Are you pregnant and would love to try to labor and delivery the all natural way, but have no idea how to go about preparing for that? Or perhaps you may find the entire idea terrifying and overwhelming. This post will help teach you the best tips and tricks for how to prepare for natural birth without an epidural. Plus you will learn how to make natural birth easier and less painful straight from a Labor and Delivery Nurse.

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The Best Tips for Natural Birth Related to the Hospital

I have been through four labor and deliveries myself, but I thought when covering the absolute best tips for learning how to prepare for a natural birth I would seek the advice of someone who has even more experience than me.

So today I brought a Hilary Erikson, a Labor and Delivery Nurse, onto Evidence-Based Mommy to really dive into the best tips and tricks that will help you learn how to make natural birth easier.

If you really want a natural birth but are afraid you’ll cave and get an epidural when the time comes, download my free Natural Birth Toolkit first!

How to Prepare for an Unmedicated Birth: From a Labor and Delivery Nurse

Tip #1: Have a Short Labor.

The best tip to have an unmedicated childbirth is unfortunately something we have little to no control over. The number one tip is to not be in labor very long… but there’s not much you can do about that.

If you need to be induced and labor for 48 hours, the chances of going natural through the entire labor and delivery process are pretty low. Also if you are simply a slow laborer, this can also decrease the chances of you having a natural childbirth.

But have no fear!

There are a lot of things that you CAN control that can help you prepare for birth without an epidural. If you are still torn, check out my post on the benefits of natural birth vs. epidural.

Tip #2: Take a prenatal class so that you know what to expect.

Hilary has a great prenatal course that she offers. It’s all online and perfect for couples to take at home on their time. But any prenatal course, whether online, through the hospital you will be going to, or anywhere else is a great idea too.

Tip #3: Wait to go to the hospital.

labor at home as long as possible to have a natural unmedicated birth

People think of the hospital as a safe space for themselves and their babies, so oftentimes they rush in as soon as labor starts. I’m actually not a hundred percent sure that that’s true, studies have shown that early labor monitoring doesn’t improve the birth outcomes.

Of course, many people come to the hospital because they want pain management. But if you’re looking to avoid an epidural, you should wait to come into the hospital. Instead, try things like meditation, a warm shower, or rolling on a yoga ball to help you through contractions.

RELATED: How to use meditation for labor and delivery

You will also want to have a conversation with your provider about when they really think that you need to come to the hospital. If you call the hospital, they will tell you to come in because it is a liability for them. But your provider will better be able to tell you when they think you should go in.

In fact, this is what Hilary told me, “If my friend were to call me and ask if she should come to the hospital my advice would be, Just stay home girl, you got this. I know you’re miserable but you don’t really sound like you’re in labor yet. Stay home for now where you have brownies, your bed, a shower, and all the things you love.

It’s so much more comfortable to labor at home than it is at the hospital. You can never get good sleep in the hospital as they come in every 20 minutes to check on you or check a monitor.

Bottom line: If you want to have a natural childbirth without an epidural, labor at home longer.

Tip #4: Don’t wait too long to go to the hospital, either

Once you hit active labor (when contractions during this phase will last about 45-60 seconds with 3-5 minutes rest in between), then you should go in to the hospital. You don’t want to deliver your baby in the car.

It’s really important to have that conversation with your provider about when you should arrive at and leave for the hospital. Based upon where you live and where the hospital is located their answers to when you should come into the hospital may vary drastically.

If you live in a rural area an hour away from the hospital or if the hospital is located in a very busy part of town, you will need to plan ahead for that. Your provider may need to speak with you about traffic times or alternative routes in addition to typical conversations like waiting until your contractions are three or five minutes apart.

Additionally, you also need to have the hospital parking conversation with your provider and/or the hospital staff. In some hospitals finding a spot is unbearable, they may have a valet, or there may be a huge parking structure.

Your provider will be able to better advise you when to come in based on your unique situation.

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Tip #5: Take the hospital tour before you’re due.

You’ll want to do the thing where like they show you the hospital beforehand and show you the layout so like you know where to go. Although since Covid, unfortunately, a lot of hospitals have stopped doing tours. Even if that’s the case, you can always ask the hospital by calling the unit and asking where to park for labor and delivery.

At some hospitals, you show up to the emergency room for birth, while at other hospitals, you show up directly to labor and delivery. You have to be aware that every unit has these differences and you should discuss it with your provider and write it down.

Discuss this with your partner too because they might just assume that you need to go to labor and delivery when the time comes.

How to prepare for birth without an epidural while at home

Tip #1 Move around while in labor to ease contractions

move around during labor to avoid getting an epidural

Move while you’re at home (and if they allow it, move while you’re in the hospital also).

Movement is so important, but when we are in pain the last thing that sounds good to do is move around. We instead do the exact opposite.

We curl into a ball and don’t want to move at all. You begin to breathe shallowly, as you don’t want your breathing to affect the pain.

It is not our natural instinct to move while we are in pain.

This is exactly why in Hilary’s online prenatal class I encourage partners to encourage their laboring person to move every 30 minutes unless they are sleeping. (Specifically sleeping, not just resting.)

You don’t need to completely change your full body position. You can simply turn onto your side or shift your position slightly. Even if it is uncomfortable, shifting your hips with help the baby find their best way out. They need to make their way down the birth canal.

