Now that you’re pregnant, it’s time to really think about how you want to give birth to your baby. There are several options available to you: natural birth, medicated birth (analgesics or anesthetics), or a cesarean birth. Today, more and more women claim to want a natural (unmedicated) birth because of all the benefits for both mom and baby. You may have even considered a natural birth for yourself, too. Many women chose medication because they are unsure if they will be able to handle labor pain. Well, there are lots of different approaches to laboring without pain medication. So if natural childbirth is something you’ve been considering but haven’t decided on yet, here are 12 great reasons to give natural childbirth a try.
1. Your Freedom of Movement
When you decide to have an epidural for your labor and birth you are choosing to confine yourself to the bed. Your medical team will not allow you to get out of the hospital bed since you will not have the strength or control of your legs that is necessary with an epidural.
With an epidural:
- your nurse will give you a bladder catheter so that your bladder can empty on its own.
- you will have external monitors to see how your baby is “handling” labor. We don’t want your baby to be in distress.
- or you may have internal fetal monitoring if your water has already been broken and your baby has already shown signs of distress.
- you will be given an IV to receive fluids and any other medications that you may need.
- it’s common to also receive Pitocin since an epidural can potentially slow down your natural contractions.
- you will also wear a blood pressure cuff to check your blood pressure every 15 to 30 minutes.
An epidural numbs the lower half of your body. And there is no way you can really move since you are being tethered by so many different things. The positions that are available to you are laying on your right side, laying on your left side, and sitting straight up. However, if your baby is not tolerating one side well (meaning his/her heart rate becomes too high or too low) you may be restricted to laying on one side the remainder of your labor. And the only pushing positions that are possibilities are flat on your back (with or without stirrups) or pushing on your side.
With a natural, unmedicated birth, you have the freedom to move, which is a great thing! Movement during labor is your friend. Gravity is helping you bring your baby down. You can try many different positions to cope through each contraction and get baby in a better position for, hopefully, a quicker delivery!
2. More Control of Your Birth
If you decide to have a natural birth, you have more options available to you. With more options, you feel like you get to be more of a participant in your labor. You have options to relieve discomfort/pain like massage, counter-pressure, hydrotherapy, hypnotherapy, music, movement, visualizations, different positions like the birth ball, peanut ball or walking the halls, hot and cold therapy, you name it!
When you choose to have an epidural, you then have a higher chance of needing more interventions, which is also known as the cascade of interventions. For example, breaking your water, Pitocin, antibiotics for low blood pressure, internal fetal monitoring, vacuum, forceps, episiotomy, and/or cesarean, and more. What once was a choice made for your comfort can potentially become a rolling snowball down a hill. It can turn into more medically necessary interventions that you wish you never needed for your baby’s birth.
3. Can Potentially Reduce Your Chances of a C-section or Other Interventions
I do always tell my clients that the baby determines how he or she wants to be born. He/she may be all tangled up in their cord, he/she may be breech, you may have placenta previa, etc. There are things that are unavoidable that medically require a C-section, and that is okay. However, there are things that you can do to help your chances of avoiding a C-section. A good first step is trying for a natural childbirth. When labor is allowed to progress on its own, in its own time-frame, and the woman is allowed to respond naturally to what she is experiencing, I’ve seen that most labors tend to go more smoothly and need fewer interventions. Of course, these are women you are low-risk and have had normal pregnancies. In my opinion, the more we mess with the laboring woman, the more things get messy. But when we allow her body to do what it was made to do, support her, and comfort her, fewer interventions are needed.
4. Potentially a Shorter Labor & Pushing Time
When you have an epidural, you should not be able to feel contractions or the pain. This is the whole point of an epidural! They keep women more comfortable. Sometimes an epidural can speed up labor allowing a woman’s cervix to dilate quickly because her body is finally able to relax with the contraction. Other times, an epidural can slow things down by slowing the contractions. The problem of not being able to feel what is going on with your body is you can lose your natural instincts on how to help your body and labor progress. For example, walking, rocking, squatting, or changing positions. These help your baby descend deeper into your pelvis, which can help speed up your labor.
When it’s time to push, many women are able to push more effectively without an epidural. This is because you can feel the urge of where and how to push. Women with epidurals may not have that urge or have complete control or the strength that is needed to push their baby out because their lower body is numb. This is why I will suggest women turning down the epidural while they are pushing. This will help them feel that they are in fact pushing well with each of their contractions.
