When you’re expecting a child, planning for your birth will be a time for you to break down your options and make very important decisions.
Many women expect the typical process when thinking about their birthing experience … your water will break, you’ll start rushing to the hospital, demand an epidural, and start pushing until your baby is born.
Using an epidural has become the norm as it has increased in popularity. In fact, approximately 71% of pregnant women get epidurals or other general anesthesia (Stanford Medicine, 2018).
However, there is a large population of pregnant women who have been inquiring about different options that are available to them, specifically, having a natural birth. It is very important that you are able to know your options and determine what is best for you and your baby.
What Is Natural Childbirth?
There is no correct way to bring your baby into this world. In other words, there is no “natural” or “unnatural” way to give birth to your baby. However, the phrase is used historically to describe a specific type of birth.
The term “natural childbirth” describes childbirth without the use of any medication. It means exactly what you think it means … not using any pain medication while you’re in labor and delivery. However, in some cases, you can still use medical interventions such as fetal heart monitoring during natural birth.
There is also a lot that goes into characterizing your birth as natural childbirth. For example, you can choose to deliver your baby at a birthing center or even in the comfort of your own home. You can also decide to have a midwife or doula who has a preference for minimal medical interventions.
Many women also look to alternative and less common delivery positions. In fact, you don’t need to be laying down on a bed to give birth to your child. Many women opt for positions such as squatting, all fours, kneeling or leaning against something.
Why Choose Natural Childbirth?
Why would anyone want to face the pain that comes with delivery and refuse pain relief during labor? Well, there are actually a lot of benefits of having natural childbirth, as well as risks that you would avoid without having any medical intervention.
- The risks of pain relief. Taking pain relief during your delivery can have an effect on the duration of your labor, as it can speed it up or slow it down. Many women also choose not to take an epidural because of the low risk that is associated with it.
- You have more control. Other women prefer to have a natural birth because they are able to take more control over the labor process. Women who choose to forgo pain medication may feel as if they are able to really embrace every part of their birthing experience - good and bad. Also, avoiding being under any medication enables you to remember the whole experience, even if it’s a painful one!
- You can move around. Since you won’t have any medical pain relief, you’ll look to other “natural” breathing and relaxation techniques to take away some of the pain you may feel while delivering your baby. Many women prefer to be able to move around during their labor to cope with the pain and have the freedom to do so -- With an epidural, you’re likely confined to bed.
- You can walk sooner. You will most likely be able to get out of bed and start walking sooner after giving birth. This is because you won’t be numb from the epidural you otherwise would have taken.
- Avoid epidural side effects. Many women deliberately avoid an epidural because of the risks that they are exposed to. This would include difficulty pushing, the amount that enters your bloodstream, nausea, and itching.
Tips For Birth Without Epidural
Unmedicated birth doesn't come without its challenges, of course. Here are some guidelines to think about when creating your birth plan, whether you decide to have a natural birth in the hospital or planned home birth.
1) Remember the reasons why you want a natural birth
Think of what having an unmedicated birth means to you. Are you motivated to have one in order to limit the number of side effects that come along with medical intervention, or is it due to previous experiences? It may be simply a goal you set out for yourself to accomplish!
Every mother-to-be will have a different reason that is unique to their situation, and finding yours will help you commit to your plan!
2) Create a natural birth plan
Once you figure out what you want your birthing experience to look like, it's best to create a birth plan that includes all the details of what you'd like to happen before, during, and after labor and delivery.
For instance, think about who you'd like in the room with you, which room you'd like to give birth in (if you are resorting to a natural birth at home), and supplies that you want in your reach. Some women like to have a birthing ball or a list of breathing techniques to help with pain management.
3) Choose a health care provider who specializes in natural birth
Choosing a doctor or midwife is an extremely special thing for a pregnant woman. Having a medical professional who is knowledgeable and passionate about your entire birth plan is important to have a successful delivery.
What Are The Risks?
Just like with any other health-related decision, there are also risks to consider:
- You’re going to feel the pain. Of course, with no medical pain relief, you’re going to feel the pain during your delivery and also learn how to cope with it. Many women find that the pain is more intense than they expected. It’s important to let your doctor know that you plan on having natural childbirth but ask for an epidural if you feel the pain is too much to handle.
- Increased Risk Of Complications. Giving birth, no matter if it’s a natural one or not, comes with its own risk of complications. However, it may be more difficult to detect and treat any complications without any medical intervention. Giving birth at home also has a greater risk of perinatal death compared to giving birth in a hospital.
Is It Right For You?
Knowing that you have many different options is a priority. If you are expecting a baby, educate yourself on natural births. Not only should you do your reading and research, but you should also speak to family and friends who have been through it for an honest view of the experience.
Just like pregnancy, every woman’s labor is different and labor pain is dealt with differently for everyone. No matter the decision you make, everything will be worth it when you have a bundle of joy in your arms at the end of the journey.