20 Moms Share How They Managed Labor Without an Epidural

Want to give birth naturally, without an epidural? I asked other women what they did to manage pain during labor, and here’s what they had to say.Want to give birth naturally, without an epidural? I asked other women what they did to manage pain during labor, and here's what they had to say. #NaturalBirth

I didn’t always want a natural birth, but I always assumed I’d have one. You see, when I was a little girl, I didn’t know epidurals existed. People told me that childbirth was extremely painful, and I figured there was no way around that.

Fast forward a couple decades and the situation was reversed: I knew I had options for numbing labor pains, but I wanted to feel them after all!

And feel them I did, when our little boy was born in April, 2015. (You can read Little Dude’s birth story here.) It was difficult, but I believe it was worth it.

As my doctor put it, generally the women who are happiest with their birth stories are the ones who do not feel pressured into making decisions they feel uncomfortable with. If you feel pressured into getting an epidural, either from friends or hospital staff, you’re more likely to feel dissatisfied with your labor and delivery. And if you’re pressured the other way, to give birth naturally, you might regret it!

Bottom line? Do what you truly want. (You can pretend like it’s your wedding again, and you’re the bride!)

If you do want to go the natural, sans-painkiller route, you will need to employ some DIY pain management! For this, it’s really helpful to know what other women did to manage labor pain.

Getting ready to meet my baby

There are 5 things that helped me get through labor without an epidural:

1. An excellent birth team

This was the most important thing for me. My husband and mom were with me throughout labor and delivery, and they literally helped me move and breathe! I also had two excellent nurses and a doctor I trusted and was completely comfortable with.

2. Trying different positions

At first, all I wanted to do was stay huddled on the bed. My nurses encouraged me to move around the room and try new positions, though, and I was always glad once I had. The variety was good for me, and it helped move baby downwards.

3. A good playlist

My sister put together a playlist of soothing music that we repeated several times throughout the day. I’ll always associate those Fernando Ortega and J. J. Heller songs with that day (and afterwards, as we played the CD to get Little Dude to sleep many a night)!

4. Small goals

I focused on one small thing at a time: Get to the edge of my bed and stand. Get through this one contraction. Keep baby’s heart rate steady (I had control over that through my breathing!). Minute by minute, I got through it.

5. Incentive

I gazed often at Little Dude’s ultrasound picture, which Eric had taped above the monitors. I thought about seeing him face-to-face. I thought about the delicious (if fragmented) sleep I would get that night. And yes, I thought about the sizzling, crusty pepperoni pizza I was going to wolf down like nobody’s business!

I asked other women what they did to manage pain during labor, and here’s what they had to say. (Emphases are mine.)

Note: If you want to feel more equipped for a natural birth, check out Mama Natural’s #1 bestselling online childbirth class. You can watch the lessons at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home–and it’s cheaper than most in-person birth courses! Get details here.

20+ Tips for Labor without an Epidural

“There was a vast difference in my recovery after giving birth with natural deliveries. The most important thing is a strong support system. I highly recommend hiring a doula. Hands-down it was the best decision we made. I would also suggest creating a birth plan. Having all your requests written down so you can review them with your doctor and nursing staff is extremely helpful.” -Whitney, Beauty in the Mess

“For me, it was two things. Making the choice to not fear. Not being fearful and just surrendering was key for me. Going hand in hand with that is just patiently relaxing into each contraction. Second was coaching my team before labor started to watch me for signs of fear. Transition is a time I lose focus every time and pushing. I just needed to hear I was safe and doing great. To stay calm and release fear.” -Leigh Ann, Intentional By Grace 

“I was blessed to be able to give birth to both of my children without an epidural. After the first, I told a good friend I would NEVER do it again. It was scary and extremely painful! She offered to teach me a Christian Childbirth Education Class and coach me through the second labor. Words cannot express how different the second birth was for me. The key for me was that I was no longer afraid of the process. I welcomed it, embraced it, and worked with it. Learning to trust your body and God’s design, while being in the care of well trained professionals, creates the opportunity for a beautiful birthing experience.” -Sarah, Grounded & Surrounded

“My husband’s encouragement and support was a huge help, physically and mentally, as he reassured me that I could make it through labor without any painkillers, and was there to physically support me as well. Relaxation and meditation were the other two things that helped me manage the pain; I was able to remain calm and silent for much of my labor because I relaxed as deeply as possible. Again, this was a combination of physical and mental work.” – Jaimie

“For me, I told myself I could do anything for five minutes. When those passed, I’d say it again. For many, many hours. My labor was not a natural one, though I always wanted that. Pitocin labor is no joke. I had no breaks between my contractions, but still managed the pain for more than 24 hours. In the end, I had a csection and obviously pain killers. It saved my baby’s life, and possibly mine. So my story isn’t totally pain free. But for many hours it was, and that’s what I did to get through it.” -Chantel, Beautiful Song

Relaxing in a jacuzzi tub is a great way to ease labor pains naturally!

