Anyone who has ever given birth the way Mother Nature intended will know it hurts. It hurts a lot. But there are things you can do to help you cope.
Obviously there are drugs. While there's nothing wrong in using them there is something very empowering about pushing out a baby on just a wing and a prayer (and possibly a bit of shouting).
I've had most things -- epidural, pethidine, gas and air, TENs machine and have tried hypnobirthing so here's my take on having a drug-free labour.
This isn't about making people feel bad about the options they've taken or want to take. One thing to bear in mind is you really have no idea how you will cope or whether the baby will be back-to-back making labour longer and more painful.
But there are alternatives to drugs. One I tried with my first birth was a TENs machine, which can now be hired online. Pads are placed on your back and are attached to a machine. On mine, the pulsing sensation could be strengthened by turning a dial.
Apparently this helps to raise your body's levels of endorphins. While fiddling with the machine was distracting, I found the whole thing annoying but some women swear by them.
When pregnant with my fifth baby, I discovered hypnotherapy CDs. I bought a four-disc programme; preparing for a hospital birth, birth preparation, relaxing birth music and post natal recovery. There are other CDs about home birth, preparing for a caesarean, birth after a caesarean and twins so you can tailor the programme to suit you.
The visualisations, the woman's voice, the music were all blissful, even if it did send me to sleep every day (which apparently is ok). Using the CDs was one of my all-time favourite pregnancy times.
But did it work? I think it did. For my final birth I didn't have pethedine and got by on gas and air. Although I didn't take the relaxing birth music with me (doh!) I did use the techniques I learned which helped during the two hour birth.
Water is also said to be wonderfully relaxing. The birth pool was unavailable when I wanted to use it but a friend who did loved it, labouring with one tiny puff of gas and air before remembering she didn't like it.
The most important tool for a drug-free labour I think is to relax, whether you achieve this by birthing at home, having a birth plan, music, massage or a water birth.
Do you have any tips for a drug free birth? What helped you?