Many women would like to have a natural birth. But what does birthing naturally actually mean for these mothers? Some women refer to a natural birth if the baby is born vaginally. Other women think of it as a natural birth only, if there was no use of medication or medical intervention involved. It is not that easy to define a “natural birth”, as every birth, every mother and every baby are different, and there are many individual aspects to consider.
Birth itself is a natural process – or really the most natural process. Women’s bodies perform natural miracles, following a blueprint of a birthing process, that we human beings share (in a similar way) with all mammals.
On a physiological level, the birthing woman’s body orchestrates a cascade of hormonal triggers which allow the uterus to contract, the cervix to dilate and the vagina and perineum to stretch so the baby can be born. The baby plays an active role in her birth as well, rotating, stretching, flexing and moving down the birthing canal in order to meet her mother and father “earthside”.
As complex as the process of a birth is on a physiological, hormonal, mental and emotional level is, it can be really very straight-forward – if we avoid disturbing it.
Many women who wish for a natural birth prefer to avoid the use of unnecessary medical interventions. They prefer to let the baby chose her birth date instead of inducing labour artificially. They prepare for the birth mentally and emotionally and know techniques to manage labour and birthing pain (should they arise) without the use of epidurals, or other pain relieving drugs. Women who wish to give birth naturally prefer to let the birthing process unfold naturally and intuitively, rather than managing it from the outside so it can fit into the hospital’s bureaucratic framework and time schedule.
After the actual birth, it is important for many new mothers and fathers to be able to first meet their new baby in a loving, calm and undisturbed way. They prefer an un-managed, natural (physiological) third stage (delivery of the placenta) of the birth. Rather than medically managing the mother and baby immediately after the birth (by measuring, bathing, checking, testing, injecting, examining and even separating the baby from her mother), they wish for nothing more than spending quality time with their new family addition and welcome their new baby in the most undisturbed, calm, peaceful and loving way possible.
Birth is very similar to making love. It is a most private, individual and intimate act, and we need similar conditions for both experiences. We need to feel private, safe, undisturbed and unobserved. The birthing woman’s body will orchestrate a fine tuned process of hormonal releases and triggers during a natural birth that will allow a successful, safe, healthy, ecstatic and transformational birthing experience for the mother, her baby – and the father!
The majority of women have difficulties entering this sacred space of birth if they are being monitored, measured, exposed or pressured. This can result in the birth slowing down and cause unnecessary pain or other avoidable complications. In order to avoid this, many women chose a natural and undisturbed birth. A natural birth does not guarantee an easy or pain free birth. But it provides the best possible environment to achieve an efficient birth and a most positive and satisfactory outcome for everyone involved.
“To carry a child in your body, to make choices between alternatives,
to give birth… is not a medical event.
It is a major life transition” (Sheila Kitzinger)
In order to make the right choices for yourself and your family, it is important to know your options and be informed. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, because there are so many decissions to make. Sometimes you might feel pressured into a certain direction by a medical professional or another caretaker. Remember that it is about you and your baby, and not about pleasing others. I encourage you to do your own research. Just work out one thing at a time. It is an important part of the journey to motherhood to learn to trust your own instincts and put the well- being of your family first. This is meant to be fun. Find what feels good and enjoy the ride!
Dr Sarah J Buckley. Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering – The wisdom and science of gentle choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Brisbane, Australia, 2005.
Sheila Kitzinger. Birth your way – Choosing birth at home and at a birth centre. London, GB, 2001.
Ina May Gaskin. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. USA 2008