, you’re probably wondering how to avoid an epidural. Luckily, there are a ton of great resources and tried-and-true tips available to help you have a great labor and birth with no epidural (or even if you get one!).
Should I Get an Epidural?
The first thing you need to answer the question “Should I get an epidural?” is to educate yourself about the potential benefits and drawbacks of epidural anesthesia during birth. Start with this list of pros and cons of epidurals for labor inspired by real moms experiences and, if you really want to read a good breakdown of the scientific literature on this subject, you’re going to want to read this book, or at least the chapter on epidurals and narcotics. The book is slightly outdated, but it’s the best literature roundup I’ve seen that puts all the research together for parents.
You can definitely decide ahead of time if you’d like to put an epidural in your birth plan or not. But if all you do is decide and you don’t make any other preparations, you’ve not done yourself any favors in your efforts to avoid the epidural. If you’re asking how to avoid an epidural, there are a whole bunch of things you can do to help make that a reality.
Sidenote- *NO birth is a failure.
Please don’t go into birth determined not to have an epidural or a c-section AT ALL. That is really beyond the point.
I’d love to see you embracing birth and wanting to have the best birth possible at this place and with this baby. That may look far different than you think it will.
Definitely plan your birth. Visualize how you’d like things to happen. Prepare for your birth. And be prepared to go with the flow during your labor and make the decisions that need to be made for both you and your baby to have the safest and best birth possible for both of you, even if that means going down a path you hadn’t necessarily wanted to go down.
You can’t choose the entire path your birth will take, but you can choose to be flexible and wise and loving with each decision along the way.
How To Avoid An Epidural
With that said, let’s talk about some things you can do if you’d really like to avoid an epidural.
Make sure your body is balanced, especially in your third trimester
- Something we don’t always think a lot about in relation to birth is if our body’s muscles, ligaments, and all the little things that keep it together are balanced on both sides and working pain-free. If you have any type of pain, whether leg, back, even shoulder during pregnancy, your body is telling you that it is not in balance. This imbalance could negatively affect your birth.
- There are a lot of ways to balance your body during pregnancy. My favorite are:
- Spinning Babies Daily Essentials– This is a video that goes through some daily exercises that help to even out and balance your body throughout your pregnancy. In return, you get a more comfortable pregnancy and an easier labor as baby has the best chance to get into the perfect position for a fast exit! You can get the video as a DVD or streaming. It doesn’t cost much and has a great return on investment, I promise. You can check that out right here.
- Weekly to Monthly Visits with a Chiropractor- I highly recommend that you find a local chiropractor you trust, especially one that has special knowledge in caring for pregnant people. A chiropractor can diagnose and treat those imbalances in your body that make pregnancy and birth harder. Perhaps asking in a local moms group would be a good way to find a great chiro for you.
- Massage as often as you can afford- I love getting a good massage and the health benefits are pretty compelling. Some massage therapists also have extra training in working with pregnant bodies and can give you a personalized session that is not only relaxing but also physiologically beneficial. Massage is not just a luxury.
Consume foods and drinks that seem to support a faster, easier labor
- There is a short list of things you can consume that help with a better labor. *I do need to point out that if your body is out of whack, no amount of any of these foods will help. Do the bodywork first to get things lined up. Then you can work on eating these food and drinks that may help speed up labor.*
- Feel free to do your own research, but you can get started with the items below:
- Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Choose a provider that does not routinely induce
- Right now in the US, around 23% of women have labor induced. This number is much higher than it used to be, and some providers tend to induce without a serious medical reason.
- If you want to avoid an epidural, you should choose a provider that you trust that does not routinely induce.
- You may find that an induction is necessary in your case, and that is okay. But if you are in a practice that likes to induce at 39 weeks just because, you’ll probably end up with the epidural and then your chances for other interventions like forceps delivery go up.
Don’t get an induction unless medically necessary
- This might take some research, so either find a doula or friend who is very informed on the subject, or you’re going to have to get reading.
- When a doctor tells you that your baby is looking big or your amniotic fluid is looking low so an induction is in order, you either know your stuff and ask the right questions or you end up going along with what may be an unnecessary induction. Big baby, low fluid, and postdates are probably the most common reasons to induce.
- Please understand that I’m not telling you that your doctor is always wrong, just that you need to be as informed as possible and always ask questions about other options and possible outcomes of different scenarios.
- It is possible to have an induced labor with no epidural, but it is not easy.
Stay at home for early to mid labor for a hospital birth
- This one is both easy and hard to do. Especially with a first baby, it’s so tempting to run into the hospital the second you think you might be in labor.
- Once you arrive at the hospital, though, you’re kind of on their timetable.
- Plan to labor at home for a while. This is when a doula or someone else who is familiar with labor can be helpful to guide you in the decision of when it’s time to go.
Stay active throughout labor
- There is a time for laying down and resting in labor, but there is also a time to be active. Sometimes our response to the intensity of labor is to just curl up in a ball and lay down and feel a little sorry for ourselves. I get it! If you’re really exhausted, take a few hours, lay down, and do a lot of calming visualizations and breathing during contractions.
- But after that, it’s really best to then get up, and start hula-hooping or bouncing on a birth ball or walking.
- Being active and allowing your labor to be powerful is a great way to have a good birth.
Hire a doula or have another support person who is familiar with labor and with the rights of the birthing woman
- I know I say a lot to read up and get educated, and I know that’s really asking a lot. Hiring a doula is the easy button for this daunting task.
- Let her be the one to read and get educated about the difficult aspects of navigating your pregnancy and labor.
Birth Without An Epidural
Like I said before, going through labor and birth without an epidural really shouldn’t be your end goal.
But if it is one of your goals to avoid an epidural, then paying attention to balancing your body during pregnancy, choosing the right provider, having informed people around, and staying active throughout your labor will give you some pretty good odds.
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