Birth Doula

The Quick Guide to Natural Childbirth

Natural Birth

If you have decided on or are considering birthing in a setting like a freestanding birth center, it perhaps has to do in part with your desire to have a natural birth experience. It is estimated that approximately 85 percent of childbearing women are considered low-risk and are great candidates for a natural birth. But what is a natural birth exactly and what does it entail? Are there really worthwhile benefits to it and how much pain will I experience? These are all important questions when considering your birth plan. Here are the whos, whats, wheres and whys of the choice of natural birth.

What is a natural birth?

Natural birth is a vaginal birth that is free of pain medication and has minimal, if any, medical interventions. With a natural birth, the mother is in control of the labor process; she is a part of each and every decision, including when it’s time to rest, change positions and push, with her care providers acting as support throughout the process. 

Why do women choose to have a natural birth?

There are many reasons women choose to have a natural birth. Whether you are expecting your first baby or had a past birth experience that left you wanting to try something different, here are a few of the top reasons moms choose natural birth:

  • To have a sense of control over the birthing process
  • They view birth as a natural, normal, non-medical event
  • To have a sense of presence and awareness during birth
  • To have the ability to move about freely during labor
  • To have the ability to follow the lead of your body’s natural instincts
  • Less invasive
  • To avoid unnecessary medical interventions
  • To avoid undesirable side effects of pain medication to mom and baby (such as drowsiness, a drop in blood pressure or nausea)
  • To avoid undesirable side effects of pain medication on labor (such as slowing or stopping the progress)
  • A sense of empowerment
  • Reduced risk of certain interventions such as the use of synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin), forceps and vacuum extraction
  • The ability to eat and drink throughout labor

Where do women have natural births?

While you can absolutely have a natural birth in a hospital setting with the right supportive team and a clear birth plan, you might find that a birth center is more conducive to your goal of a natural delivery (It is important to note that some hospitals call their labor & delivery units "birth centers"...this is not what we are referring to). Birth centers place a strong emphasis on empowering women to realize the amazing capabilities of their own bodies without intervention or pain medicine. Another option for natural birth is having your baby in your own home. This approach typically includes the attendance and care of a midwife. 

Who can have a natural birth and who attends them?

As previously stated, approximately 85 percent of women are considered great candidates for a natural, vaginal delivery. However, in order to plan for a natural delivery, a woman should ideally have a low-risk pregnancy with few complications or other existing serious conditions. 

A natural birth can be attended by a doctor or midwife, along with a birth assistant and a doula, depending on your setting and personal preferences. Continuous care and support from a midwife or doula throughout labor has been associated with lower rates of the use of pain medicine, incidence of C-sections and other interventions in addition to shorter labors and greater overall satisfaction with the birth experience.

How do women cope with the pain of a natural birth?

Every woman will experience the pain of childbirth differently. Fortunately, there are many alternative forms of pain management that can be used during a natural birth instead of medication or an epidural. Here are just a few of them:

Nitrous oxide for Labor Pain
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Water immersion/water birth
  • Massage
  • Relaxation
  • Acupressure
  • Acupuncture
  • Visualization
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Deep breathing
  • Yoga
  • Changing positions
  • Distraction
  • Visual imagery
  • Meditation
  • Walking
  • Hypnosis
  • Birthing ball

Consider taking child birth preparedness classes that focus on natural birth and pain management. The better prepared you are, the more tools you will have to help you achieve your goal of a natural birth.

What if something goes wrong?

The most important thing with any birth plan is to approach it with flexibility and a willingness to heed the advice of your caregivers who have you and your baby’s best interest at heart. While having a natural birth is typically very safe, complications do arise occasionally where medical interventions are not only suggested but necessary. Beginning with a caregiver that you trust is an important step to helping you feel confident and comfortable in the event that a change is made to the plan involving unexpected interventions. Just know that no matter what course your birth ends up taking, whether it is perfectly natural or ends in a C-section, you and your body have done an incredible, life-giving thing. There is no shame in a birth that does not go as planned.

For questions about natural birth, prenatal and postpartum care and all other women’s care services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. Our goal is to support you in realizing your body’s tremendous strength and potential.

The Top Five Fears about Having a Natural Birth

Natural Water Birth

While birth is a natural and normal experience that a woman’s body is created to do, it is common and expected to have fears leading up to your delivery. You may be feeling anxious about your ability to handle the pain, or wondering what will happen if something goes wrong. You may be worried about how you will recover from pushing a 7-10 pound baby out of your body and what you will feel like afterward. Rest assured these fears are not only normal but even healthy when they motivate you to better prepare for the experience. Here are the five most common fears about having a natural birth and how to alleviate them as best as possible. 

