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Natural Vaginal Birth: Controlling Pain and Promoting Labor

Written by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Updated Feb 11, 2022

    Natural Vaginal Birth: Controlling Pain and Promoting Labor

    Reproduction is mother nature’s way of ensuring generations of humans will populate this earth. Giving birth is just as crucial. It is the culmination in the woman’s and beginning of the baby’s life cycle. Giving birth is seen as risky and dangerous even in olden times. At present, the maternal-neonatal morbidity and mortality are lessened with the help of science.

    Abdominal delivery for difficult or obstructed labor thwarts the risk of death for both mother and the baby. Nonetheless, for the majority of women who are fortunate to undergo natural vaginal birth, doing it the natural way makes it even more memorable.

    What does Natural Vaginal Birth mean?

    With the word ‘natural’, it means giving birth without the use of any medication, be it for pain control nor for simulating contractions. The normal course of labor is followed with minimal intervention or none at all.

    This does not necessarily equate to home delivery, as natural vaginal birth can be done in birthing facilities or hospitals. Before attempting natural vaginal birth, certain prerequisites should be checked such as: 

  • the placenta should not be near or covering the cervical opening
  • the baby’s position is not transverse
  • the mother’s pelvis is adequate
  • Natural Pain Control During Labor

    There is no regional anesthesia or epidural for the pain control. The mother is instead coached to use complementary and alternative approaches to pain control. Here are some examples of mind-body intervention used during labor. 

    • Lamaze technique is based on the Pavlovian concept of conditioned reflex training. By focusing on certain breathing patterns or concentration points, it should be possible to block pain messages to the brain. 
    • Bradley method teaches the couple to understand the natural process of childbirth. It is a method of increasing the woman’s self-awareness, teaching her how to deal with the stress of labor by tuning in to her own body
    • Hypnosis induces the woman to be in a state of focused concentration in which she can be relatively unaware, but not completely blind to her surroundings. Hypnosis seems to reduce fear, apprehension, and pain during labor.
    • Music therapy is used to promote relaxation and calmness. In obstetrics, a slow and restful type of music may be used as a sedative during the early stage of labor. Music with a steady rhythm may be used as a stimulant to promote movement during the latter stages. 
    • Sayuntis, a term coined and pioneered by Dr. Fay Cagayan, is a combination of belly dancing, yoga, and other fun movements for pregnant women involving deep concentration, abdominal movement, and isolation of muscles like those usually taught in childbirth preparation classes. 
    • Touch therapy using massage or caring touch coupled with positive reassurance are found to be effective. Women reported decreased depression, anxiety and leg and back pain during labor. 
    • Aromatherapy is helpful in reducing pain in latent and early active phase, and can probably be used as an adjunctive method for labor pain control without serious side effects. The essential oils may activate certain areas of your brain which plays a role in managing emotions. Feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin are also released which calms the individual. 

    Natural Vaginal Birth: Ways to Promote Uterine Contractions

    To stimulate contractions of the uterus without the use of oxytocin drip, the woman is encouraged to walk and move about.

    Intermittent nipple stimulation may also be suggested. The woman may be instructed to stimulate one breast, through her clothes, for a couple of minutes. 

    To jumpstart labor and natural vaginal birth, membrane stripping may also be done. During internal examination, the health care provider inserts a finger into the open cervix and gently uses the finger to gently separate the bag of water from the side of the uterus near the cervix.

    It is easily done in the office or in the labor room during a regular pelvic exam.  

    natural vaginal birth

    When the woman is in the active phase of labor—that is when the cervix is dilated to 6 cm or more—the bag of waters or amniotic membrane may be ruptured. Amniotomy, or artificial rupture of membrane, is known as “breaking the water”.

    It induces or augments the labor process. This is done by a skilled healthcare provider who already weighed the pros and cons doing the amniotomy. 

    Natural vaginal birth or childbirth, in general, however fulfilling, is a painful experience for women. When the cervix is fully dilated and the mother is bearing down, positive reassurance and coaching helps in this vital stage.

    Pain threshold is different from one woman to another. But for the majority, pain associated with labor and delivery scores high in the scale. After the baby is delivered, there may be lacerations around the vagina and vulvar area (external part of the female genitalia).

    If there is not much bleeding, pressure may be applied on the area temporarily. If there is considerable bleeding from the site, repair will be done. At this point, the woman will be offered local anesthesia to numb the area for repair.

    Otherwise, it will be excruciatingly painful to suture without any pain medication as every passage of the needle may feel like a lancet piercing through the tissue. 

    Immediately after delivery, skin to skin contact of the baby and the mother is highly recommended. This fosters early bonding and provides warmth for the baby. 

    The healthcare provider will feel the uterus from the abdomen to check if it is contracted. This will feel firm like a basketball. After ensuring the placenta is complete and there is no profuse bleeding, the mother and baby are monitored closely. 

    What makes natural vaginal birth rewarding? Aside from a faster recovery, the experience is said to be empowering to women. This gives a whole new meaning to “labor of love”.

    Learn more about giving birth, here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

    Obstetrics and Gynecology

    Updated Feb 11, 2022

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