Natural birth is being chosen by an increasing number of women giving birth today. The view and management of birth has drastically changed over time. It has only been about 100 years since birth has been primarily taking place in hospitals. Prior to this, birth took place at home. Birth in hospitals initially took on a sterile medical approach. Shaving of the mother's pubic area, enemas, sterile drapes being placed over the mom at delivery, fathers unable to attend labor or delivery, healthy babies being monitored (away from moms) in the nursery for extended periods...these were common practices. Over the years much has changed. Mothers are encouraged to reposition frequently, enemas and shaving are no longer mandatory, babies are encouraged to breastfeed early and room in with moms, fathers play an active role in supporting mothers during labor and delivery, births take place in hospitals, birth centers and homes...and much more.
Mothers now have many options, and are the primary decision makers in all aspects of their pregnancy and birth experience. With the development of the internet and television, patients in general have been able to look up information and gain some understanding of medical processes and treatments. With pregnant women this allows them to become informed decision makers. It has not always been this way. Formerly, doctors weren't questioned and their directions were followed blindly.
The first decision most pregnant women face is what type of provider she wants to see for her pregnancy; Doctor or Midwife. There are many types of doctors (Obstetricians, Family Practice Doctors, or Maternal Fetal Medicine Doctors), as well as many types of midwives (Certified Nurse Midwives, Certified Professional Midwives, Certified Midwives, and Lay Midwives). Women also have to consider whether "natural birth" or a medicated birth is best for them. I prefer the term "unmedicated birth" as opposed to "natural birth" because "natural birth" implies getting medicine to cope with pain is "unnatural or abnormal" To each their own, I am not here to judge. I consider a natural birth to be a vaginal birth, as opposed to a cesarean section, because nature intended for babies to be born vaginally.
Doctors deliver in hospitals, and can care for women with low or high risk pregnancies. Depending on what type of doctor they are, certain high risk conditions will need to be deferred to the MFM doctor. Midwives can only take care of mothers with low risk pregnancies and can deliver in hospitals, birth centers and at home depending on the type of midwife they are and the laws of the state.
Birth: The Natural Approach
The philosophy behind natural childbirth is that women are made to birth babies, and obtain the instincts and ability to get through it without intervention. Of course this is not possible for everyone. Some moms or babies have medical conditions requiring monitoring or assistance for their wellbeing. There is much information out there saying that doctors and the hospital setting "push" interventions which in turn result in worse outcomes for moms and babies. But, there are always two sides to each story. The advancement of doctors and hospitals have enabled many moms to have babies who may not have been able to without medical assistance, and has made it possible for some moms and babies to survive birth and prematurity which had formerly been fatal. The growth in the practice of midwifery, and viewing childbirth as a natural process is equally important because not all women are high risk or have such complications. Women were made to have babies and should be given a chance to do so before intervention takes place.
Assuming that you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and have made it to full term... labor is the next big step. If labor just does not seem to be happening on its own, there are some remedies and approaches accepted by midwives and women aiming for an unmedicated, vaginal delivery. Some natural induction methods include:
- Professionally performed Acupuncture, Acupressure, or Massage
- Homeopathic oils, medications, or teas
- Stripping of the membranes
- Castor oil
- Nipple stimulation
Always check with your doctor or midwife before trying any of these methods
Labor is not comfortable. All women experience some level of discomfort during labor and delivery. One of the best things a pregnant women and her support people can do is prepare for labor. Preparation can include reading, attending childbirth education classes, taking a tour and knowing what is to be expected at the delivery facility, hiring a doula, eating healthy, meditating, exercising regularly etc...
Discuss your plans and preferences with your provider and find out what interventions are required to take place at the delivery facility. Some things can be modified or avoided, others can not. Know what to expect.
- Inducing Labor - 40 Natural Ways To Induce Labor On Your Own
A comprehensive list of ways to induce labor naturally, as well as a guide to when and how you should use the methods listed.
- Naturally Inducing Labour - Natural Induction Methods
Once in labor, coping mechanisms are mandatory to have a successful unmedicated vaginal delivery. Labor, especially with first babies, can be a long, painful, and tiresome process. Just take things one step at a time, and remember you can do it! Coping mechanisms help with discomfort and continued progress to delivery. Frequent position changes, hydrotherapy, massage, breathing exercises, and vocalization are just a few suggestions.
When laboring without an epidural, your body takes over and an intense urge to push comes over you when it is close to delivery. Some women get this urge prematurely, meaning before the cervix is completely dilated. Some women's cervix will go away with a couple of pushes, while others can swell if pushing is started early. A swollen cervix presents a problem because it slows progress to delivery and can occasionally prevent vaginally delivery all together. Also, pushing before being completely dilated can sometimes result in tearing of the cervix, which usually needs to be repaired in the operating room. For these reasons it is important not to push without the "go ahead" from your nurse, midwife, or doctor. Use the previously mentioned coping mechanisms to hang on for just a little longer.
