How to prepare yourself for childbirth without an epidural

This is a freedom that is not available to some mothers: to choose whether or not to use an epidural during childbirth and to prepare accordingly. For those who choose to give birth “naturally” and those who cannot use anesthesia, here are the most effective methods to manage the pain and your efforts during this intense moment.


This method of Chinese medicine can be useful during pregnancy. “It is based on the balance of the energies of the body and of the mind,” explains Marie Le Bartz, an acupuncturist midwife in Paris. “A symptom shows an imbalance sometimes deeper than what one tries to restore.” From the beginning of pregnancy with one session per month, it can relieve some ailments such as nausea, insomnia or anxiety. As part of the preparation for delivery, acupuncture prepares the cervix, muscles and tendons and helps the future mother to relax. If the baby is late arriving, a session can be organized from the 37th week of pregnancy to induce labor. It can even be done during labor to relieve pain and to help the mom relax. Marie Le Bartz reveals that while acupuncture does not remove the pain on delivery day, it “prepares the body and puts it in favorable conditions so that the delivery takes place as smoothly as possible.”


This psycho-corporal method incorporates the principles of hypnosis and yoga. Barbara Bouhanna, a sophrologist midwife in Paris, said, “We work on the body and the mind. We try to find the calming ventral breathing that we often lose under stress.” The course unfolds in three phases: relaxation, positive visualization and the collection of sensations. “For pregnant women,” says Barbara Bouhanna, “we are working on the positive dimension of the work that opens the cervix and lowers the baby. We must understand the action of pain. The more you relax, the more you expand.” On the day of delivery, the subconscious has been trained to take refuge in its positive visualization, its “anchoring object,” and the mother will focus on her breathing. They recommend seven sessions, which are often covered by medical insurance, and one can then practice the exercises at home.


Prenatal singing
Even when in your belly, the baby is very sensitive to sounds, especially your voice and his dad’s. Prenatal singing, through its work on breathing and sounds, is relaxing while forming a bond with the child during pregnancy. Marcelline Carpene-Retailleau, a midwife specializing in prenatal singing, explains, “In the first class, we work on breathing through exercises adapted for singing. Then we work on the vowels, that is to say, the vocalic sequences, which harmonize the breathing and bring relaxation. You can start classes as early as the second trimester of pregnancy. Beyond the vocalizations, they teach a whole repertoire of songs, in particular lullabies that the mother will be able to sing before, during and after the birth. Marcelline Carpene-Retailleau considers the method to be useful during pregnancy and at the time of labor. “During contractions, it is easier to breathe by emitting a sound, it helps to channel the pain and installs the mother in a bubble,” she said.


In the same vein as sophrology, hypnosis can manage stress, pain and fear by acting on thought. By training your mind to focus on something soothing, you will find it easier to ease the pain and stay calm on delivery day. Laurence Vinant, a midwife, explains how a session is held. “We first ask the woman about her motivations, her fears, then we use what was said in a state of hypnosis so that the conscious is in phase with the subconscious,” she said. “It can be a fear of the hospital, pain or something else. The goal is to overcome this fear so that it no longer exists on the day of delivery. To prepare, it is advisable to start the hypnosis sessions during the sixth month, then every two weeks, and whenever you feel anxiety…


The Bonapace method
This method, created in Quebec by Julie Bonapace, consists of preparing one’s body and mind to bear the pain by actively involving dad. With low back massages and pressure on acupuncture points on the hands, feet and buttocks, the dad relieves the future mother and accompanies her throughout the labor period. The Bonapace method also teaches you to better understand and feel your body by applying yoga techniques. Finally, working on breathing is also suggested as well as working on the “diversion of attention.” That means deviating your thoughts away from the pain to focus on what is happening in your body, and on the imminent birth of her baby. Some midwives are trained in this method and can accompany you as a couple during your preparation.

Tiphaine Lévy-Frébault.
Translation: Ashley Griffin
Photo credit: ©Belly Balloon Photography.

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