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If you’re pregnant, the thought of having a natural childbirth may have crossed your mind.
A natural childbirth is an unmedicated and unassisted (for the literal birth process- this doesn’t mean you don’t have support!) vaginal delivery of your baby. That means no pain medications or epidural. Instead, pain management for labor pain is 100% dependent on natural measures.
I will admit I am a bit biased on this subject since I birthed my own daughter naturally. Before I got pregnant, I had never considered birth without an epidural or induction- since it is the societal norm in Western cultures, especially the U.S. However, since I had started getting into all things natural for my diet and skincare routine- it only made sense that I’d look into what natural birthing had to offer!
I researched my butt off as a prego mom and for me the answer was clear as day. I know natural birth isn’t for everyone and I’m thankful that we have so many choices as moms and that there are medical interventions that help save lives. What I didn’t do was go through a natural birth course, which I so wish I did.
I want to share what I learned with you so you can make an informed decision for what works best for you and your baby!
(Do you know you want to a natural birth? Then I highly recommend this Mama Natural Birth Course!)
Shocking Birth Statistics in the U.S.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I’ll admit I was a bit annoyed with the reactions I got from people when I said I was going to have a natural birth- especially from other moms.
I got reponses like laughter, looks of doubt, and asking why I would want to suffer through labor when I can just get an epidural? I’ve hear of other women being told that they don’t get a medal for going through the pain of labor form their doctors or friend (insert eye roll).
For me, I was shocked at just how commonplace interventions for birth have become. In fact, when I discuss it with other mamas and friends now, the truth is that many women don’t realize that natural birth is really even an option anymore!
Here are some of the crazy statistics I found:
- 30% of deliveries in the U.S. are done by Cesearean- this is signifcantly over what the World Health Organization recommends as ideal at 10-15% for this life-saving procedure!
- While the evidence often seems skewed, there is definitely an evident trend that babies born via C-section (especially when not medically necessary) have an increased risk of health complications such as SIDs, allergies, chronic illness, breastfeeding problems, and more.
- A 2018 study showed more than 70% of women birthing vaginally had an epidural.
- Use of medical interventions like induction and an epidural significantly increase your risk (more than 20%, some studies even say the risk doubles!) of needing a C-section secondary to complications or a slow progressin of labor.
- Childbirth in most hospitals has become a medical event rather than a natural process. Being hooked up to monitors and not being allowed to move or make noise (yes, I’ve had friends told to be quiet in the hospital) and being given a time frame for birth are all quite honestly ridiculous.
- For a low risk pregnancy- a natural childbirth is hands down the best option for both you and the baby to get started on the right foot.
Related Read: 11 Methods for Natural Pain Relief During Labor
Is a Natural Birth Right for You?
Questions to ask yourself first to decide if natural birth is an option that you’d like to explore.
- How well do you tolerate pain?
- Do you have a mindfulness practice for relaxation? Or are you willing to learn one?
- Do you have a strong support team for birth that encourages a natural birth- midwive, doula, partner?
- If you’ve had a baby before, what type of birth did you have- a vaginal birth or C-section?
- Where do you plan to give birth? What tools and support do they offer?
- Are you going to take any childbirth classes or read books about natural childbirth?
- What is your OB or mid-wife’s comfort level with being overdue?
- How are you feeling about the option of natural childbirth?
If you want to recieve individual results on your readiness for natural birth, check out this cool quiz with Mama Natural.
Having the right environment, support team, and mindset are huge in deciding what’s right for you.
The Pros and Cons of Natural Birth
Like any choice you have to make, there are always positives and negatives that you need to consider. Here is a very quick overview of the good and bad sides of natural childbirth.
Pros of Natural Childbirth
- Reduce risk of interventions. Epidurals and induction can lead to unsafe changes in blood pressure, trouble progressing with labor, and inability to push effectively due to loss of sensation.
- Give breastfeeding it’s best shot. Fewer interventions and medications promote optimal bonding and milk supply for your baby.
- Connect with your child. Those first few hours of baby’s life are magical, especially when you are both unmedicated!
- Quicker recovery. Unmedicated mamas tend to recover quicker, have less risk of tearing, and a decreased chance of developing postpartum depression.