“The two things that helped me were a) jacuzzi for labor until transition and b) breathing to relax (The Bradley method of child birth). -Jennifer, Purposeful Nutrition

“I’ve had pretty much every type of labor possible from emergency c-section to all natural birth. When I finally made the switch to natural births my ‘must haves’ were drinking red raspberry leaf tea and hypnobabies. Those both made labor easy…well as easy as labor can get, anyway.” -Brittany, The Pistachio Project

“For me it was all about attitude and breathing. I remind myself with each contraction that I’m one contraction closer to snuggling my sweet little baby. Also breathing is huge for pain management, whenever I would lose control of my breathing, the pain would seem to become out of control. Stay calm. Breath. Pray.” -Sarah

“Mine were super fast. Four hours and two hours so it was just breathing and getting through the contractions. My two-hour one I only had one uncontrollable contraction and that was because she was just coming out.” -Clarinda

“For me, much of it was research. I educated myself so that I felt confident in the process and my body’s ability to do what it needs to do to bring the baby into the world. I also surrounded myself with people who shared that informed confidence during the birth.” -Kristen, Smithspirations

“Two things: remembering that I was doing what God created me to do. And that if I could get through *just one more* contraction w/o meds like I just did, I would be ok. (Of course there was more than one more, but its a mental game!)” -Tiffany, Don’t Waste the Crumbs

“For my entire pregnancy I quoted positive scriptures and affirmations out loud, this prepared me mentally. Educating myself on different positions and pain management techniques (breathing, essential oils, etc) and having a peaceful, quiet environment helped me stick with it and have zero pain at delivery!” -Jamie, The Herbal Spoon

“A wonderful seasoned Doula and music that helped me find my ‘happy place.'” -Nicole

red raspberry leaf tea, and reading the right books, are key for preparing for a natural birth!

“This is kinda ‘before labor’ but I cannot express how different my last labor was because I drank Red Raspberry Leaf Tea for about half my pregnancy. The pain didn’t even get to me until the last hour – otherwise it was totally manageable. My first five labors were a different story! LOL I found that I wanted silence, and as each contraction came upon me I focused on a tiny spot and counted slowly until it ended. Somehow it helped as each contraction was longer, I was counting to a higher number and felt like it was helping me remember that each one was progressing and the baby would soon be here! I also used a birthing ball and walked/stood whenever I could. The hot bathtub/shower was a favorite when things got more intense.” -Paula, Whole Intentions

“Grit, a whole lot of determination, a supportive hubby and finally the pool. I had my research and was dead set against an epi and wanted a water birth. I knew going in that it would be hard, but was confident in my body’s ability to do what it was created for.” -Kendra, A Proverbs 31 Wife

“The best thing I ever did was hire a doula. She came to my house a few times before my due date to teach me how to manage my labor. She prepared me so well, I didn’t even need her on the big day! We planned to meet at the hospital, but my baby was born 12 minutes after I arrived at the hospital!” – Sherry

“I absolutely love using a birthing pool, for both labor and delivery, and lots of hospitals are starting to offer them, which is really cool! During my last homebirth, I used positive affirmations, which really helped, particularly during that last final stretch, transition, which is the toughest part of all! I said things like ‘my body is going to open up and I’m going to have this baby!’ Finally, the very most important thing is having my husband as my constant support. He holds my hands, puts pressure on my back, and says words of encouragement. He is my greatest labor support!” -Jacyln, The Family That Heals Together

“Practicing complete relaxation ahead of time, being able to purposely go completely limp instead of tensing up against the pain was key, and practicing was essential.

Reading Bradley’s Husband-Coached Childbirth helped tremendously to truly understand the process and how to work with my body instead of against it. I recommend the book to all of my pregnant friends desiring a natural birth. It is written to the husband, but I found it to be the best-written book about childbirth I’d ever read, and I’ve read a lot.

“With my smoothest natural birth, as I was transitioning, I began quietly singing a favorite worship song. I hadn’t intended to, it just happened. I was able to zone out, find that happy peaceful place, and meditate on the words, as I let my body relax through the hardest contractions. It was amazing.” -Alison

“I had an in-hospital birth with no interventions and then a homebirth (also with no interventions). The two things that helped with pain were prayer (literally calling on Jesus’ name!) and my husband’s physical support (helping me hold a position so I could relax through contractions, pressure on my back when I needed it, etc).” -Rachel

my newborn baby

Hopefully these stories from other women have given you some ideas for how you can manage labor pain without an epidural. I would also think about what comforts you and alleviates pain for you in other circumstances, as these things will likely help you in labor, too.

It’s entirely possible to give birth without painkillers. Thousands of women through thousands of years have done it, and so can you!

