Even before I decided on getting pregnant I was hooked to reading natural birth stories on Healthy Mother & Birth Village Facebook page. Those birth stories were something that got me thinking about having a natural birth myself. But it was just a thought deep down in my mind, ‘a thought’ which I thought I would consider when it’s my turn.
Then I read this post by Kamana of @mycocktail_life on Instagram – This sealed the deal for me. At that very moment, I knew I wanted a natural birth. And that I would ‘give it my best shot’.
Fast forward to September 2017 – Shyam & I found out that we were expecting and we started reading and talking to people more about Natural Birth. By now, the dream of having a natural birth was very strong and we were ready to do everything that was in our hands to have a Natural Birth.
In this article, I will jot down everything I learned about Natural Birth in the last 9 months. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy reading! 🙂
What is Natural Birth?
Google says – Natural Birth is a vaginal birth, especially without medical intervention such as the use of pain-relieving medication.
Basically, Natural Birth is a vaginal birth without medical interventions like – Artificial Induction (using Pitocin), pain relief (Epidural, Inhaling Nitrous Oxide), IV, Artificial Rupture of Membrane (Breaking the bag of waters artificially), Episiotomy etc.
Difference between Natural & Normal Birth
The common notion is that Natural and Normal Birth is same – but not all vaginal birth can be termed as Natural Birth.
A Normal Birth is also a vaginal birth – but a normal birth does not mean it is free of interventions. For e.g. A Vaccum (or) a Forceps birth is also termed as Normal Birth because the birth happens through the vagina. In a Normal Birth, the labour could be artificially induced, the bags of water ruptured artificially, there could be epidurals & pain relief, episiotomy etc.
So that’s the basic difference between a Natural & Normal Birth – Natural Birth is completely free of medical interventions.
On another note, If you are wondering interventions are bad then I would like to say that they are not. They are lifesavers when used judiciously. I will talk about these interventions along with their pros and cons towards the end.
Why Natural Birth?
The kind of birth you want is a very intimate choice that you and your partner make. Personally, I wanted a natural birth because I believe that ‘Women have innate ability to give birth’. And, I wanted to see how my body and mind does the job of birthing naturally – without medical interventions.
Also, in case of vaginal birth, babies have a diversified microbiome, i.e. babies receive protective bacteria from the birth canal that helps build their immune system. Passing through the birth canal in a natural (and normal) birth also helps shape the head and expel amniotic fluid from the lungs which lower baby’s risk for respiratory problems.
Understanding Labour Pain & Birth
This is how I understand birth.
First of all, labour pain is part of the plan. Secondly, it is the hormones doing their job brilliantly to get the baby out. The labour pain and sensation is important as it instinctively tells the mother when to bear down, when to change positions and when to push – the whole thing helps the baby descend.
During labour ‘Oxytocin’ is released which causes the uterus to contract and hence the pain. During this time, our body’s natural pain relievers ‘Endorphins’ are also released to relieve the pain. It is a very natural process. And the body even though in pain goes into a meditative state.
A note that I took during my Lamaze classes reads as follows –
“For most women, labour comes with a fair amount of discomfort or pain. It is important to remember that the entire labour is not painful, typically, discomfort or pain are experienced exclusively during contractions. In between contractions, women are usually able to rest or even sleep. Contractions are experienced as waves. At the beginning of a contraction, the intensity is mild. As the time progresses, the intensity increases to a peak and then tapers off.”
I would like to add a few points here –
Labour establishes itself gradually. This pain is important for birth. The common misconception (courtesy Bollywood) is that labour begins out of the blue and that the pain is unbearable from the beginning. Remember the old Hindi movies where the mother would be screaming in pain and the father would be prancing outside waiting for THE NEWS? 😀
Well, labour is nothing like that. The uterus doesn’t go bang-bang-bang all of a sudden.
Yes, labour can be painful, but the pain increases gradually. You, your body and your mind get enough time to prepare.
Preparing for Natural Birth
1. Prepare your body & mind
Follow a healthy diet and be active. Read more about my Pregnancy Diet & Fitness here.
2. Understand birth – Attend Lamaze (or) childbirth classes
This is very important because attending these classes gives you an idea of what to expect during birth. Please do not confuse childbirth education / Lamaze with the prenatal sessions at your hospital. Child Birth Education talks about Labour, Natural Pain Managment, Interventions (and how to avoid them). You will understand the common terms used during labour & birth. Basically, you will be a lot aware and feel included in your birth if you attend childbirth / Lamaze classes. To put in simple words, you will be better prepared for your birth.
3. Choosing a care provider
If you choose to birth at a natural birth centre (e.g. Healthy Mother & Birth Village) – be assured that your birth will be as natural as possible and you can have a mental peace that you will not be given any interventions (unless medically required). These centres are run by midwives and are pro-natural birth.
On the other hand, if you choose to deliver in a regular hospital, then be prepared for having long (sometimes difficult) conversations with your care provider. It might be difficult to find a doctor who would fully accept and support your natural birth journey. While most doctors are pro-normal birth, it is very hard to find doctors who are pro-natural birth.
But, if you have chosen the natural path – do not give up. Meet different doctors, midwives, and doulas. Read more, attend childbirth classes and equip yourself. In these 9 months, I met a lot of doctors. I was due in May and I found my doctor in February.
Don’t be scared to ask questions. Good doctors are always open to questions and don’t judge you at all. My doctor has 30 years of experience and the first time I met her – I spoke to her for 45 minutes. Then I took my doula and we again spoke for 45 minutes. She was completely supportive of my natural birth and not once did she judge me, my husband or my doula for our choices.
Meet your doctor multiple times, ask questions, bond well and get comfortable.
