5 things you didn't know about natural childbirth

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Isn't natural childbirth same as vaginal delivery? Isn't it insanely painful, especially since there is no medical intervention? No. And no. Find out more

My college mate, Effie D’cunha had a natural childbirth. And when she said that to me, I assumed, that it was just another ‘evolved’ term for normal delivery. I was the happiest of course, as after having my girl the ‘normal’ way, I realised, there was nothing normal about it.

So when I announced that ‘even I had a natural childbirth,’ she was quick to point out that natural birth doesn’t just mean a vaginal birth. D’cunha explained that, “Natural birthing is basically delivering the baby without any intervention — no enema, no saline, no forceps, no pain relieving or inducing injections.”

What is natural childbirth?

Natural childbirth doesn’t necessarily mean vaginal birth. In fact, it means vaginal childbirth with minimal medical or technological intervention, usually involving special breathing and relaxation techniques. “Childbirth is a biological process. It’s not about medical support or the lack of it,” explains Dr Vijaya Krishnan, co-founder and director of Healthy Mother, providers of maternal and newborn care based on scientific midwifery model of care.

This will suit you best if you want to remain in control of your body as much as possible, and be an active participant throughout labour, with minimal routine interventions such as constant fetal monitoring. Obviously, this also means that you won’t be administered any pain-relievers or epidurals.

If you opt for natural childbirth, the things you must keep in mind are:

  • It’s mostly non-invasive and hence there’s little potential for harm or side effects for you or your baby.
  • Being solely in control, most women deal with the labour pain well as being incharge helps lessen their perception of pain.
  • “The body is undisturbed in a vaginal birth, with no scars — either external or internal,” says Sonali Shivlani, a certified pregnancy, lactation and child nutrition counselor.
  • Recovery is faster as compared to caesarean section. After a vaginal birth mums are up and about immediately and can start workout at about one month.

Like D’Cunha, there are countless women opting for the no-intervention or minimal medical intervention method of childbirth. Clearly, if our grandmothers managed it, it’s not something entirely implausible.

But the whole gamut of emotions we associate with natural childbirth doesn’t let us explore that option and we choose to go for ‘safer’ ones like caesarean section or having the baby at a hospital with the ‘best of medical facilities.’ That in itself makes natural childbirth look like an unsafe option.

Some of the myths we associate with natural childbirth

  • You have to have a super-high pain tolerance. Of course, it’s going to hurt. Nobody said childbirth was painfree. But did you know that a woman’s body increases endorphin levels during labour? It means that as the intensity of the contractions build, so does her ability to handle them. Also, contractions peak at about 30 seconds. This means once your contractions become about a minute long they may increase in duration (get longer), but they do not tend to continue building in intensity.
  • You have to give birth at home. If you believe that it’s impossible to give birth naturally in a hospital setting, then you couldn’t be further from the truth. While most women give birth without drugs at home or in a birthing center, it is totally possible in a traditional hospital as well. Of course, it’s a challenge skipping drugs in a hospital, especially if the doctors and nurses would rather ‘be safe, than sorry’, but it’s not impossible. The key is to have that talk with your doctor and explain how you intend to have no unnecessary medical intervention.
  • You can’t make do without a doula. A doula is a woman who gives support, help, and advice to you during pregnancy, childbirth and after the birth. There is no doubt that doula’s can be quite helpful, but won’t you know your body better than any trained, professional doula? So go with your gut feeling. If the idea of having a doula around, puts you at ease, go for it. But understand that it’s not imperative for natural childbirth.
  • All drug-free natural births happen in water. Water can be soothing during labour but it’s not a requirement of natural childbirth. It’s just one of the ways to give birth naturally. Don’t let no access to a birthing tub stop you from having the birth you want.
  • There is no reason to experience that much pain. This is a myth primarily because it implies that the pain of childbirth is immense and unbearable. As D’cunha confirms, her drug-free birth was not painless, but it was manageable. Contrary to the way Bollywood portrays it, natural childbirth is not synonymous with mothers screaming in agony.

