12 Women Reveal What Giving Birth Without Drugs Really Feels Like

In case you have yet to experience it or did experience it but have blocked it out altogether, giving birth hurts. You know the pain of period cramps or stubbing your toe? Multiply that by five million and imagine all your lady parts are being stretched out like Silly Puddy at the same time, and then, you have like an inkling of what it feels like. I was in labor for about five minutes when my doctor walked in, realized I could not handle the pain and barely asked me before sticking me with an epidural. A long needle into my spine sounded like heaven compared to the stabbing pain shooting through my body.

Maybe I’m a wimp, weak, pathetic, but I have the utmost respect for those moms who made it through labor and delivery—usually for hours, sometimes days—and pushed out a baby with the aid of no drugs and no epidural. Some of these mamas made this their birth plan while others waited too long or were further along in the labor process and had no choice but to power through. Here, these warriors, rock stars, heroes share their stories.

1. “I screamed, ‘Fuck off!'”

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“The doctor told me to keep it down, because there were other patients. I screamed, ‘Fuck off!’ There was so much pressure. I felt like my eyes were going to pop out. The nurse told me how to focus and breathe. I only pushed twice, and the baby flew out. It was the worst thing ever.” – Shana, 38

2. “As hard as it was, it was totally worth it.”

“I took hypnobirthing to prepare, and I planned on giving birth without meds at the birth center. My water broke without having any contractions. Preparing for a long night, my husband went out to get food and coffee. While he was out, the contractions came on really hard and fast. He came back, and they were already 60-90 seconds apart. We called the midwives, and they told us to come to the birthing center. My husband pulled into the parking lot, so the midwife could check and make sure I was ready, since they won’t admit until you’re 6 cm dilated. It was that moment when I thought there’s no way I could do this any longer, and I would need an epidural. My doula pulled up and coaxed me out of the car. Thank goodness, I was already 8 cm. I figured if I got that far, I could make it through. I got in the tub, and my son was born an hour an a half  later. It definitely wasn’t easy, and to be honest, I’m not sure if my labor was longer, if I would’ve gone to the hospital for pain relief. I think every birth is different, and every woman is different. As hard as it was, I think it was totally worth it.” – Kerry, 31

3. “I thought I had pooped. But my daughter’s head was popping out!

“I was induced with my first child and had all the drugs. My second, who was born 359 days later, was drug-free. I didn’t know what a contraction felt like and was totally scared of the pain. I started to feel ‘something,’ and the ‘somethings’ got closer and closer together. My mom was over, and she convinced me that I was in labor. My husband and I both showered, charged our electronics, and by the time we left, the contractions were seven minutes apart. By the time we got to the hospital, they were five minutes apart. I checked into the hospital, and they slowly got me a room. It took two nurses to check me, and my cervix was high, meaning I was nowhere near ready to deliver—or so they thought. Twenty minutes later, I was crying in pain, and my husband asked if he should get a nurse. I said, ‘No.’ Then, it sounded like cork had popped, and my water broke. I was soaked. My husband video-taped me as I screamed, ‘Turn off the camera, and get a fucking nurse!’ So, he ran out and brought two nurses in. I thought I had pooped. But my daughter’s head was popping out. The nurse put gloves on and barely caught her sliding out. Once she was out, I said, ‘That was it? Oh my god! Oh my god!’ It was painless.” – Bethany, 37

4. “Delivering the placenta was the worst part.”

“My third child came so quickly they didn’t have enough time for the drugs to get into my system, and it hurt! It was like being on fire for what seems like forever. But I think delivering the placenta was even worse than my daughter herself. I was swearing and screaming at everyone in that room to get it out of me. It was the most painful thing ever and was not pretty and did not come as quickly as the baby. It sucked!” – Debby, 38

5. “I just kept saying, ‘Oh my God, I just delivered my own baby’ again and again…”

“They were just about to give me Pitocin when I went from 0 to 3 cm. And the pain started. At 5 to 6 cm, I jumped up, looked at my dad sitting across from me, and in the deepest, most evil voice I screamed, ‘Get out!’ The epidural had stopped working, and I was feeling all kinds of things I did not want to feel. I rang for the nurse and demanded that I get more meds, telling her, ‘This baby is coming!’ She checked me and said, ‘Relax, you’re only at 8,’ to which I replied, ‘I feel everything. Get me the meds! Call the anesthesiologist!’ She walked out and before I knew what was happening I was screaming and becoming very religious, crying to Jesus, even though I’m Jewish. I was also climbing out of the bed into a crouching position like a lunatic. My mother was hysterical laughing at me, telling me I can’t take pain. I was actually feeling my son moving down inside me which was quite incredible and a feeling I will never forget.

After only about 15 minutes, I turned to my husband and again in a voice that was not my own but like Satan said, ‘Get the fucking nurse. NOW!’ The nurse came walking into room calmly and slowly saying, ‘Nicole, you’re only at 8…holy shit!’ My son Ethan was literally half out on the bed, with my hands on him. He was out in less than 30 seconds with a bunch of nurses screaming and running around my room. I literally gave birth by myself. Thank God he was fine. Blue but fine. My doctor came running in, apologizing, and I was the calmest one in the room. I just kept saying, ‘Oh my God, I just delivered my own baby’ again and again!” – Nicole, 41

6. “I was pushing on an Ambien.”


“When I went to the hospital, I was only 2 cm. dilated. The nurse gave me an Ambien so I could rest but a few hours later, I dilated to 8 cm., and my doctor wouldn’t give me epidural. I was in a lot of pain and as the contractions got closer, the more painful it was. I felt everything! I was pushing on an Ambien, feeling absolutely exhausted and feeling everything! But it was worth it. 100%.” – Stacy, 39

7. “I was so relaxed, I almost fell asleep.”