In my case, I completely trusted my doctor. I knew she would not give me any sort of interventions unless and until it was medically required. That’s the kind of confidence you need to have with your care provider – if you are not confident, meet more doctors. A good doctor is such a blessing!
Remember, your care provider plays a huge role in the type of birth you have. So choose wisely.
Recommended Read – 10 Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Care Provider (Downloadable PDF File). The article is written by Lamaze International.
4. Get a Doula
A birth doula is a professional birth companion who provides the mother with continuous, one-to-one support during labour, birth and immediate post-partum. If you plan to give birth in a hospital, the doula may come to your home in early labour, providing support and encouragement. Doulas are also experts at non-pharmacological pain management strategies like massages, aromatherapy etc.
I could not have dealt with that labour pain if not for my doula. She not only supported me but she also supported my husband and mother.
My Doula & Lamaze Instructor was Zoe. She is from America, married an Indian and had a profound natural, water birth experience with her first son. Her birth left such a positive impact on her that she has been an advocate of natural birth ever since. I love her, she was everything my husband & I needed during the birth of our child. Zoe, if you ever read this – We love you! 🙂
5. Have a Birth Plan
You don’t need to have a physical, hand-written birth plan. But, do make sure to talk about your needs clearly with your doctor. Make sure your birth partner – husband/doula are inline with your needs. Your birth partners can be your voice when you are in pain.
Recommended Read: Birth Plan
Simple Steps for a Healthy & Safe Birth (Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices)
1. Let the labour begin on its own – A normal pregnancy lasts 38 – 42 weeks. Natural start of labour usually means your body and your baby are ready for birth.
2. Walk, move around and change positions throughout labour. Help your uterus to work more efficiently by using upright positions and gravity to pull the baby down. Actively responding to labour may help you feel more confident and less afraid.
Recommended Read: Labour Positions
3. Bring a loved one for support – This could be your partner, a doula or anybody you trust.
4. Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary.
5. Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s natural urge to push.
6. Post birth, keep your baby with you.
Read more about the healthy birth practices here.
Common Interventions – Are interventions bad?
If you attend Lamaze / Child Birth classes you will understand in detail about birth, labour, and interventions. I’ll just mention a few interventions that I can remember on the top of my head now.
Labour needs to begin naturally. Oxytocin is the hormone that is responsible for getting the labour started. But if labour does not begin naturally, your care provider will suggest getting induced with Pitocin (synthetic oxytocin). When the Pitocin is turned up for stronger contractions, the mother is not supported by her body’s natural pain relievers – Endorphins. Induction can make contractions harder and without the body’s natural pain relievers (Endorphins) the pain can get unbearable.
Epidurals (Pain Relief)
Epidurals are the most common pain relief often administered during labour. If a mother is artificially induced, the chances are high that she would need an epidural because the pain from induction is going to be too much and the body is not producing endorphins as yet.
Many women love epidurals because it gives instant relief from pain. But, epidural numbs your lower half. If you are numb down there, how will you push instinctively? Personally, not a fan of epidurals.
During my labour, I loved natural pain relief methods like back massage, aromatherapy, and hot water baths – Trust me these work wonders.
Recommended Read: Ten ways to relieve labour pain
Interventions like epidurals and Pitocin interfere with this natural cascade of hormones and can prevent mom from entering this meditative labour state and getting the full benefit of her endorphin surges.
Artificial Rupture of Membrane (AROM)
Breaking the bag of waters artificially. This is usually done to speed up labour.
A surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina during childbirth, to aid a difficult delivery and prevent rupture of tissues.
Episiotomy is not something every woman needs. But, it is a routine practice in most hospitals. One of the reasons I love my doctor is because she told me she would not cut me if I don’t need to be cut. All the doctors I met before her told me Episiotomy is inevitable especially in a first time mom. But, here I am, a first-time mom and I did not get an Episiotomy!
Other interventions that are quite common are Continuous Electronic Fetal Monitoring, IVs etc.
So, as you are reading this you must be thinking Medical Interventions are bad.
No, Medical Interventions are not bad.
Let’s be practical here. Interventions are here to make a difficult pregnancy and labour easy. They are lifesavers, Interventions can be a boon when used judiciously and for the right candidate. It only gets worse when used unnecessarily. Having said that, If you have the right care-provider, be assured that you will not undergo any unnecessary interventions.
BIRTH INDIA – Visit Birth India to find the right support in your city. Do check their ‘Service Directory’ for Midwifery Care, Childbirth Educators, Physiotherapists, Hypnobirthing Practitioners etc.
LAMAZE – Lamaze is a nonprofit organization that promotes a natural, healthy and safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting. Lamaze education and practices are based on the best, most current medical evidence available. They can help reduce the use of unnecessary interventions and improve overall outcomes for mothers and babies.
NATURAL BIRTHING CENTRES in INDIA – The Sanctum in Hyderabad and Birth Village in Cochin are two centres run by midwives with excellent outcomes. These places are technically hospitals but they are completely midwifery-led with backup OBGYNs to support them if the need arises.
Alright! That was long. Let’s wrap up.
Lastly, I would like to say just one thing – The kind of birth you choose to have (or) do end up having – be it a natural birth, a normal birth, an assisted normal birth or a c-section – be absolutely proud of yourself. Make informed choices, be present in your birth and let nature do its job. Don’t let anyone judge you for your choices. Remember, birth is very, very intimate.
That is all. Whenever it is your time, I truly wish you have the most amazing and positive birth experience ever.
Read more about my Pregnancy Diet & Fitness here.
Check this video if you’d like to know what I packed in my hospital bag.
Connect with me on Instagram for daily musings. Thank You for reading!