Helpful Resources for a Natural Birth without an Epidural

I recommend the following books if you’re preparing for a natural birth (and they’re good reading even if you have a medicated birth!)

Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

Natural Birth Stories by Shannon Brown

For an excellent birthing course, check out the Mama Natural Birth Course, which is completely online! You can also watch Mama Natural’s free webinar: 3 Secrets that Make or Break a Natural Birth.


  1. My contractions lasted 30 seconds each so I broke that down into 5 second intervals. I closed my eyes and would breathe in for 5 seconds envisioning someone walking up 5 steps and then would breathe out for 5 seconds envisioning them walking down the 5 steps. After this imaginary person did it 3 times, the contraction was over. Slowing down my breathing helped control the pain and envisioning something helped keep my mind off it as well.

  2. These are wonderful tips! I’ve had two natural births. The key moment in the first one was when I experienced for myself a fact that had kind of gone by me in Bradley class: The peak pain of a contraction lasts less than one minute. I’ve had a lot of migraines, beginning when I was 11 years old, and the peak pain of a migraine lasts several hours. When I had the first really bad contraction, but then it let up so quickly, I thought, “I have survived pain that lasted much longer than this! I know I can do this!!” and in fact I’m not sure that any point in either birth ever hurt more than my worst migraines. It also was helpful to remember that labor pains serve a purpose–they aren’t just evil pain attacking me for no reason–and when I have reached my goal, the pains will end.

    Thanks for collecting and sharing these supportive words!

  3. 3 children (1hone water birth, 1 regular hospital birth, 1 water birth at a hospital) allow me to suggest:
    -Water home births are the BEST! They are becoming a great option, no wonder why 🙂 there are tons of benefits. But if you can’t have one (like us due insurance once) try some time under a warm (not hot) shower, even better if sitting on a fitness ball, it can help you relax.
    -avoid conversations, contractions can hurt and even little chitchat can be mentally draining, Sign that you’re getting closer, better use your time to focus on your body, your breathing and the wonderful experience that might or not repeat in the future=be present.
    -try yoga and couple’s yoga before the due date to train you and who will be with you.
    -learn sign language or set some key signs for your partner to know what you need when contractions can’t let you talk or when you need to be on your “mental zone” and a no talk / low-slow bit music surrounding
    -try soundbirth or hypnosis prior birth… it does work!music in the room can relax and energized you… the baby and the team of doctors, family or midwives with you.
    -use positive images and remember: YOU CAN DO THIS AND YOU WILL DO IT! Tons of women in more precarious conditions have given birth and you won’t be an exception. Like many things in life, giving birth is just a moment, it might feel like forever but it will pass quickly and once the baby is out, almost like magic the ” pain” (if any) will be pretty much just a memory.
    -if you want a natural birth, ask right away to the caregiver or nurses to not even offer you and epidural so you’re not tempted.
    If this is your first delivery and you are afraid of the so famous “birth pain” let me tell you how it might feel: it’s like a period cramping, you know… it’s there, you have experienced it before but it doesn’t go away, it intensifies a bit but won’t kill you. Avoiding induction and epidural it’s worth it for your baby.
    -find your most comfortable position, I would say not laying over your back is better, try squad or on your needs.
    -eat light but don’t stop eating, fruit like watermelon are great to keep you hydrated and with energy to push later. Keep drinking water 🙂
    I guess I could’ve say more but if you needed just ask:) I gave enough non requested advice hehe.
    If you’re having a baby, congratulations! Empower yourself, You Can and you will deliver, it’s possible to have a natural birth, believe in yourself and trust in your body’s nature.
    God bless you and your baby or babies. If you’re not a believer then : may the force be with you ?

    1. Carolina, thank you so much for this advice! I hope everyone reads this! You’ve suggested some things I would like to try next time around: yoga before the due date, warm water, and working out some basic signs to communicate with caregivers. Great wisdom! I hope next time I won’t have to be induced or have the IV. I was really looking forward to using the tub for pain relief!

  4. To be honest with you, labor pain was so much worse than I ever could have imagined, or can even currently remember. During transition (which lasted an agonizing 4ish hours for me) I tried to prepare for the contractions before they came, but every single time I was slammed with pain beyond what I could handle. The only reason I didn’t have any medication for the pain was because I was having a home birth and couldn’t have pain meds of any kind unless I went to the hospital. The thought of going downstairs, sitting in the car for 15 minutes and checking into a hospital before being able to get any pain relief didn’t at all sound like an easy way out. I figured I’d probably deliver before then anyway (which ended up not being true, but hey, I made it!). Also, labouring in water helped me, but it wasn’t the magical, relaxing relief I expected. It mostly just helped me to relax and calm down between contractions, otherwise I would’ve been a tight ball of nerves and tense muscles!

    1. Oh wow, I wouldn’t want to go to the hospital at that point, either! People say you that as soon as you see your baby you forget all of the pain that came before…but I don’t think that’s really true!

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