Guest post by one of my lovely Fall 2015 apprentices Jessica Baumgardner, sharing tips from her experience with natural birth.

Let me start by saying that I am in no way telling you that you need to have a natural birth. If you need the pain meds, you go for it, girl. I am also not a doctor, so whatever you decide to do – run that by your medical professional first.

Whenever I tell people I had an unmedicated birth, they say “OMG HOW?!” or “You’re crazy.” I might be. It surely was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, both mentally and physically. I didn’t cry (I don’t think, anyway), but I whined, I asked for an epidural, I even asked for a c-section. I cursed, a lot – but not in an aggressive way. I know this because I can remember everyone laughing when I would speak.

I read hours upon hours of birth stories. I watched all of the natural birth documentaries I could find. I liked the challenge. I have a high pain tolerance. I totally had this.

For those of you who haven’t birthed before, here is my quick summary on what it felt like. Honestly, my brain has kind of blocked out the feeling. But from what I can remember – it felt like the worst period cramps ever coupled with having the worst stomach pains and having to go to the bathroom. But you can’t. I couldn’t sit or lay down comfortably the entire time. At a certain point, I had the overwhelming need to push the baby out – except that she was sunny-side-up and that meant a false transition period for me, AKA I ended up with two “transitions”. Pushing – what I was originally most afraid of – was RELIEF. All two hours of it.

It wasn’t fun. I felt like I ran a marathon. I was dying of thirst.

I would totally do it all over again.

Prior to labor – I thought that having the gender be a surprise would motivate me to keep going. Eh. I completely forgot about gender in the midst of it. After she was born, I still can’t remember wondering what we had. But it might help you.

Here are some things that did help me prepare for the moment of truth.

Take care of yourself.

Eat a healthy diet. High quality protein, fat, whatever veggies you can stomach. Drink tons and tons of water. Exercise or walk when you can and remember that it doesn’t have to be anything crazy. Live an active lifestyle while you are still comfortable enough to do so.

Imagine you are preparing for a marathon. I couldn’t imagine sitting on my ass all of the time, using pregnancy as an excuse to eat like shit – and then expecting to have a natural birth. I’m sure people have done this, but I personally could not! It is HARD WORK and I felt I had an advantage by being in good shape and essentially “training” for the marathon of birth.

Mentally prepare.

If you go in to labor saying “I’ll try it without drugs…but, we’ll see!” you will probably get the epidural as soon as they offer it to you.

I was determined to do this (of course, had there been a medically necessary reason to change this mission – I would have). I even tried to pretend that epidurals didn’t exist. BONUS, if I did this without anesthesia – that is a significant hospital savings, right?!

Had I gone in to this experience, having told my doula and my husband that I was fine to go either way – they wouldn’t have pushed me along towards my goal when I told them I “couldn’t go on.” Oh, the drama! Yes, I remember saying this every hour of labor. I mentally prepared myself for the worst pain of my life.

Get support.

I knew I had to hire a doula. I knew I needed as much support as I could get! You know when you plan a wedding and the first two things you book are the venue and photographer? Well, I had my hospital and doula. A doula is a trained labor coach. She is there to support you in whatever way you need – my doula met with us two times prior to the birth to answer any questions we had.

When I was in labor, she helped me decide when to go to the hospital. She helped me choose a birth suite at the hospital when we arrived.  She knew all of the nurses. She knew where all the dressing gowns and towels were if I wanted to change or get out of the tub. If I was hot – she put cold packs on me. If I was cold – she put warm washcloths on my forehead. She helped me get in and out of different positions so I was as comfortable as possible, although that wasn’t really possible. She helped to explain the medical-speak to me so I understood what was happening every step of the way. She stayed with us for an hour post-delivery to help with breastfeeding. She came to our house two weeks post-birth to make sure we were doing okay. She was truly awesome.

Explore birthing classes.

I enjoy learning and studying, so I found them to be helpful in preparing me for (some of) the possible scenarios during labor and delivery. My friends who did their classes at the hospital had more emphasis on pain relief options, so I found birthing classes taught by someone who understood and believed in birthing without medications. Part of the curriculum was learning different pain management techniques and positions.

In the third trimester, my midwife mentioned red raspberry leaf tea and evening primrose oil. There isn’t much research saying that these methods definitively progress a natural labor, but there also aren’t any adverse side effects, so I gave them a try. I sipped the tea every afternoon throughout the third trimester to “tone my uterus” and make the contractions more efficient in pushing out the baby. With the evening primrose oil — each day (starting at 36 weeks) I inserted a capsule and pushed it up near the cervix to help soften it. Did it help? I don’t know. I went into labor naturally at 37 weeks, 2 days. I was 100% effaced when I got to the hospital and 5cm dilated. So, maybe!

My last tip is – keep telling yourself “I won’t have to do this tomorrow.”


Jessica Baumgardner, aka Health Coach Philly, is a Certified Holistic Health Coach who hates diets. Focused on women’s health, hormones, and fertility, she brings super-practical support to help ladies feel great, take care of their bodies, and actually enjoy the process.

Follow her on Instagram @healthcoachphilly or Facebook.