Wait a Second, What IS Natural Birth?

10 Comments 15 December 2010

Did I have a natural birth if I had an episiotomy?

Did I have a natural birth if I was hooked up to an i.v.?

Did I have a natural birth if I was induced but took no pain medication?

Did I have a natural birth if the epidural wore off?

Did I have a natural birth if I was in a hospital?

What is “natural birth?”

Turns out, there are many varieties of what natural birth is.

For many, it comes down to opinion – to a specific personal code each of us has in conjunction with our ideals to form the concept of exactly what natural birth means to us.

The definition of Natural:

  • “…happening in the ordinary or usual course of things, without the intervention of accident, violence, etc.”
  • “…arising easily or spontaneously…”
  • “…based on the state of things in nature; constituted by nature: Growth is a natural process.”

Is there such a thing as natural birth?

Or are there just several variations to natural or normal?

For some, natural birth is at home, uninterrupted and uninhibited.

Others believe natural birth is giving birth without pain medication, simple as that.

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What do you think? What does natural birth mean to you?

Your Comments

10 Comments so far

  1. MamaV says:

    This is great! So glad you brought it up. And I think you approached the answer tactfully and beautifully.

    I do tend to hear women use “natural” for “vaginal” even if they experienced a lot of intervention and drugs, which I sometimes feel defensive about. But I’m coming to a place of realizing that it’s also a good/healthy thing for women to recognize that the vaginal route, when it can be helped, IS the most natural way for a baby to come out!

    At the same time, I do wonder why “natural” is used to replace “vaginal” sometimes. Perhaps because we’re kind of squeamish about saying the V-word aloud? And/or perhaps because we’ve accepted that intervention is so part and parcel to giving birth in a hospital rather than seeing those unnecessary protocols as UNnatural?

    Anyways, thanks for helping me think about this in all its possible variations.


  2. MamaV says:

    Oh, and as a woman who has given birth twice outside a hospital, when I think of/use the word “natural,” I’m thinking drug-free, though not necessarily without SOME (but not all) necessary interventions. So your point about the answer being up to the individual feels very valid to me.

  3. Jen says:

    I planned a homebirth. I labored at home and was transferred to the hospital by ambulance when I was at 10cm due to a cord prolapse. I had a c/s within 15 minutes of arriving at the hospital. I will always say that I had a natural childbirth, and no one can tell me different. My baby was born in the way that he was supposed to, and to me there’s nothing more natural than that.

    Labeling anything can be such a difficult task. I think what really matters is that us moms are educated in childbirth and get the birth that we want. Women who are coerced into birth plans that they don’t want or feel violated through their labors and births are the ones who unfortunately have “unnatural” births. You do what’s right for you.

  4. Krista says:

    I’ve always thought it was giving birth without pain meds. If you tell the average person that you went natural, that’s the only thing they’ll assume. But now that I think about it, being induced is very unnatural. In fact, going into labor when baby is ready is one of the most natural things you can do. So I guess where I will make my distinctions is Natural BIRTH is giving birth without pain meds, Natural LABOR is laboring without medication.

  5. Cassandra says:

    I would say it’s labor and birth that would have happened centuries before modern medicine began dictating how things should go. If you did the same things (or equivalent) to what your ancestors did, it’s natural. Equivalent meaning you may have birthed in a fiberglass tub, but the use of water is the same as back in the day. Use of herbs and nipple stimulation is natural, use of pitocin is not.

    If I had used any interventions of modern medicine, I would not say I had a natural birth, but rather it was a vaginal birth.

  6. Jessica says:

    When I think of a natural birth I automatically think of being at home, I’ve had 3 this way, 2 in water. Being in a hospital isn’t natural to me. Only until a number of years ago did women start going to hospitals in order to have their babies. Pregnancy and birth are treated as a disease, an illness, an inconvenience. Before nowadays, women had given birth for thousands of years, out of hospitals, naturally…the way nature intended.

    Natural, to me, also means without medication or any unnecessary interventions. I also think that it means doing it the way YOU want to do it; not the way some doctor is COMMANDING you to do it. Not being immobile in a hospital bed, hooked up to medications and machines. Rather, being able to move around, make noise, EAT, bathe, and do whatever makes YOU comfortable and happy and lets the birth progress easily. *Home birth rocks*

  7. *** Natural Birth is an entire atmosphere that already exists in the community, which acknowledges the sacredness of pregnancy, childbirth and childhood development. In that atmosphere, people welcome reproduction (a.k.a. sex) as a natural event that is sacred. The community already has all the knowledge necessary for natural childbirth. The birthing woman has no doubts and no fears, only certainty. With that inner and outer support she goes on to a natural childbirth. No hospitals, no interventions, as there haven’t been for countless thousands (actually millions) of years. We can’t have natural childbirth without at least some of that “tribal” atmosphere. The more we can create that atmosphere, the better off we are.

  8. Stephie says:

    For myself, a natural birth would be one that allows nature to do its thing. A hospital is not the place for allowing nature. In fact, hospital staff always step in for nature long before the baby is born. At home or outside in nature, assisted or unassisted, is the place for doing it naturally. In my mind it would be like this (starting when baby is still inside): if you see anyone during pregnancy, it is a midwife and you don’t have ultrasounds or take unnecessary tests; mom eats nature’s food and stays away from processed foods and chemicals; baby and uterus choose when to start the process and are allowed to do their thing with MINIMAL vaginal checks if any at all (just leave it be, don’t interfere… or mom can check herself or dad can check); mom is the one in charge, following her instinct, asking for asistance when she wants it, moving around however she pleases, making whatever noises she pleases; mom and dad and whoever else they choose are there for support; quiet; soft lighting; there is not a worry about time or following a “normal schedule”; no medication, IV’s, electronic equipment/monitors; no epesiotomies; baby comes out in its own time, however it is presented (I’ve done the research, babies come out just fine even if they are not head first, and so do twins and triplets); no scheduled cesarean sections; once baby is out, it is immediately put on its mom’s chest; cord is left in tact until it stops pulsating; baby is not immediately and frantically cleaned off, weighed, measured, etc. it is allowed to just be on its mom and adjust to the new world; parents are left with the baby alone to bond for however long they choose; baby find its way to the breast and feeds for the first time…

    But this is not for every woman, and I respect if a woman chooses to go to a hospital or even chooses to have a c-section. There is no right or wrong really. A woman must educate herself and her partner. As a result of being educated, there will be less fear. As fear of birth lessens, women and men become empowered and their faith increases. REAL faith in themselves, faith in the power that IS birth. FAITH results in a mystical and spiritual experience… the great mystery and miracle of life is beheld and cherished. How should you greet the great mystery and miracle of life?? Is is completely up to you!

  9. Steena says:

    I always say I had 22 hours of natural *labor* with a cesarean *delivery*. I had no induction, drugs, etc. until the surgery so I feel that the time I put into readying my body and baby for birth is not completely discounted by the fact that I had a cesarean section delivery at the end! I think that instead of making vaginal or natural birth the priority, the priority must be accurate education for women, optimal choices, freedom, incredible support, oodles of encouragement, and deep self-discovery. The empowered woman will have a birth that is most natural to her (I think often unmediated and vaginal).


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