Natural Birth

A natural birth is a labour and delivery that does not involve any medical intervention –such as pain relief, episiotomy, vacuum or forcepts, or Caesarean. There are many ways to combat the pain of contractions and the intensity of labour without compromising on your commitment to a natural birth; women have been delivering babies since the beginning of time and pain relief and intervention are relatively modern phenomenas.

Choosing the way that you give birth is a very personal decision. Some women prefer to use pain relief or opt for a caesarean (if offered). Other women feel differently and are more concerned by the thought of an epidural, than the pain of labour. It is a very personal decision and should be made fully informed and taking in to consideration your history, health and the health of your baby.

Methods of Natural Pain Relief

If considering a natural birth you will need to think about how you plan to manage the pain of labour. It is worth reminding yourself that labour and birth are a completely natural bodily function for a woman. Although most women have medical examinations and give birth in a hospital, pregnancy and birth are very different from any other medical issue. This is because they are not an illness but are a very natural and normal procedure.

The pain of labour is unlike any other pain. Pain in other circumstances is a warning that something isn’t quite right. But pain in labour is simply a signal that the woman’s body is working through the process of giving birth. It is not a pain that needs to be fought, but rather, should be worked with. This does not mean that the pain of labour is any less than other ‘warning’ type pain, but this perspective may help with how you respond to the pain.

Ways to Manage Pain Naturally

  • Breathing: Also known as Lamaze exercises, breathing through contractions is one of the most widely used and effective methods to use in labour. The principle behind Lamaze exercises is that you breathe your way through contractions, embracing the rythym of the contraction and riding with them. You will learn  how to breath through a contraction at your birth education classes. Breathing through contractions can take the edge off the pain and help you feel more in control of your labour.
  • Employ a Doula. A doula will represent you in labour, and make sure that your labour and birth is managed the way that you want it. She will also give you both emotional and physical support. For example, if you want to speed up labour by walking around, she will walk with you. If you want to ease the pain in your lower back from the contractions, she will help you run a shower on your back, or massage you to ease the pain. A doula has many strategies she will draw on to improve your birth experience and outcome. She is an extra pair of hands who is professionally trained and not emotionally connected, so is more likely to remain calm. Research has shown that the presence of a doula is can reduce the chance of complications in labour.
  • Water birth. A water birth involves labouring and (or) giving birth in a birthing pool. You can read more about a water birth here.
  • Calmbirth. This is an approach to labour and birth that is learned while you are pregnant. You need to attend Calmbirth classes to embrace this technique. You can read more about Calmbirth here
  • Hypno-birthing, not to be confused with Calmbirth, is a method through which women are taught a technique of “self-hypnosis” and how to tune into their body and its responses during labour and delivery by using relaxation and breathing exercises.

Natural Induction

As well as natural birth pain relief, there are also methods of natural induction. These include:

  • nipple stimulation
  • brink walking
  • using a hula hoop
  • bathing and showering
  • bouncing on a fit-ball, and
  • other exercises taught in childbirth education classes.

Following these methods can help your labour progress without synthetic induction (such as a pitocin drip).

There are many benefits to a natural birth. Women who birth naturally feel very empowered by the experience and it increases their confidence in getting to know and look after their new born baby. There are benefits to the baby as well, in that there is no risk of it being affected by some of the pain relief drugs that are used. Recovery from a natural birth is often faster than when intervention is used. But with all this in mind, nature is it’s own force and things happen in labour that often can’t be controlled. So while a focus on a natural birth is a worthy goal, the wellbeing of mother and baby is the primary goal and decisions should be made with this in mind.

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