The best high of bringing your baby into this world the natural way is that it is the best way. The natural childbirth movement has been picking momentum gradually as women are reading up more on the benefits of the same and how it’s not as gargantuan a task as it’s been made to look like. “The mother’s body knows how to bring out the baby and the baby has the natural instincts to come out on his own,” explains Dr Krishnan.

Continue reading to know the types of natural childbirth and when is it not advisable.

The different options for a natural childbirth

There are different alternatives within natural childbirth that you can opt for. Right from where you choose to do have your baby, to the type of natural birth you’d prefer, there are choices available for the mother-to-be.

natural childbirth

Water birth is one of the few options of going for a natural childbirth

Where can I have a natural childbirth

  • Natural childbirth at home: Midwives can do home births. There are the traditional birth attendants who work in the villages. And then there are the qualified mid wives who are certified. Doulas are a great option for mums to engage as they offer support and hence natural birth becomes more probable.
  • Natural childbirth in the hospital or at a birth centre: This can get tricky as you need to have an understanding set of doctors and nurses who understand and respect your choice of natural childbirth and that you have opted to do it in their presence anticipating a medical emergency.

Which are the types of natural childbirth

  • Water birth or hydrobirth: The pregnant woman sits half immersed in a tub of warm water. This is a special tub with disposable linings as it needs to be sterile. The doctor or midwife will monitor the baby and mom while mom is in water. Baby is also born under water and takes first breath only once the baby’s head comes out of the water.
  • Hypno-birth: “This is a special coaching which both parents receive. Suggestive chants and statements in the form of scripts are taught. These can then be used during labour to achieve control over the contractions. It is supposed to bring the mother into a state of total relaxation where her body’s muscles can function according to the way they are designed,” explains Shivlani.
  • Lamaze:  This method utilizes distraction during contractions to decrease the awareness of pain and reduce discomfort. The aim is to equip the woman with the skills and knowledge to cope with various aspects of labour and childbirth, thereby helping them to be informed and confident.

When not to opt for natural childbirth?

Most every woman with no serious medical complications can opt for natural childbirth. While contraindications exist, they are way too less. Some instances when you must avoid going for natural childbirth are:

  • The placenta is attached to the mouth of the uterus. In such a condition, when the contractions begin, the cervix starts to open and the bleeding will have to be controlled with medical assistance.
  • The baby is lying transverse (across mum’s belly in a horizontal position). In such a case, natural childbirth is not advisable, keeping both the mother and baby’s safety in mind.
  • The baby has been diagnosed with some congenital defect. It’s always advisable to have medically assisted childbirth in such an instance.

“Other complications like cord around the neck, or mum having gestational diabetes and hypertension can’t really be termed as contraindications,” states Dr Krishnan as “The mother can still have a natural childbirth with a reliable and qualified set of support system around.” She feels such conditions just need to be well and often monitored by professional mid-wives, doulas and doctors.

Dr Krishnan feels opting for any sort of medical intervention is like setting in motion the domino effect, “If you are really lucky, there won’t be any damage to you or your baby, despite the medical intervention. So why opt for it? The idea is not to prolong pain and make you suffer. The idea is to welcome your baby in this world naturally, when both the mum and baby are ready, without introducing him to drugs right in the womb.”

Reiterating on the fact that while there are a few contraindications of natural childbirth, “One must realise that may be 10% of mums need to go through a caesarean section, not more. However, the way it is portrayed these days is that close to 80% of women are high-risk mums, incapable of having a safe, natural delivery.”

In a twisted way, to better understand natural birthing, or childbirth sans any fancy medical intervention is this – imagine trying to conceive with a team watching over you and your spouse? How natural is it? Exactly! That’s how unnatural it is to ‘induce’ labour or complicate a natural procedure like childbirth with the help of medical method.

Do let us know your thoughts on this article on natural childbirth, in the Comment box below. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Google+ and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest from theIndusparent.com.

Written by

Divya Nair

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