Move around while you are in the hospital too!

move around while in labor to have a natural labor and delivery

Some hospitals have a high rate of epidural (which can be due to the mother’s personal choice or the medical staff’s suggestions), while others are much lower. But overall, once you are in a hospital, it can feel like you are stuck to the bed. You’re strapped into a lot of machines (which is why we suggest waiting to go to the hospital).

While wireless monitors are an option in some hospitals, they often won’t connect or have a lot of static so you cannot rely on using that in order to move around more.

Though in social media it is often expressed that people are stuck in the bed when laboring, that’s often not true! In the hospital you do have the option to get up, sit at the bedside, and sit or lean on the doctor’s stool. The monitor wires are pretty long. You can stand, squat, sit in a chair, get on your hands and knees, etc. while still connected.

The monitors may or may not work in all of those positions, but the experienced Labor and Delivery Nurses will have lots of ideas about how to get the baby on the monitor if you need to move to a new position. If they don’t know a way, you or your partner can offer to push on the monitor in order for them to be able to monitor the baby in whatever position is comfortable for you.

Tip #2 Pick the right doctor and the right hospital

If you want to have a natural labor without an epidural, it’s important that you pick the right doctor and also the right hospital. With some doctors, everybody gets an epidural and everybody delivers on their back.

Just make your first appointment with somebody who has been recommended to you, but at that appointment, you should ask what percentage of your patients get an epidural if you’re considering not getting an epidural. You can continue to have this conversation with them through your second trimester as well.

Once you start into your third trimester, you really need to lock down a doctor because it’s hard to change doctors once you are near 30 weeks. If you are in a facility that works with a handful (or two) of doctors and whoever is on call will be birthing your baby, oftentimes doctors within the group will do things in similar ways.

Do your best to pick the right doctor and hospital for you. Do some research. The closest hospital isn’t always the best for you if you hope to have a natural labor and delivery without an epidural. Typically, doctors within a hospital do things in similar ways, so you can call the hospitals you are considering delivering at and ask them their rates of epidurals as well.

If you have a friend who had a natural labor and delivery, ask them which hospital they delivered at. Communication is the best way to get what you want here. Speak to the doctors and hospitals and do it early on in your pregnancy.

Also, know that many women would like to try to avoid an epidural, but end up changing their minds.

If you are dead set on not having one, you need to communicate that to your labor and delivery team.

If you are still torn between the two read Natural Birth vs. Epidural: which should you choose?

Tip #3 Focus on your breathing to prepare for natural childbirth

Besides movement, focusing on your breathing is one of the most powerful things that you can do during labor to make natural birth less painful.

When we are in pain, you naturally begin to take shallow breaths. But when you take shallow breaths, it deprives your body of the oxygen it needs and it also causes you to clench and tighten your muscles (leading to more pain). Try clenching your lady parts while you do slow deep breathing.

It’s pretty tough isn’t it? Keep that in mind as you practice breathing slowly and deliberately.

There is no specific right or wrong way to breathe during labor, but practicing breathing slowly and deliberately can help keep you from freaking out during labor and help you stay the course of natural childbirth without an epidural.

  • Try a deep inhale, hold it for a little bit, then blow out slowly through your mouth.
  • Try counting while you breathe. Breathe in for a count of four and breathe out for a count of five.
  • Try concentrating on something else other than the contraction as you maintain slow deep breathing.
  • Also try learning meditation to help during labor as well.

Tip #4 Change Your Plan to An Assisted Labor if You Need to

how to have a natural childbirth

Even if you follow every single one of these tips to help you plan for a natural childbirth, during labor you just might change your mind. If you are losing control and screaming in pain, you’re pumping adrenaline through your system and a lot of it can to your baby. It is exhausting for both them and you. It can cause the baby to come out too exhausted to breathe properly and get all the fluid out of their lungs.

That’s not what you want.

So even with all the best preparations for how to prepare your body for a natural birth, the situation may change and you may have to change those plans. There is a point at which your partner needs to be honest with you and suggest, “You need some help, right?”

And there is no shame in that.

If you are not in control of yourself and you are in over your head, then it’s ok to ask for painkillers or an epidural. That’s the beauty of modern medicine.

No matter how dead-set you are on your birth plan and not using the assistance of an epidural or any extra medical intervention, you can always change that plan. You need to do what is best for yourself and your baby and that situation may change for each delivery you have.

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Wrapping up how to prepare for a natural birth Without an epidural

Our Labor and Delivery Nurse of over 20 years, Hillary, gave us some wonderful applicable tips today toward learning how to prepare for an unmedicated birth. If anyone knows the best tips and tricks, it’s got to be someone with decades of direct experience like her!

To review those very important tips you can use to have a natural labor and delivery:

  • Have a short labor
  • Take an awesome prenatal class like this one that you can take online in the comfort of your own home
  • Wait to go to the hospital
  • But also don’t wait TOO long to go in
  • take the hospital tour
  • Move around while you’re in labor
  • Pick the right doctor and hospital
  • Focus on your breathing
  • Change your plan if you need to
  • and download my free Natural Birth Toolkit that’s already helped over 1,000 moms

Using these tips and tricks you have the best chance of having a natural labor and delivery and avoiding having an epidural. Are there any tips that you have used during your labors in the past that were a huge help toward avoiding medical intervention during your labor and delivery? Please share what helped you in the comments below!