Unmedicated or Medicated Childbirth: Expert Advice and Mom Experiences

Congratulations, you are pregnant! You are in the height of happiness about having an addition to your family. But the next big decision is, what is your birth plan? If you have not thought of this yet, then you came to the right page! The good news is there are plenty of options to choose from, and it is absolutely up to you! Today, we have interviewed an expert to give us more insights about medicated and unmedicated birthing options, revealing the pros and cons plus, we have real-life experience of moms who went through both birthing options. Keep scrolling as we give more details to help you choose the right birthing plan for you!

Unmedicated or Medicated Childbirth: Expert Advice and Mom Experiences

Dr. Elijinese Marie Sacdalan-Culangen Fellow, Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society Fellow, Philippine Society of Maternal and Fetal Medicine (High-Risk Pregnancy) Fellow, Phillippine Society of Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB-Gyn ultrasound)


(Layout) Choosing the right birth plan 

A number of mothers choose to deliver the baby with an epidural or anesthesia, and some opt for a “natural birth” or unmedicated childbirth as they deemed it to be an empowering motherhood journey. Childbirth is a personal, maternal decision a woman will have to make when the time comes. It is also worth to remember that every labor is different, and sometimes, on a case to case basis. Establishing a birth plan is of paramount importance to the expecting mom. It should be presented I believe as early as the first prenatal check-up (ideally during the first trimester)”, according to Dra. Sacdalan-Culangen. But when choosing the right birth plan for you, there are things that you need to take into consideration.

Dra. Sacdalan-Culangen commends these factors:

A. Are you a high risk or a low-risk classified pregnancy?

B. What is your pain threshold?

C. What is the assessment of the doctor regarding you and your baby’s condition per trimester?

D. What is your financial capacity? 


(Layout) What is Medicated Birth?

This type of childbirth is when you wish to have a medicinal dose administered to relieve the pain during labor. The mom will be presented with different types of drug interventions to decrease pain during labor. Some undergo general anesthesia through intravenous sedation, and some undergo epidural anesthesia (regional anesthesia). It depends on the arrangement among the patient, the OB-GYN, and the anesthesiologist before delivery”, Dra. Sacdalan-Culangen says. She added that this type of childbirth is recommended to be utilized by expecting moms who are classified to be in a high-risk pregnancy.

The advantage of choosing medicated birth is that the expectant mom goes into active labor without feeling too much pain. She will be able to bear down and push during the labor. The obstetrician will also be able to repair the episiotomy (incision site) properly”, according to Dra. Sacdalan-Culangen. The disadvantage would be that some patients will have more prolonged labor than those patients with unmedicated childbirth”, Dra. Sacdalan-Culangen says.  


(Layout) Real-life experiences of moms who went through medicated childbirth

I was in excruciating pain during my contractions, so having the epidural helped a lot with the pain. It numbed me from the torso downwards. When they asked me to grab my legs and push, it felt weird holding my legs. It was as if I was holding a lump of meat. Pushing was weird because I could not feel my contractions. The midwives and the doctors had to coach me when to push. The downside of an epidural was it made me dozy. During my last push, I felt like passing out, but the midwife woke me up and said – “Look! LOOK! Your baby is here! SHE’S HERE!!” – Laurice, 31


I was saving epidural as my last-minute pain relief. Most people would say to have it when you are at least 7cm, or else it will wear off quickly. So, I was induced at 8am, and by 12nn, I was 4-5cm dilated. They have increased my oxytocin IV drip to progress my contraction and interval. The pain was getting more intense, that I have to have morphine injection to help me through the pain. Then I realized it is going to be a long day of labor, and it lasted for 10 hours for me. During those hours, I was trying to focus on deep breathing exercises and counting my contractions to distract me from pain. By 8:30 pm they checked, and boom! I was already 10cm, and I forgot to ask for my epidural! Then the midwife told me that I will not be needing the epidural, as there are now some risks. The midwife told me to prepare in an hour to start pushing. I gathered all my strength, and I prayed so hard for guidance. I used all the pain that I was experiencing to push harder, and then voila! The baby was out in just 10-15mins. I was surprised at how I managed to deliver my 3.26kg baby boy safely. He was gorgeous that I forgot the long hours and painful labor I had. I guess it is worth not having the epidural and experiencing the pain because it made me stronger and braver. Also, without the epidural, I felt like I recovered quickly that in less than 2 weeks, I was already out and about.” – Bernadette, 31


(Layout) What is Unmedicated Birth?

This method, also referred to as “natural birth”, is when you go through all the stages of labor until the delivery of the baby, without any pain medications at all. It means that no algesia, tranquilizers, morphine, or sedatives to be administered. As medically advised by Dra. Sacdalan-Culangen, this is only recommended for low-risk pregnancies as assessed by an obstetrician. High-risk patients are not allowed to undergo this. If a patient is classified as a low-risk pregnancy, she may undergo unmedicated childbirth, supervised/monitored by a midwife”, highlighted by Dra. Sacdalan-Culangen.


(Layout) Real-life experiences of moms who went through unmedicated childbirth

I had an unmedicated water birth back in 2018. Since it was done in the hospital (so, whatever happens, they can give an immediate action), and my mom was there, I did not worry at all. It was smooth. I have high pain tolerance, so, I can say during the 3 hours of active labor, I will rate the pain 5 over 10. The water helps with the soothing. Yes, I was worried as it was my first time, but I was not scared because, at that time, I know that the baby will feel what the mama feels. But going through the birth, I was more excited for his arrival than scared. I got back on my feet just after the delivery, and I even cleaned my room at the hospital the day after.” – Nia, 27

Honestly, the pain was 10/10. But they say that pain is your best friend because it brings you closer to your baby. For me kasi, labor pain tells you that baby is coming out soon, and thinking the other way around, makes you more excited to meet your baby than focus on the pain itself. Sobrang laking tulong ng warm water sa pool to help me manage the pain and feel relaxed during active labor. Especially, for a first-time mom who has no idea how to give birth and what labor pain is. Even if it is unmedicated/no anesthesia, it is a very positive and empowering birth experience! I also hired a doula, childbirth companion, who assisted me from pregnancy to childbirth. A doula is a super helpful support especially during actual labor. While my husband is focused on giving me moral support and all the love and care i needed, my doula is busy massaging my back and other body parts. Proper preparation is also needed when you are going through childbirth, especially if you choose to go unmedicated. When you go for natural, gentle birth, you should prepare not only your body, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It is not an overnight decision that you will do a natural birth or water birth. Without proper knowledge on the process, you might end up scared on the first sign of contraction pa lang. For me, I will not hesitate to undergo the same pain again on my next pregnancy kasi the experience was very positive. No traumatizing moments for me, especially kay baby. And I did not regret doing it unmedicated kasi it is the gentlest way my baby can come out to her new world. No medical intervention, no forceful delivery, no delay in breastfeeding. Every moment is all worth it!” – Cherry, 33


Now that we have broken down the options for you, we suggest that you go and religiously learn more about all the birthing options with proper medical intervention, then choose what is more comfortable for you. After all, it is your body, mommy! Whatever childbirth journey you pick, may it be medicated or unmedicated, it is essential that you communicate this to your doctor for a proper assessment, and make sure that the journey will be safe for you and your baby. 

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