You Can Have A Natural Birth- We Just Don’t Talk About It
What is a “natural birth” anyway? According to the Collins Medical Dictionary, it is;
“A term used to encourage the concept that having a baby should be a normal and natural process rather than a medical or surgical event, operation or emergency. A clear understanding of what is involved and informed instruction on the nature and cause of pain in labour, together with exercises in relaxation and cooperation, has made labour less difficult and painful, and more rewarding, for millions of women. It has not, however, made childbirth either easy or painless.”
Medical Interventions not typically included in a natural birth plan;
- Membrane Rupture
- IV Fluids
- Restricting Mamas Movements
- Directed Pushing
- Forceps or the like
- Cesarean Sections
Some women also consider any vaginal delivery, regardless of what proceeds or follows, to be natural. Most, however, acknowledge that medically managed pain or delivery probably doesn’t really fall in line with a very natural feel.
We Need To Talk About Birth More Often- And More Positively
I think it’s important to talk about labour and childbirth in a more positive, empowering light. When it came time for me to deliver my first baby, my mother terrified me with her “war stories” and still relays them at every opportunity. I find a large portion of women engage in this type of behaviour, almost like comparing battle scars. Sometimes, it’s even as if it’s a one-up endeavour and the listener is left feeling trepidation, instead of confidence, when considering a natural birth.
I’ve heard about delivering breech, nuchal cords, delivering blue/unbreathing babies, emergency c sections, being “hacked up” without anesthesia, detaching cords, calcified placentas, botched episiotomies, lasting epidural damage, hemorrhaging and oversized, stuck little ones. As a result of unmedically necessary interventions or procedures, I’ve actually experienced some of those myself. Who would want to go through that?! Who would head into the experience without severe anxiety? So much of the knowledge of labour, or the information surrounding birth that’s shared, is frightening, painful and harrowing.
Of course, for many women, it’s the reality of their ordeal and it does need to be talked about. That’s part of their experience and their healing. It’s their perception, their wounds, and their event to talk about and nobody should be denied that. My point being, it leaves so many afraid and uncertain when the majority of what’s heard is of negative. We also start to think it’s normal.
Negative birth stories can leave many that have had the opposite type of births not wanting to share, almost as if it would be an insult, or rubbing it in, to detail their empowering, wonderful account after another mother had been through such trauma. In a ring of miserable or scary moments, sharing the fact you loved your natural birth so much it made you want to have another ends up with you stared at like you have 3 heads. Or it makes you an a-hole. Probably both.
As a result of what I had heard, I thought birth would be horrific and terrible- and, the first time around, it absolutely was. Unfortunately, as an inexperienced, uninformed and unsure teenager, I followed some exceptionally bad advice (more insistence) regarding the consumption of castor oil and ended up with a labour nearing 30 hours long. It was traumatic, I was pinned in a hospital room and I ended up having both an epidural and a Demerol shot in order to try and progress labour. It was, “That or a c section“, given as an ultimatum by my doctor, who told me that I would be “too tired to push” when it became necessary. I didn’t feel like that at all and, knowing my body, I don’t believe it for a second. I didn’t then- but who was I to advocate for myself? I was 17, surrounded by professionals waiting to get the show on the road, and I hadn’t adequately prepared… so I didn’t speak up. And, boy, I wish I had. When the time came, I actually didn’t even need to put effort into pushing- my body ejected him, so to speak, all on its own and before the doctor was even present. Back then, I wasn’t aware that those types of interventions (c sections, pushed pain management and induction) are also often given to save the attending’s time and we are basically treated like livestock. That’s how I felt- and what so many mothers detail while sharing similar experiences.
According to the CDC, over 32% of births were via cesarean section as of 2015- over 1.2 million babies. On top of that, c sections and subsequent c sections are responsible for substantially higher rates of maternal morbidity, transfusion, unplanned hysterectomy, a ruptured uterus or ICU admissions than vaginal deliveries or even VBACS! The overall cesarean delivery rate in the United States increased 60% from 1996 through 2009, declining only .2% between then and 2013, and 1/3 of births occur via the surgical procedure.
According to Birthlink;
- 41% of women are being induced
- 76% of mothers have an epidural
- 85% of mothers are connected to an IV line during labour
- 57% of mothers with a previous cesarean were denied a VBAC
- Only 15% of us are *permitted* nourishment during the unfathomably difficult task of labour. (Sidenote; Midwives support and encourage eating or drinking)
- And, most disheartening, only 2% of women receive care practices that promote normal birth and are endorsed by Lamaze International.
Did you know that The World Health Organization recommends a maximum cesarean rate of 10-15% for all births, including high-risk pregnancies? So W. T. F. is the reason for such surgical rates? Why is this happening? Have we, as the female species, lost our primal, natural, biological ability to bear children? I don’t think so. (Although I do fully realize that some may have had a cesarean as a life-saving procedure and am simply speaking generally here.)
In a paper published in 2013, by the National Bureau of Economic Research, health care economists Erin Johnson and M. Marit Rehavi discovered that there’s actually a financial incentive for both doctors and hospitals to perform c sections. On top of the convenience of being able to schedule in advance as, otherwise, women will often go into labour at night if things are left to mother nature.
