The power and importance of natural birth is a topic that desperately needs to make it out to mainstream moms-to-be. Tons of pregnant women don’t even look into it as an option. They go to the hospital and accept the drugs/interventions-no questions asked! I’m surprised by how many women just go along with the status quo and do whatever their typically male doctor dictates-especially in such an otherwise feminist-driven, “my body, my choice”, tiger-woman culture. It’s primarily a women’s issue and women are largely passive about it! Knowledge and choices empower us to live more free lives and that’s why I’m making this vlog about the counterculture topic of undisturbed, physiological birth. Ladies-let’s take it back!
Disclaimer: I don’t care what kinda birth you end up having as long as your made the decision consciously and as informed as you can be. There’s so much information out there nowadays-anyone would be able to find some research and reasons to justify each decision, whatever it may be. Based on everything I’ve personally learned, I’m obviously preferential towards natural birth and I do think it’s the best, default option for healthy, low-risk women. Otherwise, why even make this vlog if I thought all of the options are exactly the same anyway?
Vaginal deliveries are preferential to surgical deliveries via C-Section, but just because a delivery is vaginal doesn’t make it natural. Natural childbirth is simply an unmedicated birth with little to no interventions. The mother does not choose to use any drugs like Pitocin to induce or augment labor. She does not use an epidural, spinal or any other painkillers. She also opts against instrumental delivery using a vacuum extractor or forceps. Intermittent as opposed to continuous fetal monitoring is used.
A huge reason is that women want to avoid what’s known as the “cascade of interventions.” Pitocin is way overused in this country, given to one out of every four women to induce labor. Unless there is a known medical reason to induce, spontaneous delivery is optimal for mother and baby. Pitocin is known to create longer and stronger contractions which cuts off blood and oxygen to the baby. It also causes more, abnormal pain to the mother, exacerbating her need for (more) epidural medication. Epidurals come with many side effects: they lengthen labor, triple the risk for perineal tear, increase the risk of cesarean section by 2.5 times, triple the occurrence of augmentation with (more) Pitocin, quadruple the chances of a baby being persistently posterior which decreases the chance of spontaneous delivery, increase the chance of instrumental delivery and the complications that come with it, and increase the risk of pelvic floor problems after birth.
Cesarean section is a likely result of all the previously mentioned interventions and many women want to avoid that. It is a major surgery with potential for infection, bleeding, anesthesia use risks, and increased risk of uterine rupture for future pregnancies. The C-section rate in the US is hovering around 30%. The World Health Organization says the c-section rate should be no greater than 15%. When it goes higher than that, the risks outweigh the benefits. Other countries are far less medicalized and have better outcomes for infant survival. The US ranks as 26 in infant mortality in the industrialized world. Maternal mortality is on the rise as well. A lot of past patients think they absolutely needed a C-section in a “thank god” type of situation when usually the hospital/doctors started the chain of events that necessitated it in the first place! OBs love surgery and it’s their area of expertise. They are excellent for when things go wrong but often create or find a emergency situation that isn’t actually there. Most have never even witnessed a normal birth. For about 85% of women, birth can be a normal, life process-not a medical emergency in need of hospitalization. We have been doing it for thousands of years and we know how to instinctively.
Aiming for a natural birth means you are more likely to have a vaginal birth. When a baby comes through the birth canal, protective bacteria colonizes him or her. This plays a huge role in developing the immune system and microbiome. The GI tract of many C-Section babies doesn’t have exposure to that good bacteria from the mother, causing autoimmune disorders such as allergies, obesity, diabetes and more. Also, traveling down the birth canal helps to squeeze excess amniotic fluid out of the lungs which helps with respiratory system development.
The baby is more alert and responsive directly after birth. The baby is able to use his or her instincts much better and has higher APGAR scores. The medications do affect the baby and they take a lot longer to recover from the medications than an adult would. The IV fluids cause the baby to retain and swell, giving him or her an artificially high recorded birth weight.
Recovery time for the mother is a lot shorter. They are able to get up and walk around shortly after. They don’t have to worry about lingering headaches or backaches once the epidural drugs wear off. Plus, they are less likely to have to deal with incontinence or pain from a catheter or episiotomy.
