With epidurals and other forms of medicine readily available on labor and delivery floors around the country, it’s become the norm for birthing people in the United States to choose medicalized pain management once they’re in labor. With 71% of all birthing people opting for epidurals according to a Stanford study published in 2018, these days it’s a common practice to receive a numbing medication that anesthetizes one from the sensations of labor and birth. But just because this has become the norm in our country doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go. If you’re pregnant you can decide to labor and birth the way it’s been done around the world for millennia, which means trusting your body on a fundamental level, releasing fear and letting nature take its course.
In our modern culture we have become addicted to comfort. We’ve decided that anything that is uncomfortable, sad, scary or painful should be avoided at all costs, no matter the context. We try to hide from death and turn our backs on sadness and anger instead of accepting them as normal states of being. So it’s a natural extension of our cultural evolution that we have adopted a medicalized birth paradigm that numbs us from the sensations of birth. Giving birth to a child can be an intense experience, there’s no question about it, but by anesthetizing ourselves from the raw, beautiful, magnificent power of our bodies as it works to bring new life into the world, we also rob ourselves of one of the most human and life-affirming experiences one can ever have.
Opening yourself up to the possibility of unmedicated birth starts with addressing two things: trust and fear. Trusting that your body is designed for birth and possesses all the intelligence it needs to perform this task is a fundamental component of a successful unmedicated birth. You can arrive upon this trust most easily by way of education. The more you learn about the miraculous and amazing things your body is doing each day to grow your perfect baby, and all the things it naturally knows how to do to give birth to it, the more you will trust the fact that medical intervention is not only unnecessary, but oftentimes detrimental to the process. Trusting the fact that your body is designed to give birth can be a profound epiphany. Not only does it unleash the power, grace and beauty to bring a baby into the world without any medicinal barrier between you and the sensation of birth, it has the longer lasting effect of putting you in touch with your true power and ability to achieve something that required strength, courage, stamina and determination. This experience can positively influence your subsequent parenting of that baby as well as other future endeavors in life.
If a birthing person is willing to reckon with their fears surrounding childbirth, it will unlock them from fear’s limitations. When we operate from a place of fear we are in a reactive mode where we aren’t looking at facts rationally. When we’re afraid we hand over our sovereignty and tune out our intuition. It’s OK to have fears, we all have them. But you need to bring them out into the light and examine what they are, where they’ve come from, and allow yourself to get past them so they don’t impede you on your path. You’re more than your fears. If for example you’re afraid of the pain of childbirth, make it your mission to research all of the non-medical comfort measures available. And hire a doula! A good doula will provide the support you need for an unmedicated birth.
I would like to stress that I have nothing against anyone who decides they’d rather have an epidural, as long as they’ve weighed the pros and cons of each path and at least entertained the idea of unmedicated birth before dismissing it out of hand. And anyone considering an epidural should have an understanding of their benefits and risks beforehand. For more about this, please read, What Are the Pros and Cons of Getting an Epidural?
Experiencing the wonders of the birthing body and tapping into its ancient wisdom can be such a sacred and wondrous thing, it shouldn’t be blindly forfeited for the tempting promise of a pain-free birth. Just because everyone’s getting an epidural doesn’t mean it’s the best idea; thought should be given to what else that medicine will be numbing you to and whether it’s worth missing out on the peaks in order to avoid the valleys.