Giving birth naturally… Sounds nice, doesn’t it, especially compared to the opposite; unnatural childbirth..?!
But what does it really mean to give birth naturally? Are no pain relief methods allowed at all? No help? How about giving birth in hospital?
I don’t know of any official definition of natural childbirth, but most people would probably agree that it includes vaginal birth (not a C-section), some more or less strict limits on medical interventions and the use of medical pain relief and also to let the process take its time as long as it is safe for the child and mother.
This article will tell you about the risks and benefits of giving birth naturally, as well as how to plan for a natural childbirth.
Note:If you are 7 weeks or more from your due date, consider enrolling in the wonderful online natural childbirth classes by author and childbirth educator Catherine Beier. I love her class and her focus on enpowering women to have their best possible birthing experince.
How To Give Birth Naturally
Benefits of giving birth naturally
There are several benefits with giving birth naturally:
- You can move around freely, which may both reduce pain and accelerate the birthing. Some types of medical pain relief may restrict your mobility.
- Compared to epidural supported birth, the second stage of labor; the pushing stage is usually shorter, which is safer for the child. Studies have also shown that women who used epidurals to need their labor contractions stimulated, experience very low blood pressure, be unable to move for a period of time after the birth, have problems passing urine, and suffer fever to a larger extent than those who don’t use this type of pain relief. (To learn more about what it is like to push, click here.)
- The labor pain actually guides the woman subconsciously to move in ways that facilitate the birthing process. For example, back pain may be an indication that the child is in a posterior position. By moving, the woman may facilitate the baby’s rotating in the birth channel.
- The woman can continue to eat and drink during natural childbirth, which helps her energy levels and hence facilitate the birthing.
- According to research, newborn babies are more alert and involved in pre-breastfeeding behavior, such as suckling after a natural childbirth. Many pain-relief drugs do affect the child too.
Risks of natural childbirth
The benefits of natural childbirth sound great, don’t you think? Well, there are also some risks and downsides of giving birth naturally. To be able to make an informed choice, you need to consider these too:
- During a very long labor, not getting any pain relief at all may be very exhausting and demotivating for a woman.
- For someone who is very scared, the labor pain may be unbearable, making the person more tense and therefore the pain can affect the birthing process negatively. In such case, pain-relief may very well be the best way to help the mother relax and focus on the positive aspects of actually giving birth to her child.
- For those who do not want any medical intervention at all, including heart-rate monitoring of the child, there is a risk that negative changes in the baby’s well-being will be missed. In my opinion, giving birth naturally should still be accompanied by fetal heart rate monitoring in some way.
- In general, for a healthy woman and child in a low-risk pregnancy, giving birth naturally is safe. However, it can turn into a risky event if the mom ignores her doctor’s recommendations or refuses medical intervention in case something unexpected happens. A home birth without proper support, too far away from medical assistance can of course also turn into a dangerous situation.
How to have a natural childbirth
Depending on where you live, it may be easier or harder to be supported in your choice to give birth naturally. These days, some version of natural childbirth is, however, getting more common in many places.
Here are some things to consider when planning for a natural childbirth:
- If you can, you can choose a birth center, doctor or midwife who supports and assists you planning and going through a natural childbirth. If you want to give birth at a hospital, a natural childbirth is still entirely possible, but it may help if you get a chance to talk to someone at the hospital about it.
- Write a birth plan, explaining your thoughts and wishes. In most places, the woman’s birth plan will be respected if possible.
- You may want to consider hiring a doula, since they are usually very supportive when it comes to giving birth naturally and will also help you through the birthing, with breathing, relaxation, labor positions et cetera.
- Get educated! Make sure you know as much as possible about labor positions, relaxation techniques, the stages of labor, and effects of different kinds of pain relief and so on. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to stay in charge of your own process.
- Educate your spouse too or birth partner. Bring your spouse along to a breathing course! Or as a minimum, ask him or her to study books about giving birth and about giving birth naturally. (You’ll find several book and course tips at the bottom of this page) As your partner while giving birth, if he or she can learn breathing techniques too as well as back massage to relieve your pain, the two of you can make a great team during childbirth.
- Stay humble. It is a great to have a plan for how you want your birth to proceed. But childbirth can’t be planned. Unexpected things may happen. Your own personal experiences might make you change your mind on how you want things when you are in the middle of the birthing process. Don’t be disappointed on anything or on your yourself, if what you planned didn’t work out as expected. Maybe you will need pain relief to endure. Maybe the baby needs help to be born. So what? When you are actually giving birth; be relaxed, stay focused and go with the flow. Do not pass any judgement what so ever on yourself!
How painful is it to give birth naturally
Before giving birth, thoughts and worries about the pain are very common. And sure, without (and even with) pain relief, giving birth is painful. However, if you understand why it is painful, and what is going on during the stages of labor, the pain doesn’t have to scary. For me personally, I was terrified of the thought of giving birth, until I realized that for the most part, the pain was simply from the uterus slowly opening up, rather than (as I thought) from the child forcing its way.
It is really only through the second stage of labor(when you push), which is the shortest one, that the pain to some extent is related to the child coming out. (Learn how to push during labor here.)
Anyway, it is painful; anyone who tells you differently basically lies. But it is not dangerous and there are efficient ways in addition to strong drugs to mitigate the pain:
- Proper breathing and relaxation is a great way to reduce the pain. Staying completely relaxed makes a huge difference to how painful it is. Focusing on the breathing both makes sure that you don’t panic, that you get the proper amount of oxygen, and that you think of something else than the pain. Very efficient!
- There are many options to mitigate pain in addition to medical pain relief. A few are counter pressure, breathing techniques, water, massage and acupuncture and hypnosis. Even listening to music has been shown to reduce pain during the labor, but only to a small extent, so I would definitely go for other, more efficient options… You can learn more about pain relief options in this article. Natural pain relief is dealt with in the latter part of the article.
Book tips for natural childbirth
There are many excellent books and courses to learn about giving birth naturally. The following books and DVDs are recommended:
- The Leading online natural childbirth classes by Catherine Beier
- Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond
- Natural Hospital Birth: The Best of Both Worlds
- Childbirth without Fear: The Principles and Practice of Natural Childbirth
- Unassisted Childbirth
- The Business of Being Born DVD
More On Natural Child Birth
What are your thoughts on giving birth naturally? Please share by leaving a comment below!