If you want to remain in control of your body to the greatest extent possible, be an active participant throughout labor, and have minimal routine interventions in the birth process, then a natural, unmedicated approach to controlling labor pain will suit you best. If you choose to go this route, you accept the potential for pain and discomfort as part and parcel of giving birth — an experience that includes working with complete awareness through each stage of labor. But with the right preparation and support, you'll probably feel empowered and deeply satisfied by natural childbirth.
Here are the pros:
• Most natural childbirth techniques are not invasive, so there's little potential for harm or side effects for you or your baby.
• Many women have a strong sense of empowerment during labor and accomplishment afterward. And despite having to endure pain, many report that they'd opt for an unmedicated birth again the next time. For some women, being in charge helps lessen their perception of pain.
• There's no loss of sensation or alertness. You'll be awake and active during labor and birth — so you can move around more freely and find positions that help you stay comfortable during labor and aid the delivery process when it's time to push your baby out.
• Your partner will feel involved as you work together to manage your pain.
• You don't necessarily need to be hooked up to an IV or monitoring machines, so it's easier to move about — walk if you'd like, take a shower or a bath, and use the toilet instead of a bedpan.
• You're less likely than women who get epidurals to need Pitocin, a vacuum extraction or forceps delivery, or bladder catheterization.
• Breathing exercises, visualization, and self-hypnosis can be practiced ahead of time — and used again later. Many new mothers find themselves drawing on their relaxation techniques in the early days of breastfeeding, while coping with postpartum discomfort, or when caring for a newborn feels especially stressful.
What are the disadvantages of going without drugs?
Unlike an epidural, these techniques don't eliminate pain — so if you're not willing to feel and work with the pain, you'll be happier with an epidural. Also, natural approaches may not offer adequate pain management if you end up with a complicated labor that requires a lot of interventions or if you're exhausted from a prolonged labor and really need to sleep. But you can usually change your mind and get an epidural at any time if you're not too close to delivery.