Updated: Aug 31
Why choose natural birth?What are the benefits?
Many people believe the pros of having an unmedicated birth outweigh the cons, and they really are correct on many levels.
Back in the late 1950’s early 1960’s, birthing people became more aware of the consequences associated with receiving anaesthesia during labour and delivery, along with the other interventions that may come into play when anaesthesia is in place.
Since then, the idea of going unmedicated and having a natural birth has become more and more popular. But what are the benefits of having a natural birth?
Freedom of movement
Moving in labour is a very natural response to coping with uterine contractions. When you are going natural, you are free to move about as needed this can make your surges much more manageable.
In addition to helping with comfort, moving during childbirth can encourage the baby to get in a more optimal position, decreasing the overall time that labour may last.
If there is an epidural in place, it can take 3-6 hours after birth to be able to walk. It is really nice to get up sooner after the birth, to shower and walk around.
Better connection with the experience
When no drugs are used during labour, mothers are more alert and aware of the experience, providing them with an increased connection with their baby. Additionally, these women are connected to their bodies in a profound way. When medications are used, a woman’s senses are dulled which can result in a physical detachment from the experience.
Water birth is becoming more and more popular. It has been said by providers in our area that water is nature’s epidural, and allows the birthing person to continue to move, stand, and walk.
A lot of childbirth education courses will talk about being submerged in water and how it can help the birthing person cope with labor, relax, and enter into the transition point of labor more easily.
Although any vaginal birth comes with a risk of tearing, having a natural unmedicated birth may reduce the risk and severity. The benefit of a natural birth is that you are able to feel the baby coming down and can control the way the baby comes out.
Techniques during delivery, like using small grunts as you push, can help prevent tearing and pelvic floor damage. We also suggest visiting with a pelvic floor therapist before giving birth, so you can learn effective ways to push and help protect the pelvic floor area.
The medications in an epidural can interfere with the body’s natural release of hormones, especially oxytocin which is responsible for triggering labor contractions. The interference with oxytocin, the inability to be up and active (you must remain in bed after an epidural) and an inability to feel the urge to push can prolong labor.
Women who give birth without medication may experience a shorter labor and shorter second stage (the pushing phase) when compared to women who birth with an epidural. Without medication, women can work with their body’s natural labour hormones and be up and active which can help labour progress.
When epidurals and other pain relief methods are used during labour and delivery, they often interfere with the body’s natural way of labouring, resulting in less efficient surges. Additionally, when the pain medications take effect, many women are no longer able to feel their surges, and therefore, they don’t know when it is time to push. By not pushing at key times with adequate strength, the labouring process can be prolonged. A natural birth allows women to work with the rhythm of their bodies, resulting in a shorter labour.
Avoiding other interventions
In the birth world we often refer to the “cascade of interventions” where the use of one intervention leads often to the next followed by the next etc. in my course I often show a short video called “the deer and the epidural” to illustrate this point. With an unmedicated birth you can avoid a lot of these interventions altogether. I talk more about this in my hypnobirthing course.
Women who choose an unmedicated birth may benefit from an easier postpartum recovery. While every labour unfolds uniquely, some women find they feel significantly better after an unmedicated birth compared to a medicated one. One reason for this is the impact of natural hormones. While oxytocin triggers contractions, it also provides some relief and euphoria, and it encourages the release of natural endorphins. These endorphins have a cumulative effect, meaning they increase throughout labour. Shortly after birth, many women who labour without medication will experience a rush of euphoria. It’s believed these hormones aid in recovery.
Women who give birth without medication also have no concerns for epidural side effects such as back pain, injection site reactions, itching from medication, etc. You are also less likely to experience a perineal tear, and if you do, it’s less likely to be severe. With unmedicated labour, you can feel what your body is doing and what is happening. This means you’re feeling a variety of sensations including ones which help you slow down and not push so hard you experience a severe tear.
Being able to be up and moving shortly after birth can also aid in recovery. We know movement is an important part of recovery. While rest is vital, being stuck in bed can cause aches, pains and increase the risk of blood clots.
Easier to breastfeed after birth
While the risk of labour medication for babies remains low, babies born to mothers using epidurals might experience a bit more drowsiness. Babies born after a natural labour tend to be more alert which creates a heightened interest in breastfeeding.
While babies can still establish breastfeeding at any point in the early days and weeks, immediately after birth women’s bodies are most receptive to hormones such as prolactin. Early initiation is associated with improved long-term breastfeeding rates. An alert mother and baby are also more likely to be able to establish a good latch and reduce trauma to the nipple, an obstacle many new mothers experience.
Epidural pain relief also requires a higher volume of intravenous (IV) fluids to ensure blood pressure remains stable. The excess IV fluid can create oedema (swelling) even in the nipple. This swelling can make it difficult for baby to latch.
While these potential difficulties (remember, not everyone experiences side effects) can be overcome with support, it’s important for mothers to be able to make informed decisions about their birth interventions. If establishing breastfeeding is very important to someone, they may take these potential side effect into consideration and opt for an unmedicated birth.
Is natural birth for you?
Going unmedicated and having a natural birth must be a personal decision. As you can see, it comes with a lot of pros and cons, and it is important to prepare in the best ways possible no matter what route you take. In my courses I provide information on both sides so that you can make the best decisions for yourself.