The benefits of natural birth
Women have been delivering babies naturally since the creation of the human race, but with the modernization of institutions and medicine, it has become rather normal for women to use pain medication during childbirth. Society has made women forget that giving birth is a natural experience and the body already has all it needs for the process to be a success. But as medical procedures become more and more risky and expensive, lots of women are considering natural birth and it’s benefits to both the mother and child. Natural birth is safer, quicker, and empowering.
The downside is that’s it’s extremely painful but there are natural ways to alleviate the pain and make the whole experience bearable. As long as your pregnancy is low-risk and your baby is healthy there’s no reason not to consider natural birth. To help you decide, let’s take a look at the benefits, pros, and cons of natural birth as well as other alternatives available for all moms-to-be out there.
1. Shorter and easier labor
Epidurals and other pain-relieving medications lead to a slower delivery. Pain medications interfere with the body’s natural way of laboring slowing down contractions. Naturally in childbirth, when the uterus begins to contract, oxytocin is released and signals are sent to the brain which in turn releases endorphins, nature’s painkiller. The brain continues to release these chemicals and they peak during the pushing phase. With the use of pain medication, such signals are not sent to the brain and the woman does not feel any contractions so she does not know when to push, complicating labor.
2. Safer for your baby
The use of epidural can cause a sudden drop in the mother's blood pressure and less rich oxygen blood pumped to the baby. This may lead to a C-section and cause fetal distress. Babies born from an epidural are less alert and disoriented for as long as a month after birth. A newborn's liver is not strong enough to get rid of toxins right away. Natural delivery assures that babies are born healthier, on schedule, alert and vital. Many women feel that they would rather have a baby born without direct exposure to medications as soon as they enter the world.
3. Quicker recovery
With natural birth, since no drugs and surgery is used, recovery is quicker, Oxytocin boosts the mom's energy levels and gives her the needed strength to be on her feet shortly after delivery. Many natural birth moms experience a feeling of euphoria caused by the body’s release of endorphins during labor. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller, these pain-relieving hormones are as powerful and effective as any pain medication but without the after effects.
4. Better brain development
Research shows that natural childbirth releases a protein called UCP2 into the newborn’s brain that improves brain function and development in adulthood. This protein regulates learning, memory, stress response and spatial awareness. The brain of C-section babies and non-vaginal birth babies is short of this protein. The UCP2 protein does not only improve motor and social skills it also helps newborns transition smoothly to breastfeeding.
5. Greater Connection to the Experience
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When drugs are not used women are alert and fully conscious of the whole labor experience. They connect to their bodies in a profound way, which empowers them to be more confident and less fearful in handling other challenges in life. The use of pain medications dulls a woman’s senses leading to a physical and emotional detachment from the experience. Women often use words like “invincible” and “powerful” to describe how they feel after their natural labor.
Natural birth vs Epidural
Natural birth generally refers to the process of giving birth without medical intervention of any kind. The mother delivers the baby vaginally without any drugs or medication. As scary as it may seem when compared to the other options, natural birth comes with a lot of benefits for both mother and child, the benefits are so many that some mothers argue that they outweigh the pain of labor. As mentioned earlier here’s a list of some of such advantages:
It’s the safest option for your baby
Labor is easier and faster
You recover faster
Better brain development for the baby
No side effects and reduced risks
Control and connection to the labor experience
An empowering experience
An epidural refers to the process of injecting an anesthetic into the epidural space of the spine to stop pain signals traveling from the spine to the brain. This epidural space refers to the area between the dura mater and the vertebral wall and typically contains spinal nerve roots, blood vessels and fatty tissue (source).
When you take an epidural, the anesthetic numbs the nerves inside the spine and stops pain by preventing the brain from recognizing the signals. A single shot of anesthetic is normally not enough to last throughout labor, so a tube is inserted into the back to administer more when needed. There are two types of epidural:
- Standard Epidural: This type of epidural uses local anesthetics like bupivacaine, lidocaine, and ropivacaine that cause a complete numbness in the lower half of your body. The mother can’t feel anything from the waist down and neither can she move, which makes labor difficult.
- Combined Spinal Epidural (CSE): This type of epidural is often referred to as a “walking epidural.” It’s a combination of local anesthetics, narcotics, and a form of adrenaline called epinephrine that allows you to have more use of the lower half of your body. Mobility is possible, which helps in the labor process, but the pain relief won’t be as strong.