- Most moms that made the choice to birth natrally don’t regret it- in fact they feel empowered to give birth the way women have been for centuries. Of course, all moms are superwomen- natural birth just gives many women that extra boost of confidence. 🙂
Cons of Natural Childbirth
- Pain! I can’t sugar coat this one- yet pain is probably a part of the equation either way since you will have to labor at home before going to the hospital anyways. It really depends on how adverse you are to pain- relaxing into it and accepting it for what it is can help. If you tense up and fight it- it will most likely be miserable.
- If birthing at a hospital, you might be pressured into interventions to help with pain, speed things ups- even if you’re determined to birth naturally! This can make it hard for you to feel comfortable and safe while giving birth.
- Feeling guilted into nautral birth when you decide you don’t want it or change your mind. Read this woman’s story about natural birth guilt.
- Exhaustion- some women attemp to labor unmediacted to the point of exhaustion. This can lead to a traumatic birth that leaves the mother feeling anxious or depressed.
- Tough to accomplish in a traditional hospital setting- but not impossible!
- Women, especially first time moms, need to be realistic about the time they will be in labor and when they will give birth. On average, first time moms give birth around 41 weeks, labor for 12-18 hours (and that’s just the median!), and push for 2-3 hours.
The bottom line? It’s your choice and you should feel 100% comfortable with it. And even with a birth plan, also be prepared with a backup plan since birth is simply unpredictable.
Related Read: 8 Ways to Speed up Vaginal Delivery Naturally
Your Options for a Natural Birth
After a lot of research and contemplation, if you’ve decided natural birth is for you then you still have some decisions to make related to your birth. Make sure it’s all in your birth plan!
First find some good resources to feel informed, my favorites include:
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth– such a great informative book!
- Mindful Birthing– great for mindset no matter what type of birth you choose. This book was truly lifechaging for me as a mom.
- Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth– I’ve never read this myself but have heard great things.
- Mama Natural Birth Course– I did not do a birth course prior to having my daugther- after seeing this course I wish I had. I just recently extensively reviewed this course- and I can’t recommend it enough. It was informative, entertaining, and empowering. It consists of one video a week for 8 weeks with a lot of bonus resources to get you fully prepared!
Decide where you’d ideally like to give birth:
- For low risk mamas- a home birth is a great option. It might sound scary and weird at first- but there are a lot of great benefits if you’re interested. For more information, look here.
- For great natural birth support in a less sterile and medical environment, consisder a birth center with a mid-wife. They have the feeling of a home with a little more medical support outside of your home. Availability will depend on where you live. See what’s available in your area here.
- The traditional hospital. Some hospitals have done leaps and bounds for making their facilities more baby and mom friendly. Do your research, ask your OB lots of questions, and make sure you find a facility that works for you. Some women are simply more comfortable being in a medical facility in case there is an emergency. Consider hiring a doula as your natural birth advocate with a hospital birth.
Related article: The Honest Truth About What to Expect During Childbirth
Natural Birth During a Pandemic
The current pandemic has some mamas worried about their safety and exposure to COVID-19 while giving birth. Since hospitals are the highest risk location for being near infected people (although the risk is low), more women are turning to lower risk birth centrs and home births.
What’s great is that some women that wanted to have home births but couldn’t afford it because their insurance wouldn’t cover it, now have more potential options. Since home births have been deemed lower risk for some women, some insurance companies and states are now covering home births.
Giving birth at home or in a birthing center can alleviate some of the anxiety surrounding childbirth during a pandemic. Being relaxed and comfortable with your birth place is the best way to ensure a birth that goes as smooth as possible!
Related Article: The Complete Postpartum Recovery Plan
You’ve Got this, Mama!
Giving birth naturally can feel so empowering if you’re prepared for it! I felt so proud to be able to go through labor as so many other women have before me. Being able to hold my baby unmedicated so that we were both clear as day for the first few hours of birth was magical too. She simply stared at me as I snuggled her. Plus, I was up and walking withint a few hours (granted I was sore, exhausted, and timid- but I could do it!)
No matter what birth plan, birth place, or type of childbirth you plan to follow through with, at the end of the day remember that you are strong. Nature is pretty amazing- getting pregnant and growing a beaitful baby is a pretty unique experience. It should leave no doubt in your mind that your body and nature know exactly what they’re doing! If you can trust in the process, then you can do anything!!
I wish you the best of luck in your childbirth journey and experience. What kind of birth are you considering at this point? I’d love to hear!