As I got older, more mature, more informed and more self-assured, I approached the idea of natural birth in a different way. That’s what I want to detail, by sharing my birth story, in the hopes that I can help an expecting Mama out there feel a little more confident as her contractions start. Positive stories need to be shared so that women realize we can take back our delivery. Doctors work for us. We are not an inconvenience. Birth is not a malady that requires a cure. It is the most powerful, beautiful human experience one may ever have and ought to be treated as such.
Positive stories need to be shared so that women realize we can take back our delivery. Doctors work for us. We are not an inconvenience. Birth is not a malady that requires a cure- It is the most powerful human experience. Click To Tweet.
The fact of the matter is, vaginal births are safer for us. Natural birth, without medication or intervention, is (for the most part) a lesser risk to the baby and they are how humanity has grown to a thriving 7.6 billion human beings today. If we hear more of the positive, empowering, natural birth stories then perhaps it won’t seem so far-fetched, or so fringe, to deliver a child the way that our ancestors did- The way that our bodies were made to.
How To Have A Natural Birth
If you’re expecting, hoping to have a natural birth, here are some tips on how you may be able to accomplish it;
Research, research, research! I know it’s cliche to say, “Knowledge is power” but, really, it’s entirely true. The more knowledge you have about what to expect, what may go wrong, what the risks are, what is completely normal and what a labour timeline looks like, you’ll feel more confident. Confident equals calm- and calm Mamas bring babies faster, with less need for intervention. Be sure to ask questions of your care providers, writing them down in advance so you won’t forget in the moment (I know I do) and arm yourself with information about what to ask if they suggest anything that may not be medically necessary.
Seek Out The Positive Stories
Find your tribe! There are lots of women that have given birth naturally- you’ve just got to find us! If you don’t have any ladies in your immediate circle that are able to share stories about natural birth with you, I am happy to talk about mine (ask away) or Google some of the powerful ones out there. Building your confidence can make a huge difference in the way you view the natural birth experience.
Find Something/Someone That Inspires And Encourages You
If you have something to focus on during labour, like positive birth affirmations, a friend who will act as your cheerleader, a doting Mama that loves you, or a partner that can advocate for you and support you when you need it then you’re golden.
Look into the many ways you can manage pain naturally and effectively during labour. There’s no doubt about it, labour sucks. It sucks balls. You’ll look like crap, feel like an animal at times and you may make a couple of sounds like that too but you can definitely do it. Here are 13 pain management techniques to check out.
Hire A Doula
If you’re seriously scared, anxious or just know you’re not going to want to have to deal with anyone or anything in the moment, a doula can be pretty handy.
Have A Birth Plan
Labour can’t exactly be planned down to the last detail but it helps to prepare in advance and make certain your care provider is supportive. Write out your birth plan and cover what your vision looks like for during labour, through the birth, for the care of your little one and what to do in case of an emergency. You can detail what interventions may be acceptable and what is absolutely not a consideration, unless truly medically necessary. If you find that you have a douche for a doc, one who doesn’t willfully practice evidence-based care, then you can stand firm or hire someone else. Remember, they work for you and it’s almost never too late to switch to another provider. Go ahead and download my completely Free Birth Plan PDF. I won’t even bug you for an email sign up, I think this is that important.
Although many women automatically assume they’ll birth with an OB/GYN and do so in a hospital, there are more options out there. Midwives, birthing centres, home births, water births and midwife office births are available, common and (from personal experience) fantastic. There are far fewer instances of epidural use, non medically necessary interventions, or c sections in midwife care. I have never personally spoken to a woman that has gone that route and was unsatisfied with her birth experience. I can state that I have had two babies with an OB/GYN, and two with midwives (two different ones, in two different settings) and had zero complications with my last two pregnancies. Only with my last two.
Please note, I do not encourage birthing outside of a hospital for high-risk pregnancies and I am not a medical professional. Your care provider would be able to help determine what’s best for you as part of your team. Do thorough research and you will feel far more confident in your decision, whatever that may be.
Talk About It Before, During and Afterwards
As mentioned before, find the positive stories to help you affirm your convictions. You’ll need to keep doing it though because, in the moment, it’s pretty tempting to beg for “the good stuff”, or anything really. If you keep up with the positive self-talk, replaying other women’s birth moments in your mind, it’s easier to rise to the challenge. I found Facebook Mom groups and birth videos were a great resource and got my competitive streak activated. If she could do it, I could do it! Perhaps that’s what will work for you too.
If you have a natural birth, share it! Revel in it, discuss it, encourage others and build the support tribe. Who knows, you may just need it again 😉
My Natural Birth Experience
I’m going to split up this post, due to length, so please check back on Friday for my natural birth story.
Do you have one to share? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know about your positive moments.
Even if you don’t have a natural birth story to share but did have a wonderful assisted birth, all encouraging stories are welcome. Each and every birth is absolutely incredible, no matter what, and we ladies have a heck of a lot to be proud of!