When it is time to push it can be helpful to push in a variety of positions. It can sometimes be difficult changing and adapting to new positions during this phase of labor. Try to keep the big picture in mind, and follow the suggestions of your caregivers. Stick with a new position at least for 5 contractions. Also, remember lying on your back to push is not always a bad thing. There are some instances where lying flat and pulling your knees back is actually best for babies in certain presentation, or for women with certain pelvic shapes. Just keep this position on your list of positions to try pushing in, the key is a variety. Perineal massage is also implemented to help decrease the amount of tearing that takes place with delivery. Mineral oil can be applied to your perineum and vagina to keep things lubricated, easing delivery and the stretching of the tissue. The use of a tub or shower is often available during labor to help with pain management. Not all hospitals or birth centers allow water births, actually delivering the baby while in a tub.
- Giving Birth Naturally | Empowering Each Woman Giving Birth
Giving Birth Naturally publishes evidence-based childbirth education articles, online childbirth classes, natural childbirth videos and resources for each woman giving birth.
Words of Advice
Early on, think long and hard about your hopes and desires related to your pregnancy, labor and birth. Discuss these things with your provider and your partner. Be sure that everyone is on the same page. It is ok to interview a couple of practices before choosing, but once you get past a certain point in your pregnancy is may not be as easy, or wise, to change. Therefore, address this issue early on.
Prepare yourself as best as you can, but do not believe everything that you read or everything that people tell you.
Remember that pregnancy and birth are natural processes. Give in to it and follow your instincts and to the suggestions of the healthcare provider that you have entrusted and with your pregnancy and birth.
You can not control everything when it comes to pregnancy and birth. It is a good idea to have a birth preference, as opposed to a rigid birth plan because how can you plan what you have no control over. Stick with your initial plan of approach, but if it does not seem to be working, or if things change, be open to suggestions. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is a vaginal delivery and not a cesarean section, and that you ultimately want to come out of this as a healthy mom with a healthy baby. Your nurse is your advocate and sometimes medical interventions, outside of what you have planned for, are necessary to help you have a vaginal delivery. Yes it is reasonable to try the non-invasive methods first, but in some instances they just aren't enough. Just try and remain open and flexible.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2011 Amanda S
Amanda S (author) from CA on March 19, 2012:
@John Sarkis thanks for the comment. In New England midwifery is quite popular. I had my children with midwives and just believe that women should have options. Midwifery is a safe and regulated practice and should be covered and made available to women everywhere. Yes there are various types of midwives, and I don't believe they should all be viewed equally. But the system we have today is far from perfect.
John Sarkis from Winter Haven, FL on March 19, 2012:
Great hub! Furthermore, midwives are big nowadays. I live in West Los Angeles, which is a trendy city and know of main hospitals that offer midwives and other more holeistic style childbearing services.
Amanda S (author) from CA on December 30, 2011:
Very true kaurina. In my opinion pregnancy should not be viewed as a medical condition, but instead as a natural state of being. Indeed there are cases where pregnancy greatly impacts a womens medical condition, and with the evolution of science and medicine, women who may not have been able to get pregnant are now able to, which sometimes creates problems. But for the most part healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies should have the option to follow their instinct and labor and deliver on their own timeline, not that of a textbook. Advancements are being made towards bringing delivery back home, or at least to a non-restrictive or interventional manner. A positive change that I am in support of and look forward to.
kaurina from Surrey, BC, Canada on December 29, 2011:
Very informative article. I would like to add to the discussion about defining "natural birth". On the surface, it would seem like not a complicated concept, but when you get down to talking to different people, you find everyone actually has a completely different idea and definition of natural birth.
Some people define it as not having pain meds, some people define it as not having any major interventions eg. induction, forceps, meds. Some people define it as any non-cesarean birth. And some feel it is when women birth in a way that is listens to their own natural instincts ie. laboring and birthing in whatever position they feel like, having no interventions, staying home if that makes them feel safe etc.
There are different kinds of people, so there are different kinds of ideas of "natural". It all depends on the mom's lifestyle in general, how natural she wants to be. I don't think there can be one definition.
The problem I see is that in situations where women are restricted to semi-reclining in bed, with a fetal monitor on, maybe induced, having their 'progress' continually monitored, being told about all the things that could possibly go wrong etc, that creates extremely uncomfortable and PAINFUL laboring conditions. If those women define that as "natural" and then go on to say, "It was hell! Just get the epidural!" it portrays a pretty inaccurate picture of natural birth.
If we truly take a look at birth in nature, like in other mammals, tribal societies or any one who gives birth listening to their instincts, we find that not a single mother labors or births lying back. It is simply the most painful position to be in, as well as the most likely position for baby to get stuck. Not a single mother goes to a place to give birth that makes her fearful or anxious, or is full of strangers.
So the thing is, because medical practices in birth in the last 100 years have shaped our cultural perception of birth, we now have a very skewed idea of what natural means.