“I did hypnobirthing, which was amazing. It not only taught me how to get through the labor but educated me on the labor process as a whole, what your body is doing and why. Rylan, my oldest, took only about five hours of actual labor. I loved sitting on a stability ball and rocking my hips during a contraction. My husband loves to tell everyone how I almost feel off the ball about 30 minutes before he was born, because I was so relaxed between the contracts I almost fell asleep! I can honestly say childbirth for me was not painful, and what pain I did feel was gone the second I held the baby. I loved feeling everything and letting my body do what God designed it to do!” – Mary, 33

8. “The only thing that made me feel better was to yell, ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck!'”

“If you know me, you know I can barely handle a paper cut. Well, I was induced with my second child. Once the contractions started, I swear I was screaming primordial screams! The problem was they couldn’t give me an epidural, because I wasn’t dilated enough, and I couldn’t have pain meds to take the edge off because the baby’s heart rate was slow. Finally, I think to shut me up, they gave me the epidural, but it did not take. It was horrible. The only thing that seemed to make me feel better was to yell, ‘FUCK, FUCK, FUCK’ over and over and over. When I was done, the nurses were cracking up, and the anesthesiologist came over three times to apologize for the epidural and told my husband that I deserved whatever I wanted for that.” – Cindi, 40

9. “I loved feeling the strength of my body.”

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“My mom delivered my sister and me naturally. She always told me my birth story as I was growing up, and I loved hearing everything. I think because the experience for her was so positive that I always just thought I would deliver without pain medicine as well. I wanted to experience every moment, and the pain didn’t scare me. I also had spent some time meditating and visualizing. It really came down to the breath and internally focusing my energy. With my daughter, I arrived to the hospital at 10 cm. I waited as long as possible, because I was scared the doctors and nurses would try to make me have an epidural. They all kind of rolled their eyes at me when I told them I wanted to deliver naturally. With my son, I was able to labor with him in a birthing tub, and the nurses and doctors were fabulous and completely supportive of my desire to deliver naturally.

I really think making the choice is up to the person. For me, I just felt like it was such a positive and beautiful experience. I loved feeling the strength of my body. The body is an amazing thing! I also hate needles and couldn’t stand the idea of not being able to walk around and use my legs.” – Liz, 42

10. “It was like when you pop that giant zit that’s been throbbing for a week.”

“I practiced hypnobirthing leading up to the birth, which I found to be totally empowering and so relaxing. It’s not as wacky as it sounds, but you have to just go with it, and it totally works. As far as labor and dealing with contractions and such, it wasn’t so much the pain, but a feeling that I was literally going to pee, poop—glamorous, I know—in the most intense way possible that sent me flying up out of the bed to try to run to the bathroom. That’s when a nurse ran over and told me it was go time. When it was time to push, I was actually quite calm, and while there was intense pressure, I just focused on breathing and pushing when my body urged me to. It’s a somewhat out-of-body feeling.

What I think was the most amazing part of it all, a part that I wish all women could experience, is the moment of pressure release when that baby pops out. It was mind-blowing and amazing. Once the placenta slips out, it’s even better. All of the weight, discomfort, and pressure you’ve been feeling for 10 months is just gone in an instant. What a total thrilling and amazing feeling. Like when you pop that giant zit that’s been throbbing for a week, but like a million times more intense.” – Kristen, 38

11. “It was all such a surprising rush.”


“For my second, we arrived at the hospital in the evening, and it was very quiet and empty. I walked up to the front desk in between contractions, which made me look somewhat relaxed and even-keeled. The nurses gave me the side-eye when I asked to be checked. Sure enough, I was dilated 6 cm. They checked me in and started getting me and the room ready. I was in the process of getting prepped for an epidural—why must it take so long?!—when suddenly they said it was time to push! I remember asking ‘What about the epidural?’ and being so confused that I was being told there was no time. I had only arrived at the hospital maybe 10 minutes before? It couldn’t be time!

I felt so much pain and pressure in my pelvis, but I had the mental clarity that if I could push through this—yep, push—the intense pain would be over, and I would soon have a baby placed on my chest. It was all such a surprising rush that it was very exhilarating once my son arrived, and he was in my arms. I kept saying, ‘That was crazy!’ My husband took a video at the end, and you can hear the agony and exhaustion in my voice and see it on my face as they ask me the baby’s name, and then, my next question to my husband is ‘Did you take pictures?'” – Sarah, 34

12. “I felt like a turkey on Thanksgiving.”

“After my first fairly traumatic delivery over a decade ago, I was determined to be in charge of the birth of my second son. After some research, I knew I wanted to give birth without the use of medication, in the tub at a birth center with the assistance of my incredible midwife. My water broke at midnight, and within minutes, my contractions began. They were fast and furious, coming just five minutes apart and lasting for a minute. I got into the shower and continued to breathe through what felt like a knife attack in my uterus. I knew that the key to getting by without medication is to stay home for as long as possible. I was able to get through two hours of contractions as they became closer together and lasted closer to one and half minutes each. I came in hoping to make my water birth a reality, but was immediately moved from the birthing center to the maternity wing of the hospital, because there was meconium in the water.
I powered through a couple of hours more of searing pain, but as the time went by, I found that truly letting my body relax meant less pain. When he was finally crowning, it was so painful, like someone had just shoved a cantaloupe into my vagina. At some point, I had to stop pushing, so my midwife could turn him in order to avoid shoulder dystocia. I felt like a turkey on Thanksgiving, more hands being shoved into me than should ever be able to fit. The pain was indescribable. My body was ready to just collapse. It seemed like 20 minutes, but in reality it was closer to 20 seconds, and just like that, with two more pushes, he was out!” – Liat, 36

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