Many women go into labour aiming for some vague idea of a ‘natural’ childbirth. We write birth plans expressing our wishes, and go into hospital believing that we will have the birth we want, because either we’ve read a little about things like Vit K and Gas and Air, or we have nothing but trust that the Ob, doctor or midwife really has our best interest at heart. Why then do so many natural births go ‘wrong’, leading to intervention upon intervention and often, finally in a caesarean section, and what can you do to prevent it?
Over a series of six posts, I’m going to look at the benefits of a natural birth, natural homebirth vs. natural hospital birth, active preparation for childbirth, herbs for natural childbirth, what no book tells you about childbirth, and what no book tells you about being a new mother.
Now, before I go any further, I must say this: I am not a doctor. I am not a midwife. I am not even a doula. I am just a mother to a little girl that I gave birth to in to my own hands, naturally in a pool in my kitchen. I am a woman who had a difficult pregnancy and had a lot of time to research, study and learn, and what follows are my experiences as I believe that the best gifts you can give a pregnant woman are information that is easy to understand, and a feeling of empowerment. I’m including my birth video here to share with you the only experience I’m speaking from. Don’t worry, it’s not gory and there are no uncomfortable scenes.
So – why bother with a natural birth? Isn’t it so much easier to know the date you’re having your baby, go in for a nice clean surgery, and come out with your baby?
Well, yes, I guess, apart from the major abdominal surgery, the minimum of six weeks of discomfort, the scar and the fact that your body doesn’t go through the physiological changes that happen post birth. Also the fact that your baby is literally dragged from a nice, warm, cozy, dark, quiet environment to bright lights, noise, all the while feeling somewhat drowsy. I don’t know much about caesareans, fortunately, but look it up. Natural birth has some great information on the risks of c-sections. Don’t just accept that you ‘have to’ have a caesarean. Even for twin/triplet births. There are many successful vaginal birth stories. Just look on Youtube!
The benefits to the mother and baby in a natural birth are worth the effort alone, in my opinion. Mothers are able to move around freely, which helps manage pain. Pain is the body’s way of telling the mother which position will be best for her. I remember during labour I could not lie down on my back, the pain was too intense there, and as it turned out, my baby was posterior. I had to sit up, on my birth ball, doing figure of 8’s with my hips, which helps the baby to turn the â€˜right’ way round.
When it comes to pushing, being able to feel the rushes as they come makes the mother better equipped to push when the time is right for her and her body, reducing the risk of tearing or the need for episiotomy. I also remember reading that an epidural prolongs your pushing time (transition).
Recovery after natural child is much faster and easier. In my case, I went to work two days later to show off my baby. We went away for the weekend when she was 5 days old, and I was back to yoga and other classes at 5 weeks, only because they wouldn’t allow me to do anything earlier. I walked five miles on the cliffs of Dover at 12 days though. I’m not recommending this for everyone, but I was able.
Endorphins released during birth cause the most amazing, beautiful, dreamy state, the closest thing I’ve ever felt to what a â€˜high’ must feel like. Those endorphins are great for you and as they are released in to the placenta too, they are great for baby!
A drug free birth means babies are more alert and show more interest in breastfeeding, which makes long term breastfeeding so much easier. The mothers I know who’ve had c-sections have all struggled to breastfeed and mothers who’ve had other pain medication often experience the same. Remember, a baby is born with the suckling reflex (which lasts for about an hour). Put a newborn on his/her mother’s stomach and they will actually shimmy their way up to the breast for suckling. They wont do this if there’s been pain medication though.
The most important thing to remember about birth is this: you are a woman, your body was made for this.
The saddest thing about our concept of childbirth and our medicalisation thereof is that women have been led to believe that their bodies don’t work, and that they can’t give birth without help. This is simply not true. Yes, there are cases where women do need help, and there are times when a life-saving caesarean is needed, but those times are much fewer than we are led to believe.
You are a woman. You can give birth. Your body was designed for it, and embracing that ability will be the most empowering, self restoring, healing thing you will ever do for yourself.