What is a natural birth?
Natural birth traditionally refers to giving birth via vaginal labor without the use of epidurals or other analgesics or anesthesia, usually under the watchful eye a midwife or physician. At A Family Affair Birth Center, all of our labors are overseen by Licensed Midwives, and while we do do not offer epidurals, a woman's body is innately created to birth babies. Ask our Midwives how labor works, and why an epidural is not the only answer. And while there are times that an epidural is a girls best friend, and medically needed to help the body relax and release to birth the baby, it is not the only way. In fact, most of our clients come to see that labor is not being "done to them," but it is the power of their own bodies, coming in waves, (not one consistent contraction and pain) working to bring their baby into the world. What they are experiencing is truly the power of their own body, working with their baby, in a once in a lifetime journey, a remarkable adventure, as real as it gets. But a woman is strong, and can do anything 60 seconds at a time.
While many use the term Natural Birth, we prefer to use the term Unmedicated Birth, due to the confusion and often the sense of shame some women have felt after needing to use epidurals during labor. While we understand and support the desire to skip epidurals, there are times when an epidural becomes needed to help the body relax, to complete dilation, and to go on to complete the vaginal delivery intended.
- Simply put, an unmedicated birth utilizes drug-free therapies or practices to reduce the pain of labor.
- Those include position changes to allow baby more space to navigate as labor progresses.
- Utilizing hydrotherapy, either a warm soaking tub or a relaxing under a shower to help stimulate the skins surface to redirect pain signals away from the brain.
- Massage and acupressure points also help scramble and divert those same pain signals, allowing labor to be experienced one surge or contraction at a time, with breaks in between.
And back to the term Natural Birth, the goal is avoid the medical management of starting labor (via a process called "induction" to get it started, or "augmentation" to keep it going), and the potential cascade of interventions that ofter occur when labor is not allowed to progress in its own natural timeline, free from routine medical interventions, if they are not medically necessary.
And while this is not always possible, in a healthy pregnancy free from evidence of risk factors, an unmedicated birth can be a rewarding experience and an absolutely beautiful way to welcome your baby into the world.
What are the benefits and risks of a natural birth?
As with many things in life, natural birth has pros and cons. We’ve listed the benefits and risks together so you can make an informed choice.
The benefits of natural birth
While many come to natural birth to avoid pain medications, there are other benefits to choosing a natural birthing process:
- Freedom to move: Since you aren’t tethered to a hospital bed, you can walk around, take hot showers, push against an exercise ball, or do any other physical activity that helps ease the labor pains.
- Pushing Could Be More Effective: Pain relievers reduce your ability to feel your body, so avoiding them means you have better control over your muscles, allowing your pushes to be more effective when delivering.
- Walking Around Sooner: Without medications fogging your mind or limiting your mobility, you’ll be able to get up and walk sooner after your delivery. Walking helps to speed up recovery and prevent other post-birth complications.
The risks of natural birth
Unmedicated births have risks associated with them, so they should also be considered:
- Labor is work, and the pain of childbirth may be more significant than some expect.
- Your body will be working as hard as running a marathon. You need to build, replenish and maintain your energy stores to help prevent exhaustion and fatigue, the leading cause of transfers.
- Birthing in an out of hospital setting does mean that we are not able to provide epidurals, and are not right downtime hall from an operating room. However, your midwives will carefully monitor your labor progress, and make sure you and baby are both doing well. Should a rare need arise, or you hit that point of exhaustion and simply want to get an epidural so your can rest, we are located directly across the street from Palomar Hospital - Poway Campus, and can also make all transfer arrangements with he hospital of your choice. We are here to support you as you navigate your journey of childbirth.
Natural birth: what you can expect
With an unmedicated birth, you will need to take childbirth preparation classes to understand what will be happening with your body during labor. We find that the fear of the unknown is much scarier than knowing the reality of what your body, and your baby are experiencing together.
You can use comforting techniques such as walking, taking a warm bath or shower, simple stretches or gentle yoga to help guide you through your contractions.
Childbirth education classes are essential, and there are a variety of philosophies for you to explore, and find the ones that feel right for you.
And we must not overlook the value of having a Birth Doula. For more information, click here.
What will it feel like?
Labor pains will vary from something that feels like strong menstrual cramps, the surges that envelope your entire abdomen. Labor is work. Hard work. But your body was designed to do this special work, and you are strong. We tell our clients, don't get overwhelmed by the though of the entire process, but rather take each contraction one at a time. Labor isn't something being done to you, labor is the result of the strength of your body working to delivery your baby. You are not a victim of the process. Your body is the source of the force behind it. You are strong and powerful, and your body is so wise.
How long will it take?
\The length of labor is not easily defined. It is one of those true mysteries. Each labor develops at its own pace. The labor process for some will just be a few hours, while other will need a day or longer to deliver their baby. But you are strong, and can do anything, one minute at a time.
How to prepare for a natural birth
If you’ve decided to go proceed with a natural birth, here are some ideas that might help you get ready:
- Select a Provider that Supports Natural Birth
- Create a Birth Wish-List (some call it a Plan, but we know we cant actually plan the birth)
- Take Childbirth Education Classes, and practice your homework! Build muscle memory, create Relax & Release emotional memory, and practice letting go. This is not the time or place to practice those Type-A skills.
- Once you know what techniques work for you, work with your partner, doula, childbirth educator or midwife to create a plan for your delivery. Determine what focusing techniques you wish to use and what options are available if the birth experiences complications. The more you plan ahead of time, the more likely you can pick the best options for you on your delivery date.
- Try Breathing Exercises & Visualization techniques to help you focus on something else, just one minute at a time. (That's about the length of each contraction or surge, or wave, whichever term you prefer)
- Pairing these techniques with your Partner and Doula or other birthing companion will give you a great advance while in labor.
- And do your homework and practice, practice, practice. The day you go into labor should not be the day of your dress rehearsal. By then, you want all the kinks worked out with those who will be supporting you. Your childbirth educator or doula can help facilitate these practice sessions.
A Family Affair Birth & Wellness Center
Our mission is to provide top pregnancy care and support a mother's birth in a safe, warm, and loving way. Honoring a partner's special role, our highly-trained Doulas and Midwives can help lower "partner fatigue" and provide postpartum care options to ease a mother's recovery as the new family begins to bond. Schedule a Tour today to learn more!
Frequently asked questions
There are several techniques that can be used to manage pain during natural birth, including breathing exercises, visualization, massage, and hydrotherapy. Using a birth ball, changing positions frequently, and having a support person can also help. Some women choose to use water during labor as a form of pain management. It's important to discuss your options with your midwife or doctor and find what works best for you.
A midwife can play a crucial role in supporting a woman during a natural birth. Midwives are trained in natural childbirth and are knowledgeable about techniques for managing pain and promoting relaxation. They also provide continuous care and support throughout labor, birth, and postpartum. Having a midwife who is supportive of your birth plan and knowledgeable about natural birth can help increase your chances of having a positive and empowering birth experience.