  1. What if I tear? Unfortunately, the chances of tearing when having a vaginal birth are high, about 90 percent. The good news is that about 99 percent of those tears are minor and superficial, requiring only a couple of stitches if any at all. While tearing may be inevitable for most women, there are some ways you can help prepare your body for the big task of pushing baby out and reduce the chances of more severe vaginal trauma. These techniques include doing your pelvic floor exercises regularly, practicing perineal massage, laboring in water, choosing a birthing position that aids in baby’s exit, placing a warm compress on the perineum when crowning begins and following your body’s lead and natural instincts when it comes to pushing. Even if you do experience some tearing or the need for a few stitches, your vagina and perineum will heal in about a week to ten days.
  2. What if I can’t handle the pain? While we won’t say that you’ll experience a pain-free childbirth, we can say that there are certainly ways to prepare yourself for the experience and natural ways to manage pain during labor and delivery. These ways include: 
    • Surrounding yourself with loving and supportive people who can help you stick to your wishes of a natural birth and provide any assistance you may need during labor and delivery. 
    • Hiring a doula to assist in your birth. Women who have delivered with the support of a doula report having less overall pain and fewer interventions.
    • Using any number of natural labor pain management techniques including massage, hypnosis, acupressure, laboring in water, guided relaxation, breathing exercises, and even the use of nitrous oxide to give you some temporary relief.
    • Prepare ahead of time. Whether this involves writing a birth plan, taking birthing classes, or having your partner learn special massage techniques, take the time to prepare for your birth as you would any other major event in your life.
    • Lastly, remember that your body was miraculously designed for the job of delivering your baby so you are already more prepared than you realize.
  3. What if I don’t make it to the hospital or birth center in time? While just about every movie that contains a birth scene depicts a woman frantically racing into the hospital in the 11th hour being rushed into the delivery room right in the nick of time, in real life labor takes time. In fact, the average amount of time active labor takes is about 8 hours and perhaps even longer if it’s your first. More likely than not, you will have plenty of time to get where you need to be for your delivery and probably even enough time to check over your bag, take a shower and drop the dogs or other kids off with a neighbor or grandparents. Not to mention, you will likely also have plenty of warning signs that baby is preparing to make his debut from intense cramping and contractions to back pain and possibly even your water breaking.
  4. What if I poop during the delivery? You may not have voiced this concern to your care provider yet but we know you’re thinking it. All women seem to worry about this one! Having a bowel movement when pushing a baby out is a completely normal and unremarkable thing given the basic physiology of the body. While the thought may horrify you (or your partner) rest assured that your midwives or doctors will not even be the slightest bit phased if you deliver more than you had planned on. If you are feeling particularly anxious about this possibility, try sitting on the toilet in the early phases of labor to empty yourself out before the pushing phase. It’s not uncommon for your midwife to recommend this strategy and it may help circumvent the issue. But, if it does happen, we guarantee you won’t care at all in all the excitement and adrenaline of the moment.
  5. What if something goes wrong? This is a big one for most expectant moms and understandably so. There are so many things that could happen during childbirth and most of them are not things we can plan ahead for. First off, trust that you have surrounded yourself with capable and compassionate professionals who have the best interest of you and your baby at heart. Should complications arise, your birthing team will know what to do and what the next steps should be. Discuss possible obstacles that may arise and how you would like to handle them ahead of time. Learn about what changes to the plan may be made in the event that you or your baby is experiencing any sort of distress. If one of your biggest fears is having a C-section, consider factors such as having a care provider that is supportive of natural birth, using a doula to assist in your birth and delivering outside of a hospital setting--- all which may reduce your chances of it occurring. Try to be flexible going into your delivery. While birth plans are an awesome way to detail your preferences and wishes for your birth experience, it’s important to prepare yourself ahead of time that things may not go exactly as planned.
Natural Birth w/ Midwife

It is completely normal to have fears leading up to childbirth. The best way to address those fears is to educate yourself through speaking with your care providers, taking classes, reading books and talking to friends who have experienced different types of births. It’s also important to familiarize yourself on the reasons why you have decided that you want a natural birth. The ‘why’ behind your desire to deliver your baby naturally will help you find the strength that you’ll need during labor to keep going. Just remember that despite your fears, you are strong, you are able bodied and you were created to do this. For questions about how you can have the natural birth you’ve always wanted contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.