Natural Childbirth: Pain With Great Purpose

After about ten months (or more!) of growing, planning, dreaming, and preparing for such an awesome gift, the birth of a baby will most likely be one of the most rewarding and challenging moments in a woman’s life.  No matter how or where the baby is born.

something this size is meant to come out naturally?!


With my first child, I did the expected, predictable thing. I went to a hospital and got an epidural. There’s no reason to go through the pain of childbirth if you don’t have to, right?

While we may not know for sure all the purposes of pain in labor, we would be reckless to think there are none.

With my second, I had a non-medicated, midwife assisted homebirth. I found out first hand what I had missed with my first. The pain experienced during labor does have a purpose, many in fact.

(No matter where, what, when, why or how –childbirth is a remarkable event and every woman should be supported in her decision. There are those out there wanting to belittle, condemn, scrutinize, and humiliate but these actions get us no where in the safety of mothers and babies. Instead, I ask you to read the list with an open mind and consider there is another option available to birth that doesn’t automatically necessitate drugs.)



The Pain Prepares You

When a women starts to feel contractions, the dull ache is a signal that it’s not just another day. When I felt I was in labor, it gave me time to gather up the things I needed and to make sure the support I needed was there. I also made sure to not to overexert myself that morning, to lazy around, take many showers and relax.

now that's just lazy
More importantly preparing myself mentally, physically and emotionally helped prepare me in a different way compared to my first medicated birth. There was a level of selflessness there that I didn’t have with my first daughter. I am in no means stating that all women who take medication are selfish – I am only speaking of my personal experience.

I knew no matter how painful labor was going to get, I was opting out of drugs because I wanted my baby to have the safest, most gentle birth possible. I wasn’t choosing pain because I am a masochist, I was choosing it because I wanted what I thought was best and most safe for my daughter.

For me, this altruism made room for me to grow into a better mother and wife.

This was what love meant after all: sacrifice and selflessness.
It did not mean hearts and flowers and a happy ending,
but the knowledge that another's well-being
 is more important than one's own.


The Pain Protects You

While I was in labor, the pain from contractions made me move, a lot. I was on my feet for most of the day. I walked outside, inside, upstairs, downstairs. I took a shower and then walked some more. When I did lay down to rest, my left side was more painful to lay on, so I laid on my right. All of my actions that day eased the pain a bit and helped me get from one contraction to the other.

This movement protected my body as well as my daughter’s. Since my movement was not restricted at all the entire process, I was able to help facilitate the baby’s decent. Using gravity in the process, movement also eases the pressure on the baby and on the birth canal.


It was extremely helpful to remember during my natural birth that my baby is not a passive but rather a very active participant in the process. I thought of pain as sort of a language between us.


The Pain Provides Natural Relief

Coping with pain during labor allows the body to increase oxytocin release, which in turn causes more effective, stronger contractions. This ultimately leads to the release of endorphins, a natural narcotic. Endorphins are endogenous opioid peptides that function as neurotransmitters (say that 5 times fast). They are normally released during exercise, excitement, love, orgasm and you guess it – pain.  

With my first child, the epidural wore off about half way through labor. The pain was excruciating. I was laying down, tied up to monitors, plastic IV’s, and a catheter. I had to lay there and deal with the pain until I was able to talk the nurse into calling for the anesthesiologist – for more drugs. If I combined the pain of getting the epidural, the pain of it wearing off, and the pain of a slower recovery, my first birth (that was medicated) was more painful then my second natural birth.

ok, that's just needlessly painful

I understand that it may be difficult to understand, but in my case – at home, naturally, the pain was gradual and manageable. I relaxed and breathed deeply while I swayed back and forth. Not only was this beneficial to me, but the deep breathing allows the baby to get lots of oxygen.  


The Pain Helps You Respond

When I used drugs with my first birth it disrupted what I should have been doing to have an efficient labor. I know this only because I experienced what labor was like without medication. There is no way in hell I would have laid on my back for 6 hours straight if I was having a natural birth. Laying down is not effective at getting a baby out, whether using drugs or not.

Who the hell thought this would work for getting a baby out?

 For me, when I was unable to feel contractions or feel the pressure of my baby, I was unable to respond to it. I laid there and waited for a doctor to tell me to push. My body wasn’t stimulated to produce optimal oxytocin and endorphin levels. I found that out when the epidural wore off. I went from zero to 1 million. I didn’t know how to react, how to respond – so I asked more drugs instead.

Once I removed the pain during the journey, I removed the signals my body needed to keep labor progressing and to protecting itself and my baby.

When I had a natural birth, it was like I knew exactly what to do. I distinctly remember leaning over the couch and going through a pretty intense contraction. Immediately following that, I stood up and changed positions – I knew that I had to respond in a different way.

Coping with the pain in labor helped me have an easier birth, I had an alert baby, and I felt healthier.


Pain is not just an unfortunate side effect of labor but instead it is an important piece of the normal process of labor and birth. I think it would be most valuable for women and babies if more people would talk about the benefits of pain during labor instead of attempting to escape it automatically.

Epidurals do carry medical risks as well as the interventions needed when deciding on pharmaceutical pain management. Personally, I find the bias encouragement women receive in pharmaceutical pain relief for their own good with little reference to the possible side effects for the baby very distressing. Luckily, many women when discovering that these drugs do cross the placenta are motivated to try other forms of pain relief, since harming their baby (even if it is remote) is  undesirable.