Risks of an Epidural
Medical Instruments: Epidurals are linked to the use of medical instruments like forceps and vacuum suction for delivery and these instruments can cause trauma to the birth canal, requiring stitches.
Back pain: Studies show that Nearly 44 percent of women experience postpartum back pain and soreness.
Severe headaches: In some cases, the epidural needle can go too deep into the spinal canal, causing spinal fluid to leak. And if too much spinal fluid leaks out that can cause severe headaches that will last for days.
Cesarean sections: The main reason why epidurals are so controversial is that some studies show that they can increase a woman’s chance of having a cesarean section. But, other studies refute these claim and the scientific community has not ruled one way or the other.
Pros and cons of natural birth
They vary for each mom, but there are more potential advantages than with other options.
1. Your baby’s safety
As mentioned above, natural birth is safer because no drugs or medical instruments that may have after effects are utilized.
2. Little or no injury
Epidurals and other pain relievers numb the pain, but also renders delivery difficult, since as the mom does not feel when to push or to stop pushing. This can cause injuries and complications that can easily be avoided with natural births.
3. Quicker and Easier Delivery
No medication or medical assistance means no side effects, numbness, and other delays. The labor process is easier and faster and the recovery too is quicker.
4. Familiar Environment
Some moms choose to have their babies at home in a familiar, comfortable and soothing environment with their loved ones, this reduces stress and gives them a sense of control over the whole process.
5. Maintain Control
Control: Medical intervention during labor strips you of any form of control, you’re barely aware of your surroundings and unable to grasp the moment when your baby comes into the world and pushes his first cry. This is reason enough for some women to opt for a natural birth.
This is the number one disadvantage of natural birth, most women go for an epidural because of the fear of labor pains. It can be intimidating and scary if you are not prepared.
2. Unexpected complications
Another potential risk involved in natural births is the inability to handle unexpected complications. Some mothers choose to have their babies at home or in birthing centers, however, when complications occur outside of a hospital it may get out of hand without the right equipment or expertise.
Natural Birth Techniques
Hypnobirthing is a natural childbirth method that stems from the belief that pain during childbirth comes from fear and tension and that if these two elements are eliminated, the laboring becomes painless. This method uses self-hypnosis to take out the pain from labor. They use relaxation techniques such as meditation, visualization, and audio to help the brain access a state of peace and comfort. Women who have used this technique say it’s worked wonders for them.
2. The Bradley Method
This technique was developed by Dr. Robert Bradley in the 1940s, it requires the husband to help the woman manage labor pain by taking her focus away from the pain and on him. That’s why it’s also called the ‘’ husband-coached childbirth’’ method. Prior to labor, classes are taken to help prepare for labor. Classes span a full 12 weeks, a prescribed curriculum is taught and a 125 student workbook is provided.
3. The Lamaze
The Lamaze is the most widely used of all the childbirth methods, it was developed by Dr. Fernand Lamaze using ‘’psychoprophylaxis’’. Originally this method uses distractions to minimize the perception of pain during contractions. Lamaze teaches you and your partner how to use deep controlled breathing, massages, and concentration to maintain control during labor. The Lamaze has evolved and teachings vary depending on the instructor's individual curriculum.
4. The Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique utilizes proper posture in sitting, standing, and moving to release muscular tension, increase breathing capacity and restore the body’s ideal posture and poise. A simple modification in your movements will help alleviate pain, open the cervix and prepare for the push.
5. Water birth
Water birth which involves giving birth in a warm tub or bubbling Jacuzzi is relaxing for many women, this method also known as hydrotherapy takes the edge off the pain, buoyancy helps alleviate the feeling of discomfort. Advocates of this method believe that water birth is a great way for a baby to transition from the womb to the world in a gentle and less dramatic way.
How to prepare for a natural birth
1. Begin Preparation Well in Advance.
2. Monitor Your Baby’s Health Every Step Of The Way
3. Practice Relaxation And Coping Skills
4. Create A Soothing Environment
5. Get Your Partner Involved
6. Be Flexible
7. Have a backup plan in case unexpected complications arise.
8. Use non-medication methods to ease labor and delivery.
Childbirth is a special experience that is unique to every woman, each mom's take on it is different but ultimately the only thing that really matters is to bring your baby safely into the world. So regardless of the method you choose make sure it’s what’s best for your baby and puts your mind at ease. Examine the pros and cons of each option and technique carefully and go for it like the warrior you are.