What You Need to Know about Natural Childbirth

Hey mommy-to-be! Is your delivery date on its way? Well, you’ve got some choices to make. It’s about whether you want to avoid medical interventions during delivery and opt for natural childbirth. If you are considering a natural delivery then there are certain things you might want to know beforehand. First and foremost, you need to keep in mind that labour and delivery cannot be predicted. Thus, natural childbirth won’t be an option for every women. But it's viable to keep your options open and understand what natural birth is, how to prepare yourself for it and its benefits.

What Is Natural Childbirth?

Natural childbirth is, at its essence, letting nature take its course with a vaginal delivery. Of course, giving birth is a deeply personal experience, and it’s really up to you to decide exactly what natural childbirth means in your situation.

Natural childbirth may include any or all of the following:

  • Going through labour and delivery without any pain medication, such as an epidural, or with only limited medications

  • Allowing yourself to lead the process of childbirth in any way you’re comfortable with, and taking all the time your body needs to give birth

  • Avoiding medical interventions like continuous heart monitoring of your baby or an episiotomy (when the skin between the vagina and anus is cut to quickly widen the opening of the vagina with the aim of preventing the skin from tearing), unless there is a medical emergency.

You might choose natural birth because you want to feel more deeply connected to the physical experience or because it might help you feel more in control.

Keep in mind that you might prefer getting the “best of both worlds” and choose to have some medical intervention only, for example, by allowing the monitoring of your baby while experiencing childbirth in its natural form by foregoing pain relief.

Generally speaking, natural childbirth may be an option for you if yours is a low-risk pregnancy. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if it is a safe option for you and your baby.

Benefits of Natural Childbirth

While you may be contemplating whether or not to go with natural childbirth, these benefits might give you a clearer view.

One of the major facets of natural childbirth is to reduce or avoid the use of pain medications during labour. Here are some potential benefits of giving birth without pain medications:

  • You are able to move: As there is no loss of sensation, you are able to move and find a comfortable birthing position while delivering your baby.

  • Restricts drop in blood pressure: Pain medicine has a tendency to fluctuate your blood pressure whereas natural childbirth helps in preventing it.

  • Less vaginal tearing: In natural childbirth, you tend to push instinctively. This leads to less pressure and reduced vaginal tearing.

  • Faster recovery after birth: Since you won’t be groggy due to the medication, you’ll be able to recover soon. You will be able to walk which can help speed your recovery and avoid constipation at large.

  • A sense of empowerment: You get to experience the feeling of empowerment during labour which is accompanied by a sense of accomplishment after your childbirth.

Alternative Pain Relief Methods

There are many alternatives to medication when it comes to pain relief and comfort measures during labour. These are some popular pain-management methods for natural childbirth:

  • Breathing techniques such as those you might learn in Lamaze or other prenatal classes

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Hypnosis

  • Music therapy

  • Massage

  • Taking a bath or shower, or even labouring in a warm bath

  • Walking during labour

  • Various birthing positions such as squatting, or the use of equipment to support various positions such as a birthing stool or a birthing ball.

Ask your healthcare provider about any options you might have to ease the natural pain of childbirth, and think about which you might prefer. Just keep in mind that the options available at each hospital or birthing centre might vary, so it’s a good idea to discuss your options in advance.

Learning about and practising the methods ahead of time will help you feel more prepared for natural childbirth. You'll probably cover some of these methods in your childbirth classes.

Preparing for Natural Childbirth

Preparing for natural childbirth can increase the chance of everything going well, and it can reduce some of the worries you may otherwise feel.

Consider the following ideas to help you prepare for giving birth naturally:

  • Exercise: If you aren’t already, one of the first things you can do to prepare for natural childbirth is getting regular exercise. Be sure to obtain your healthcare provider’s approval and guidance first, especially if you haven’t been exercising much before pregnancy.

  • Create a natural birth plan: Creating a birth plan can help you learn about your options and help you clarify your preferences. It’s also a great way to share your preferences with all those involved in the birth of your baby, such as your birth partner, doula, and healthcare provider. Check out our downloadable birth plan guide as it can help you create yours.

  • Choose a healthcare provider you’re comfortable with: If you can, choose a healthcare provider who is supportive and understanding of your wishes for natural childbirth.

  • Find support: If you’d like, find someone who will be your support during labour and delivery. This could be your partner, a midwife, or perhaps a doula. (Doulas are trained professionals who provide labour support and/or postpartum care.) The person you choose should be there to encourage and help you through the entire labour process. Keep in mind that studies show that having continuous support from an experienced, trained companion may lead to shorter labour times, needing little (or no) medication, a reduced chance of needing a cesarean section, and feeling more positive about the experience when it’s finished.

  • Choose a location for giving birth - Think about where you might like to give birth, and ask your healthcare provider what options you have. Your choices may include:

    • Home birth: You may prefer the comforting familiarity of your own home for the natural birth of your baby. Talk to your healthcare provider to make sure this is a safe option for you. If you opt for a home birth, it’s still important to have an emergency plan that includes quick access to your healthcare provider and/or the hospital should any complications occur.

    • Birthing centre: This type of facility is home-like and often has amenities like whirlpool tubs, soft lighting, and comfortable areas for your family. Birthing centres might be best if you’ve already given birth or if yours is a low-risk pregnancy. Doctors usually aren’t on-site in birthing centres, but doulas and registered nurses are. Plus, in case of unforeseen emergencies, accredited birthing centres have basic medical equipment such as IV lines or oxygen if needed.

    • Hospital: Giving birth in a hospital might be best for you if there’s a high chance, per your healthcare provider’s assessment, that you’ll need induced labour, a cesarean section, forceps or vacuum extraction, a blood transfusion, treatment for vaginal tears, or access to pain medications. If you don’t have a low-risk pregnancy, you may still aim for natural childbirth, but doing so in a hospital will ensure you have immediate access to doctors and emergency medical care should it be needed.

  • Childbirth classes - Childbirth education or prenatal classes can be invaluable in preparing you for natural labour and delivery. Consider signing up for a class that begins in the third trimester, or even a little earlier. In natural childbirth classes, for instance, you’ll typically learn about pain relief options and comfort measures that might work for you. There are several different childbirth philosophies in the US, but the two most common are:

    • Lamaze: This philosophy revolves around the concept that you should feel empowered and approach giving birth with confidence. Lamaze teaches you how to manage pain through relaxation techniques, breathing methods, distraction, and a supportive coach partner. Lamaze maintains a neutral stance toward the usage of pain medicine and encourages you to make this decision based on what seems right for you.

    • Bradley: This method is also called Husband-Coached Birth, and it stresses the active participation of your baby’s father as the birth coach. The Bradley method advocates for avoiding medications unless it’s necessary. This method focuses on a healthy lifestyle with exercise, good nutrition, relaxation, and deep-breathing techniques to help manage labour pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the potential benefits of natural birth may include:

  • Preventing side effects associated with some pain medications
  • You feeling more in control of your labour and childbirth experience
  • Less pain after childbirth
  • Faster recovery times.

When Natural Childbirth Might Not Be Best for You

There are circumstances in which natural childbirth might not be the safest choice for you or your baby. Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on this.

It’s also important to remember that labour and childbirth are unpredictable. Things might change on the day you go into labour, which can mean that natural childbirth may no longer be the best or safest course of action.

For example, if there’s a medical emergency, a cesarean section might become necessary. Or, you may find that, when the time comes, you’d like some form of medicated pain relief. The key is to be informed about your options and keep an open mind. Know that your healthcare provider is doing her best to keep you and your baby safe and as comfortable as can be. Giving birth is a spectacular event no matter how you choose to do it.

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