I found labor very bearable, especially when I knew it meant better health for my daughter. I have no doubt that other women would feel the same way if they knew the benefits of pain in labor, to both themselves and their babies.



Rejoice not in the fact that you are suffering,
but in the confidence that the pain can be transformed.

The value lies not in the pain itself,
but in what you can make of it.


13 comments:

  1. This post came at just the right time for me. My first birth, almost 20 years ago, was the standard epidural-pitocin-episiotomy-lay on your back and push whether you feel the urge or not-and finish with a disaster of a perineum.
    I'm now four months with my second, long-awaited baby and am refusing to be bullied into the standard birthing nightmare again. When people learn that I'm going the minimal intervention route, there are two standard responses; they either say I'm mad, or smirk knowingly and say things like, "sure, you say that *now* hahaha." I've encountered so much resistance, even from family, that I've started wondering if I'm being unreasonable in insisting on forgoing the usual interventions.
    Your post has helped reassure me that I'm making the right decision for me and I intend to share it with a number of the smirkers. Thanks so much.

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    1. Thank you for such a beautiful comment ~

      It’s unfortunate that avoiding drugs during labor is not met with encouragement (especially since it is the safest choice for mom and baby)….I feel your pain, there’s no doubt that you will have feelings of anxiety or feelings of being overwhelmed when thinking about your future natural birth. It would be nice to have friends and family in your corner to support and cheer you on, but sometimes that is lacking.

      If you are looking for encouragement – I suggest checking out Babycenter community here: http://community.babycenter.com/groups/a424255/natural_unmedicated_childbirth

      There are some wonderful ladies lending support there.

      I am so grateful that I was able to help a bit on your journey ; )

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  2. perfect article, belongs in every birthing suite for the gals who don't do home birth

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  3. How much I enjoy your blog!
    I'm 28 weeks with my first and have opted for a home/no intervention birth after reading your story and many others like it.
    I told a friend the other day that I am planning a home birth.
    She said: "Gosh! You're brave!"
    I thought to myself, hang-on, I do not consider this bravery, in fact, I would consider someone 'brave' having a hospital birth with all the modern interventions with all it's side effects.
    I consider myself taking the easy route! haha!
    Thank you for you wonderful blog

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  4. congrats on your pregnancy ; )

    I thought/think the same way!!! I would get the line "wow, you must be brave" A LOT - and I always thought I was taking the easy way out lol

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  5. once again Amanda talks about very important topics...that coincidentally have been on forefront of my soul and analytical Virgo mind.
    I feel icky...low risk birth..super healthy..exercise..noASPIRIN..NO advil in 10+ yrs....strong dislike for hospitals AND doctors too! went hospital route because I have insurance and it is all covered....
    Ughjj worst decision.....
    I hate feeling coerced and not suoported...i believe I couldve gone without pit drip/epi....they just couldn't be patient with me...end ed up they said labor stalled..which I read after the fact..fairly common...MORSO..TOTALLY IMPORTANT FOR A LABORING WOMAN!!..

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  6. maybe other mommas to be can not fall unto the trap if hospital births.....i WHOLE.HEARTEDLY BELIEVE.....the entire hospital experience was sterile....not relaxed...not progress at YOUR BODYS PACE. The outside world knows me as a well researched...highly intuitive..i believe that the body is a miracle machine that wants to function at high level. But....big but.....
    I didn't assert or LISTEN to myself....and well....i ended up with a rather dissatisfied birth..and a whole bunch of drugs and I am way wrapped up in wanting to feel this EMPOWERMENT...that soooo many women feel with natural drug free birth.....
    My reason for commenting albeit rather detailed...is ..if you read this and sound like me..PLEASE...take a few days..call in to work if you can/need to...PLEASE have a deep discussion with yourself and go for a drug free birth..Read..read..read..the side effects of high caliber drug s it is frightful..Dont allow doctors. to CONVINCE and/or COERCE..be stronger than you think could ever be...SPEAK UP...yes.and you have permission to be a bit..BiT*%....YOU ARE THE ONE..THE ONLY ONE GIVING BIRTH..TO AN INCREDIBLE HUMAN BEING!!!!

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  7. I wholeheartedly agree! With my first pregnancy I was set on a natural birth, but labor didn't progress after my water broke and since I have high-risk pregnancies, my midwife recommended an induction. I agreed, through tears - and though the recovery was awesome (no meds or anything), I *hated* induced labor.

    Second time around, I went into labor naturally two days before a scheduled induction - phew! It was SO MUCH EASIER; the nurse said she didn't think I'd have my baby because I was so calm and relaxed during the process.

    I will say that, currently pregnant with #3 and due next month, remembering the pain of pushing at the end does get me in a bit of panic. :P

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  8. I wholeheartedly agree! With my first pregnancy I was set on a natural birth, but labor didn't progress after my water broke and since I have high-risk pregnancies, my midwife recommended an induction. I agreed, through tears - and though the recovery was awesome (no meds or anything), I *hated* induced labor.

    Second time around, I went into labor naturally two days before a scheduled induction - phew! It was SO MUCH EASIER; the nurse said she didn't think I'd have my baby because I was so calm and relaxed during the process.

    I will say that, currently pregnant with #3 and due next month, remembering the pain of pushing at the end does get me in a bit of panic. :P

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    Replies
    1. Good luck with baby number 3!!!

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  9. Great post, I'm putting together a resource for women about the benefits of natural birth and I think I'll link to this post.

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