Mothers often do not want to interfere with the complex cocktail of hormones at play during labor and delivery. Beta-endorphine, “the mothering hormone” is at play as well which helps the mother to bond with her baby. Prolactin, “the breastfeeding hormone” helps the mother’s milk supply to come in and babies have much better breastfeeding outcomes after an undisturbed birth. Epinephrine and norepinephrine are the adrenaline hormones that help your body produce the fetal ejection reflex during the pushing stage. Oxytocin is the “love hormone” that surges during labor and it’s at the highest level it ever will be directly after birth-creating a natural, euphoric high. Synthetic oxytocin is no substitute and hinders the body’s ability to produce the hormone on it’s own. When drugs are introduced, it messes with the natural chemistry of how these hormones interact.
Some mothers want to feel connected with the whole experience and they like the challenge-for better or worse. If you are numb from the waist down, you cannot feel you baby move any more. Maybe women want to feel productive during the pushing stage and don’t want to feel like they have no control. They are better able to work with their body’s cues and not overdo it-potentially causing a tear. Some embrace the pain as a “pain with a purpose” or “clean pain” because it does not mean that anything is wrong. The pain is productive and is bringing the mother closer to meeting her baby. It’s there and then it’s gone. It’s the “devil that you know as opposed to the devil that you don’t know.” A lot of women report immediately forgetting the pain and feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I rarely hear of women who had a natural childbirth and regret it. Often they feel invincible and empowered.
Once you figure out the why that resonates with you, the how is a lot easier. The best tip is to put yourself in an optimal environment with people who are going to support and encourage your decision. For me, this is at a freestanding birth center with midwives. For low-risk women, homebirth with a certified nurse midwife is just as safe as a hospital birth. My midwives are experienced in normal, physiological birth and are trained to assess the labor and determine if and when to transport. If the medical need does arise, I will be much more forgiving of myself knowing that I did everything I could to ensure a natural birth. In a hospital, I would really need to have a strict, written out birth plan and be prepared to advocate for myself against pushy nurses and OBs. Now I can be more flexible knowing everybody is starting out on the same page.
Here are some other ideas that I’ve gathered to help have a successful, natural birth.
-Hire a Doula aka “birth companion”
-Prepare! Take classes such as Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, Birthing from Within, Alexander Technique, Bradley Method, The Pink Kit. Labor is a physical event much like a marathon and you would prepare THAT, wouldn’t you?
-Eat and Drink to keep energy up and stay hydrated
-Use movement to get baby in optimal position: Walk, use a birthing ball and climb stairs
-Move around! Pick a gravity conducive position for pushing–not the gravity neutral, “stranded beetle pose.” Hands and knees is ideal.
-Get in the shower or a birthing tub. Water has a calming effect and takes pressure off joints and uterus, making the whole body buoyant.
-Use aromatherapy. Lavender is really good for relaxation.
-Less people is best so the laboring mother isn’t feeling like she has to perform
-Vocalize and work through fear ahead of time so it’s not distracting you
-Counter pressure and massage
-Surrender to the pressure/contractions
-Use relaxing music and positive birth affirmations
-Kiss, cuddle and get affectionate with your partner. It will release oxytocin, “the love hormone”, which will help your cervix to open up
-Release mouth tension by vibrating lips
I’ve listed only my absolute favorite that have been the most helpful in my birth education journey. There are plenty of others out there and I encourage everybody to do their own research!
-BIrth, Baby and Life Podcast with Kristen Burgess. She is also the host and also runs NaturalBirthandBabyCare.com
-The Fear Free Childbirth Podcast with Alexia Leachman
-Ina May Gaskin-Guide to Childbirth. Also look up her TedTalks
-The Business of Being Born and its sequel are what start it all for some women
-Sarah Buckley-Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering
-Mayim Bialick-Beyond the Sling
-MamaNatural.com and YouTube Channel
-Bexlife.com and YouTube Channel
-A trusted midwife in your area with experience and a good reputation
-My Birth Resource playlist from my Katy Khaos channel
-La Leche League International-The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th Edition
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