5. A Faster Recovery
After giving birth with an epidural, it takes time for the medication to wear off and for you to be able to get up and move around. Some women experience what is known as spinal headaches after having an epidural. Another side effect is their body can start itching during and after labor, which is common. Some women also experience issues in their lower back for weeks/years to come where the epidural was placed. (Read more about women’s experiences with epidurals here.)
When a woman delivers naturally she may feel better almost instantly after giving birth. She can get up and move around shortly after delivery, or whenever she is ready.
With a cesarean, it’s important to remember that it is major abdominal surgery. A C-section can make it more difficult to care for your baby in the first few weeks postpartum because you’re also recovering from surgery. A natural birth gives you and baby the best chances for a speedy recovery.
6. To Experience Real Labor
I love the quote, “There is a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” – Laura Stavoe Harm. It’s so true. The labor experience is not just about experiencing pain, it’s about learning what our bodies can do, and knowing what we are capable of.
Unlike some medical professionals say, labor controlled and maintained by Pitocin is not the same as your own natural contractions. Your medical team may claim that Pitocin emulates the exact same results and patterns as your own natural contractions would, however, after speaking with countless women who have had Pitocin for one labor and none for subsequent births, these women say that is not the case. Every woman I spoke with has said that Pitocin makes the pain of contractions a lot more intense and much stronger than your own natural contractions.
7. You’ll Have a More Alert Baby
A big reason to try for a natural childbirth is so that your baby can avoid the side effects of pain medications. By avoiding systemic analgesic pain medications, an epidural, general anesthesia, your baby will be born more alert and more active than babies that have been exposed to medications. Opioids used in systemic analgesia, epidurals, and general anesthesia can affect your baby’s breathing and heart rate for a short time. Your baby may be drowsy, have reduced muscle tone, which can make it harder for your baby to breastfeed in the first hours after birth.
8. Less Complications for Mom and Baby
Even though serious complications from pain relief medications are extremely rare, they can happen. Pain medications can potentially lower your blood pressure as well as your baby’s, can cause respiratory depression for both mom and baby, can potentially slow down your labor, and can make you feel nauseous or dizzy. Using medications during labor may add risks that are not otherwise present in birth. Having a natural birth decreases your chances of experiencing these issues.
9. A More Satisfying Birth Experience
No matter how their baby is born, women are overjoyed when they finally get to see their new babies. I am supportive of women having the birth that they want, no matter what that looks like. Their labor and birth are about them and their baby and what will make them happy.
From my 10 years of experience of supporting women as their doula, women are the most satisfied with their birth experiences when there are fewer complications or no emergencies. We cannot always control what our bodies will do in labor. However, avoiding as many unnecessary interventions as possible helps decrease our chances of experiencing a cascade of interventions. This can then help us reduce avoidable emergency situations. And when comparing women who have had non‐emergency deliveries to women having emergency deliveries, women who had emergency deliveries had about twice the risk of developing postpartum depression.
10. Breastfeeding is Easier and More Successful
Babies who are not exposed to pain medications are more alert after birth and this helps them to be more successful with initial breastfeeding. They are able to latch better and feed longer. When you don’t have those opioid medications in your system, you also have an easier time as well. When your body is on heavy medications, it’s hard for your body to understand that it’s time to make milk.
11. Increases Your Confidence
Preparing for a natural childbirth involves empowering yourself as a new parent. You learn how to say no, be your own advocate, educate yourself on the labor and delivery process, and stand up for yourself and your wants and desires. It doesn’t mean that you become rude or pushy. It means that you become more confident in your decision making for yourself, your body, and your baby.
12. Why Not Try?
Most new moms wonder how bad the pain will be. They wonder whether or not they will be able to handle it. There really is no way for you to know what your labor will be like, how much pain you will experience, or whether or not you can handle it until you experience it for yourself. Even if you’re an experienced mom and have been through labor before, every labor and birth is different. So why not take some classes and prepare your body? Why not learn different comfort techniques, and give natural childbirth a try to see how it goes? If you are at a hospital, pain medications are always there and readily available if you need or want them. And if you are at home or at a birth center, a hospital is close by. Why not give it a try?