Natural Childbirth

September 17, 2011

What is natural childbirth today and what does the word “natural” mean to today’s woman in this world of technologic intensive labor? The dictionary definition of the word “natural” means legitimate; a state of nature untouched by influences of civilization and society; freedom from artificiality or constraint. Could not this be a definition of the birth process? But what one lives and breathes, becomes normal and natural to you. We are losing the normalcy of birth: women doing women’s work with women’s bodies and resources birthing a healthy mother and baby. As professionals, we can never forget that the woman must be at the center of the experience.

It is such a dichotomy in our society that we revere and admire the athlete who pushes to the limit of endurance; handling pain pumped up by the powerful pull of winning and success; pushing the human body to new limits to set new records. Labor is the true contact sport. Women must want to participate to win. Yet professionals attempt to evaluate the forces of labor to levels of distress that equate the natural forces of a normal process to the pain of death and disease.

Women and practitioners must be reeducated that pain is a valuable tool during labor. As the woman handles pain, she can use it as a guide to find the positions and practices that give her comfort and actually facilitate the birth process. Pain is like a catalyst that helps contractions intensify and assists the baby progress through the birth canal. Nature’s medication, endorphins, are released in response to pain and may decrease the woman’s perception of pain. With support from the practitioner, the family, and a secure environment, the woman can surrender to the experience and give birth. So in the hospital, flat on her back with tubes coming from every orifice, completely devoid of stimulation, is it surprising that the contractions decrease; labor arrests; and almost 30% of women need operative intervention.

Unless something has happened to change her anatomy, today’s woman is just as capable if not more so, with her state of health and nutritional stores to give birth. Unfortunately, today’s woman has bought the advertising hype that technology guarantees a normal healthy child; that operative birth saves the vagina from trauma; that women have no responsibility for the birth outcome. This is not to say that technology is not an effective tool when the pregnancy is at risk and interventions are necessary to effect a safe outcome. Women and practitioners must never forget that these interventions are simply tools to be utilized as appropriate to give nature a helping hand. Many women are simply not interested in pursuing natural childbirth. This technology seems to be too readily available to them and is championed by care providers and the mass media as the “intelligent” choice.

Natural childbirth simply stated means a spontaneous birth through the vaginal canal utilizing the forces of the uterine contractions under the control of the woman. This author feels that it should be taken a step further to mean that the woman should be educated to understand the forces of labor and how to use these forces in conjunction with her own natural resources to give birth. She should be allowed to ambulate, eat and drink, choose the position of birth, feel the forces of birth, and choose who will support her and who will assist her to birth within a safe environment.

Women, this author intreats you to listen and take control of your birth again. It is a fulfilling natural process, not a disease. It should be celebrated with family with tears of joy, not fear. Only when women truly take control and make informed decisions about their birth, will normal birth become the standard again.

SEE ALSO: Cesarean section, Labor and delivery, Pregnancy

Suggested Reading

  • Lothian, J. A. (2000). Why natural childbirth? The Journal of Perinatal Education, 9(4), 44-46.
  • Lothian, J. A. (2002). Position paper—Lamaze for the 21st century. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 11(1), x-xii.

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